Because Iâ€™m male, I am able to tolerate transsexuality of the female kind, but definitely not of my own gender. I donâ€™t think I can stomach male femininity (read: traps) if it were the main theme of an anime, moreso in any other kind of entertainment medium. As a result, I was initially wary of Hourou Musuko because of my misguided thoughts of it being an anime with â€œgaynessâ€. I was indeed hugely misguided. Beneath that veil of crossdressing weirdness, it actually has a heartwarming coming of age story about kids merely trying to grow up and explore their sexuality. And it is absolutely wonderful.
The wandering son here is Shuuichi Nitori, affectionately nicknamed Nitorin. He wants to be a girl. We also have a girl here, Yoshino Takatsuki, who wants to be a boy. The setting is middle school so these characters are still young, a perfect time for stories of puberty. Breaking my horrid expectations of homosexuality in the anime, Nitorin is romantically heterosexual – he actually likes Yoshino, but was rejected. They are still close friends though. Another girl, Saori Chiba, likes Nitorin, completing our initial love triangle. Hourou Musuko has a very sizable cast of characters aside from these three, including classmates, teachers, siblings and even parents.
I was initially confused with the overall relationship chart, but the anime is surprisingly fast paced. It only ran for a single cour, yet so much has happened between the first and the last episode. This is a slice-of-life anime but with a story that never stands still. Relationships change and kids grow up. They even have issues with pimples, how cute. The plot revolves around the backdrop of two major cultural festivals in middle school, both of which are, conveniently, crossdressing genderbender theater plays.
And really, the biggest winners of this show in character development were the three main characters. Saori, with her initial anti-social snobbish posture, started to melt down her walls towards people (specifically towards Yoshino) and speak her mind. She realizes that she has some of the best friends a person can have, and that she shouldnâ€™t be too hard on trying to isolate herself. Yoshinoâ€™s shining moment was her coming out to express her boyish side. She is a wonderful and caring person all throughout the series. I think sheâ€™s the foundation of all the friendships in the series, she managed to keep her friends closely knit even though there have been jealousy, hatred and misunderstandings within the group.
Lastly, Nitorin. Despite whatever you may say about his crossdressing desires, he is an absolute charmer. Forgive me for spoiling… but he got a girlfriend during the series. Hear that? A girlfriend. Surely the lame male leads from other anime would want to learn from this â€œfeminineâ€ guy about being a â€œreal manâ€. Also, society may be too surprised to see him â€œcoming outâ€ as well. It may be tolerant on Yoshino, a girl who could wear boyish clothes, but we still have the stigma and discrimination to boys who wear girl clothes. Just how Nitorin deals with that kind of society is a bit lacking in the anime, but I bet this would continue in the manga which is still currently running. And if you may wonder, the manga is from the same mangaka behind Aoi Hana. Both are wonderful works about something that others may perceive as taboo.
Hourou Musuko has hands-down superb art and animation. The music also complements every scene subtly enough. I just have nothing much to say about its technicals because the content is so engaging. Itâ€™s also very relaxing to watch, and highly replay-able. After I watched the final episode I just jumped the gun and rewatched everything in one sitting. The voice acting is particularly excellent as well. Nitorin is played by an actual teenager around the same age, while veteran seiyuu keep everyone else in high polish. I never thought I would hear Nana Mizuki and Yui Horie together, but they play close friends in this anime. Awesome.
Because of the recent events in Japan the airing of Hourou Musuko got a bit hampered, with two full episodes reportedly cut and packaged into just one. Despite that the episode never even felt rushed. It is testament to how good it is. You need not be wary about homosexual or crossdressing issues at all. Hourou Musuko is a straight-up highly recommended watch, and rewatch.