Hourou Musuko

On who? :)

I expected a silly comedy but it turned out to be top notch drama/life series.

Brief Summary

Oops!

Shuuichi Nitori was always a feminine boy. In addition to his girlish physique, he’s also shy and quick to cry. Hence, it didn’t come as a surprise when a teacher mistook him for his sister… or when the deliveryman thought he was a she.

Try this on!Nitori didn’t understand his feelings until he met Yoshino Takatsuki. Starting out as an innocent suggestion to wear a dress, that idea latched to his mind and eventually, with the some aid from others, Nitori gave in to cross-dressing.

Peer pressure...Nitori wasn’t the only one to find cross-dressing natural. Takatsuki made the same discovery while participating in a gender-reversed school play. Having the same interest, their friendship quickly blossomed into something more…

Lovers

However, that didn’t mean a “happy end” for them. Their new habit caused rifts between friends, family, and society as a whole. Not everyone could accept them as the opposite gender. Not everyone could tolerate how close they were, almost being a couple. But with friends who understood their rationale, they withstood the pains together.

Huh?

Yet, all good things must come to an end. When they moved to junior high, everyone was split up into different classes, and they rarely saw each other. Making new friends, they drifted apart.

Together... for now.Those happy days became mere memories… of a time that once was and possibly never will be…

I want to be a girl

After reverting back to male clothing for school, Nitori felt something missing within him. Dressing as a a girl once more, he entered class expecting the same lukewarm response in elementary school…

Pride... of what's "right"

Instead, his transformation generated a quick response. Almost immediately after reaching school grounds, Nitori was whisked away, his parents contacted, and himself removed from class. He quickly became the topic of conversation and when he returned to “normal”, people shunned him.

Tears

Nitori wants to be a girl. That’s all he ever wanted. Society just saw otherwise.

201

NOTE:
Personally, I find gender discrimination grossly unfair under most circumstances. This applies to same-sex marriage, armed services, and relating to this series, gender swapping. The only exception that comes to mind is pregnancy and the physical changes/labor involved. I don’t intend to use this series to justify one opinion or another. That is up to you and your (hopefully) well-informed reasoning.

Impressions

I admit, the first thing I’ve noticed about this series was that it’s labeled as a gender-bender. Relating it to others works in the same genre (e.g., Maria+Holic, Marugoto Anjyu Gakuen), I thought I’ll get a humorous light read. Needless to say, I was wrong.

I found this one of the most interesting and emotionally charged works I’ve ever read. Nitori and Takatsuki both want to be different, wishing that they were born with the opposite gender. Their solution was to change their physical appearance with different clothes (and a wig for Nitori). They haven’t gone so far as Yuki to become a transvestite… yet.

Still, it brings to light how society views such people, scorning them just because they have different beliefs. This is focused more on Nitori’s actions rather than Takatsuki’s. From the latest chapter, the school was far more tolerable to the concept of a girl dressing as a guy than the other way around. The students and faculty were repulsed by Nitori’s change, either mocking him or thinking it’s the result of bullying. No one really accepted him for who he is and who he wants to be.

It is this clash with society that makes Hourou Musuko such a great read. Poking at what’s considered “right” and “natural” versus “wrong” and “abnormal”, it gets readers involved more than other series would. When I was going through the chapters, I constantly ask myself “Why?”. Why does Nitori want to be a girl? Why should he be allowed to dress as a girl? Is it wrong for him to act as a girl? These are only a few questions that I ask myself, causing internal debates that test the core of my beliefs.

Overall, an excellent series to pick up if you don’t mind some philosophy. Provocative for some but I believe it’ll be a meaningful read for the majority. On par with Bitter Virgin, longer run but (personally) less character attachment.

12 Responses

  1. Oh, that’s an interesting manga dealing with important issues – thank you for mentioning it :)

    I love character design :)

  2. You and your gender benders….

    A key component of abnormal is that it interferes with your or others well being. This seems to apply to this guy’s crosdressing. Females have a lot more fashionable leeway. Unless they are wearing a tux or a large flannel shirt they should not get stares.

    Why does Nitori want to be a girl? Why should he be allowed to dress as a girl? Is it wrong for him to act as a girl?
    It’s only a problem if it’s a problem. And he does not appear ready to support himself in his exploration. Look at him crying there. So, unless some kamina type transvestite comes to support him, he’s not ready.

    As for why he would feel the need…that’s a difficult question. Psychological motivations for shit like this can be hard to pin down if at all. It may be easier to just point to genetics than try to find life influences that directly or indirectly (through shaping personality) create such preferences. Why are some people selfish and others are giving? Why are some sadistic? Why are some more promiscuous? Why do some need to be right and in control? Why do we like anime? Why do we like different foods? Why do you like maids? Why do we repeat the same things over and over? Why are some so religious? Why are some sexually deviant?

    My best guess is that it is genetics and a series of cause and effect. A lot of it fits into evolution of taste. We find something that feels good-very good, and stick with it. Maybe we don’t know where to go; we feel confused and depressed and then we happen upon that thing that captures our attention, gives some order(even if artificial) to our minds and smooths the chaos. From there it’s a classic cycle of negative reinforcement and self modeling. We don’t have to hunt for food, but we all have to hunt for things to feed our minds. This is typically something that can flood our mind like a drug. Alcohol and TV is the most popular and acceptable venue. Internet Porn serves the same purpose. Same for music, movies, books, internet browsing and anime.
    I think a lot of ‘imagining possibilities’ falls into this same realm of seeking mental order (or dullness) and inducing pleasure. We want to feel something and have purpose or dull our awareness of the lack of these things. Unconventional sexuality, I imagine, has these very aims. He’s unhappy and thinks “maybe it’s my gender or the roles my gender is forcing me into” and he may be right. Matching your image with how you feel can relax your mind a great deal.

    That’s enough rambling for right now.

  3. […] Hōrō Musuko (Kokuun) [Another Shimura’s work] […]

  4. @Kitsune
    True enough and I can only wish that it’ll get animated

    @kaki
    Gender bending is no different from any other genre (e.g., labeling something as fantasy since it has angels and demons). But in here, I wouldn’t label Nitori’s desire to be a girl as an illness or something that “interferes with your or others well being”. If it is one, then isn’t Takatsuki’s desire to be a boy also a disease to be cured? I think not.

    “It’s only a problem if it’s a problem.” Then who decides that? Nitori was perfectly fine with being a girl up until the school exiled him. Most of his “friends” turned away after that day. Even his family started to fight amongst themselves, pushing the blame around. It’s not like he’s exploring cross-dressing since he done it already in junior high. It’s a completely different reaction in comparison to one year ago in junior high. Why so? The only answer I could see is society. This kind of problem can’t be solved with a mere role model (he already has Yuki) but by cementing his beliefs and carrying out his intentions regardless of how socially acceptable they may be.

    “It may be easier to just point to genetics than try to find life influences that directly or indirectly (through shaping personality) create such preferences.” 1) It may be easier but is it right? 2) Genetics and behavior are two separate entities. And while I don’t deny that Nitori feels more comfortable being a female, it’s how society treats him because of this opinion. Of course, society is not ok with everything that causes us pleasure else this world will be more like GTA live-action. But this instance of finding one’s personal identity and the consequences of such hardly seems justifiable.

  5. then isn’t Takatsuki’s desire to be a boy also a disease to be cured? I think not.”
    I’d say gender identity is the issue. Crossdressing could well be the cure. The problem is HIGH SCHOOL and a family that is not always accepting. http://www.paulgraham.com/nerds.html There is a whole essay that explains some of the reasons why HS is different, at least in the US.
    He should have an easier time when he gets out of school, but that’s not to say it won’t take willpower on his part to stick to who he is and face those who can’t accept it.
    My bad I rushed when reading the first time. I see…

    Genetics and behavior are two separate entities. Yes, but if you’re looking for an explanation of behavior and the cause is not immediate and external i.e. Boy punches boy for eating his candy. it can be hard to procure a reason. Somethings you can get psychoanalytical with and look for a traumatic event in the past or present, but others you just have to accept what is and deal with it. If it’s a problem-something “abnormal” then you can seek ways to change that mode of thinking (or in this case encourage Nitori to go for it or lay low for a few years).
    For instance: Why do I love candy but hate doritos? It’s mainly genetics, but does that answer matter for me? Is it a problem? Not really…but the point is that the reason does not always matter.

  6. For the issue of gender, I think the fault falls upon society since I cannot see any universal and non-self-defeating reason against cross-dressing. In an ideal world, Nitori finds acceptance both regardless of gender. However, reality and the manga shows otherwise.

    The reason why I mention society and its faults is because that’s what draws me into this series. Similar to Kino’s Journey, Hourou Musuko is philosophical. Nitori is suffering from being rejected. True, he had the option to remain as a boy but that would bring more pain to himself. Though the it may not be apparent (or existing at all), Nitori deserves to know why he’s treated differently from Takatsuki. It makes no sense to punish someone without reason.

    Now with the action already executed, the question is… Will Nitori change himself to be accepted by society or will society (being his friends, classmates, family, etc.) learn to accept him for being Nitori?

  7. Why and how boys are different from girls is cause for a whole new series of posts. I may be interested in such a saga if it was thorough and interesting.

    “It makes no sense to punish someone without reason.”
    Maybe no judicial sense….

  8. Is it nature or nurture? In most cases it is both.

    We have to keep in mind that penetrance varies, and complex traits are influenced by many genes. Some people have a certain degree of predisposition that may or may not manifest, depending on the environment.

    As for the society and an individual, I recall this saying, “There are two types of trans people: strong ones and dead ones.” It is too categorical, but does illustrate the issue. Here is another educational article.

  9. Hi, I found your post while searching for other hourou musuko related stuff and I am glad to see that others feel as strongly about this series as I do. For me, a lot of the subject material hits close to home and so I always wonder if someone without a real background in trans stuff would appreciate it the same way. Each time a new chapter is released my heart breaks a little more for Nitori and the others, and I find it an amazing achievement for Takako Shimura to continually not take the easy road out but keep the story very grounded in what happens to the characters.

  10. Yea, it’s the realistic reactions from Nitori that makes this such a great read. It isn’t just having the element of a trap/transsexual… but the author being skillful enough to capture such raw emotions and translate it to manga.

  11. Nice summary!Just a note: as of now the characters are still in middle school, not high school. Most boys Nitori’s age haven’t even changed their voices yet (highly unlikely for a 10th grade class if they were in first year high school). The story began when they were all in fifth grade.

  12. Thanks for the correction! I was probably half-awake when I wrote this, mistaking “junior high” for “high school”.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: