This series was a joy to watch... and re-watch. Even though I was initially surprised by its not opening with the beginning of the Hourou Musuko manga's storyline, I think that change was a good move. Like the Aoi Hana anime, the Hourou Musuko anime feels like it was made by people who really respect the source material they're adapting, and that's all that any fan could hope for.
Nitori Shuuichi and Takatsuki Yoshino (who became close friends after each found out that the other is transgender) are entering their first year of middle school with their friendship on the rocks because of a love triangle involving their friend Chiba Saori (the first person who recognized that Nitori prefers girls' clothing). Chiba likes Nitori who likes Takatsuki who doesn't like anyone.
Nitori and Takatsuki quickly repair their friendship, and Nitori gets over Takatsuki and starts dating a model named Anna. While Nitori's preference for girls' clothes doesn't bother Anna, it evokes hostility from Nitori's older sister Maho, the only member of Nitori's family who knows. Thankfully, Maho's bark is worse than her bite. She's much more supportive than she likes to think she is. Conversely, Anna breaks up with Nitori after Nitori shows that she really wants to live life as a girl (as opposed to being a boy who dresses in girls' clothes as a hobby he'll eventually tire of) by going to school one day in the girls' uniform.
Predictably, even though no one kicked up a fuss about Takatsuki and the flamboyantly eccentric Chizuru wearing the boys' uniform to school previously, Nitori couldn't reach the school gate without being sent to the principal's office- and then sent home. Nitori's mom doesn't freak out as badly as she might have (Yuki, the transsexual woman who acts as a friend and role model for Nitori and Takatsuki, got disowned by her family), but Nitori's dad deserves the Parent of the Year award for his reaction.
The biggest theme in this show is coming of age, as Nitori and Takatsuki have to deal with (and becoming more capable of dealing with) their bodies changing in ways that they really don't want for obvious reasons. Ironically, Chiba becomes closer to Takatsuki than Nitori because her still-unrequited feelings (compounding her general awkwardness in dealing with people) make it harder for her to comfortably interact with Nitori. By the end, Nitori, Takatsuki, and Chiba are friends as a group again, and the bullying reaction to Nitori wearing girls' clothes to school dies down. (I'm really glad that the bullying Nitori goes through isn't as bad as it would be in real life, although I'm also glad this series acknowledges that worse can happen via Yuki's school background.)
So yeah, great series. Great character interaction and development, freaking gorgeous art, and perfectly cast seiyuu. I thought it was a nice touch that Hatakeyama Kousuke, the seiyuu who plays Nitori, was more or less the same age as Nitori when the series was made. And regarding how yuri-relevant this series is...
This is the hardest part of writing this review- not helped by the fact that there's no way not to directly address it on this blog and my chronic over-thinking of things. Nitori = girl. Nitori likes girls, e.g. Anna. I would say that Nitori's bisexual, since the idea of liking Takatsuki as a boy didn't put a damper on her feelings for him at all. (Being rejected did.) Anna might be also. I will be shocked if she and Nitori don't wind up together in the manga, considering how long she has been set up as The Love Interest. At one point in the manga Nitori even brings Anna to Yuki and her boyfriend Shi-chan's apartment, which feels a lot like a Meet the Parents visit. (Despite my speculation above, whatever they are- bi, gay, straight, queer, pan, unlabeled, etc- doesn't affect my opinion that they're cute together.) She basically dumped Nitori at the end of the anime for being too much of a girl, but later in the manga, she seems to be gradually, gradually gravitating back towards the idea of them having a relationship. At this point, I don't feel like I can label Anna's feelings "yuri" (I don't think she would either), but I can confidently do so for Nitori, just as I wouldn't label Yuki's feelings for Shi-chan "yaoi." And to be completely honest, even though Nitori is a girl and her feelings for other girls are lesbian, I do agree with the idea that as long as she's in a male body, any relationship she has with, say, Anna, isn't straight, but isn't really lesbian either; the queer label makes the most sense to me. I'm convinced that Momo has a crush on Chi-chan also, although I'm much less confident that that will work out. (Or that Momo's even aware of it.) And there you have it. Like the rest of Shimura's work featuring GSM characters, Hourou Musuko has an unambivalent "There is nothing wrong with liking whoever you like" message, which we can all agree on.
Massive over-thinking on my part as a reviewer aside... this series is poignant and brilliant and lovely and you should at least try it.
This will be my only post this weekend.