Thursday, January 13, 2011

Hourou Musuko / Wandering Son Episode 1

Episode 1 of Hourou Musuko surprised me. It was great, but it wasn't what I expected.

Episode 1 starts at the end of volume 4 of the manga, with our protagonists, Nitori (who was born male and wants to be a girl) and Takatsuki (born female and wants to be a boy), entering middle school. In flashbacks, we see how how their friendship fizzled out because Nitori fell in love with Takatsuki, their classmate Chiba (the first person to understand that Nitori prefers girls' clothes) fell in love with Nitori, and Takatsuki wasn't in love with anyone. (Their classmates didn't help by joking about how Nitori and Takatsuki would make a great couple.) The first episode drops us in the middle of the aftermath of these developments, and it does a good job of bringing the audience up to speed without being abstruse.

As the school year begins, we get a brief glimpse of Nitori and Takatsuki's old and new classmates. I especially hope that Chi-chan (the biggest eccentric in the class) will get a good amount of air time in future episodes. Like in the manga, she wears the boys' uniform to school when she introduces herself, sparking Takatsuki's admiration. (And a little sad irony since Takatsuki also wanted to wear the boys' uniform, but didn't do it because it means more for him.)

Since Takatsuki and Nitori aren't speaking, Takatsuki meets Yuki (a transgender woman who acts as a role model for Takatsuki and Nitori) at a restaurant and Yuki gives him a new boys' uniform, while Nitori goes shopping in a girls' uniform alone and buys a four leaf clover hair pin.

After going home, Nitori sees her older sister Maho and her friend Anna, who both model, looking at a magazine in which Anna is posing with the model Maho idolizes, Maiko-chan. After Maho and Anna leave the apartment (Anna snapping a picture of Nitori with her cell phone before exiting), Nitori tries on the dress that Maho plans to wear for her photo shoot the next day.

Of course, Maho walks in, and even though she isn't surprised, she gets pissed and forces Nitori to take the overblouse off before Nitori pushes her away and runs out of the apartment barefoot.

Nitori and Takatsuki run into each other outside and Takatuski gives Nitori his sweatshirt and finds a four leaf clover to put in Nitori's hair. This episode looks good throughout, but I still boggled a little at the cherry blossoms in this scene.

Later at dinner, Maho gives Nitori one of her fried shrimp, with the excuse that she doesn't want to gain weight before her photo shoot. Nitori's happy about finally making up with Takatsuki.

It was a great episode. The watercolor-textured art was lovely and, at times, dream-like, capturing Shimura Takako's gentle, low-key art style well, the music was suitably pleasant, and the voice acting was all very good. (Including the new talent playing Nitori and Takatsuki, Hatakeyama Kousuke and Seto Asami. Seiyuu geeks, of course, can enjoy listening to Horie Yui, Mizuki Nana, Toyosaki Aki, and Chiba Saeko in their side roles.)

While there were some surprises with this episode, I thought it was a good adaptation that captures the feel of the original story and characters. There were sweet moments and sad moments that evoked emotion without feeling manipulative, in keeping with Shimura Takako's usual brand of storytelling. Because of the changes from manga to anime (including some truncations), I'm really curious about how much ground this series will cover before it ends.

Overall: Watch it!

I'll give this series a letter grade after I finish it.

Crunchyroll is simulcasting this series each Thursday at 1:00 EST, for people in the U.S., Canada, the U.K., Ireland, the Netherlands, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Finland, Iceland, Australia, New Zealand, Brazil, and Portugal. My condolences to anyone who the simulcast doesn't cover.


Kori Michele said...

Wow, this was really wonderful. I'm glad crunchyroll is simulcasting it- that paired with the fantagraphics manga release makes it seem as though it is being regarded as important, I think, to share internationally. That we can access it legally and support an industry making good decision makes me very happy.

I was shocked to learn that it begins so far into the narrative, but by the end I was convinced that this was not a bad decision. They used disjointed moments and events to paint a picture of how the relationships fit together, and it think it came out to a very lovely whole.

I thought the last scene, which you didn't mention, was the most powerful and ominous- ushering in the real silent protagonist: puberty.

I'm also pleased with the narrative placement because I think Niitorin's relationship with Maho and Anna are the most interesting, and we are set up in a place that will probably explore that. Lucky also that it's a place when the only real yuri shows up between Anna and Niitorin.

God, I love Anna so much.

Anyway, thanks for blogging episode one! I linked to your blog in my own (awful) personal blog about it here:

Please let me know if that is not okay, I can remove the link.

I appreciate that you use desired pronouns in your review (Niitorin as she and Takatsuki and he). I find it difficult to do so when writing about them myself, because they are in the social in-between space of transitioning, which sees them living a little of both identities, more often the undesired one. As someone in that in-between space myself, I know how hard it can be, and also how complicated.

Looking forward to more! I'm so excited.

P.S. said...

I've just started to watch this series.

I will be holding out on a final judgement after it has ended, though it's off to a good start.

I was pleasently surprised to see, in the latest NEO magazine, that Wandering Son made an appearance in their recommended section.

Katherine Hanson said...

@P.S.- "I was pleasently surprised to see, in the latest NEO magazine, that Wandering Son made an appearance in their recommended section." <-- Nice.

I'm glad you've started watching it! :D It's been excellent so far. (Still the best show airing this season.)

P.S. said...

In case your interested, I've just found out that Fantagraphic Books will be releasing Hourou Musuko.

Katherine Hanson said...

@P.S.- I do know about it, but thanks! ^__^ (I'll review it after it comes out.)