「おんなのこって なんでできてる？ ～01＊Roses are red, violets are blue～」 (Onna no Ko-tte Nande Dekiteru?)
“Girls, What Are They Made Of? ~01*Roses are red, violets are blue~”
On the surface, it seems like the uplifting calm palette and art style of Hourou Musuko will tell a tale of happiness, life, and a little bit of love. While the latter two might still be true, happiness is nowhere near to be found for the protagonists in this series, leaving only a growing desperation for acceptance.
Hailing from AIC Classic with Aniplex, and airing on Noitamina, Hourou Musuko is the adaptation of an eight-year still running manga. The story begins right from the beginning of middle school, a time in a child’s life where “changes” begin to occur. It’s a rather fragile period, yet exciting, and while most kids find themselves moving along without issue, those with different interests soon realize a terrifying predicament. At a time when “fitting in” is crucial, as anything else may result in unimaginable bullying, Nitori Shuuichi (Hatakeyama Kousuke) finds himself well aware that he is different, hinging on less than a handful of people for support.
It’s hard to tell at times, but Nitori Shuuichi is a boy. A pretty-faced boy to be exact, one that was good enough to model, but quit. Yet, he finds himself wanting to dress as a girl. Dressing as one makes him happy, and getting complimented on his looks makes him happier (probably as a girl). He doesn’t seem to feel like it’s an issue, but his schoolmates might, giving him a dilemma that has plagued him since elementary school. On the other side, Takatsuki Yoshino (Seto Asami) is a girl, except wishing to dress as a boy. I assume she deals with the same issues, but her narration only began near the end, perhaps continuing next episode. I’m not sure if their likeness led to Nitori confessing to Yoshino, but she rejected him, and they hadn’t made up until, well, this episode. Confessing probably screwed up their trio friendship with Chiba Saori, who is implied to have feelings for Nitori. There’s also a ton of supporting characters with past relationships from grade school, and it’s pretty cool to see such a web of relations not only with young kids like these, but actual meaningful bonds that will definitely surface in the coming episodes. Apparently these relationships were developed slowly with the manga, since it started them off as fifth graders, but AIC decided to jump the adaptation to seventh grade, or their start of middle school. I’m not sure how they’re going to deal with skipping so much development, but that might be the reason the first episode was a little hard to follow. Curiously, as I was watching, I wondered if it was more effective if you could tell what gender a character is, or the fact that anime makes it so easy that you can’t. At one point, I was on the verge of losing it to the idea that everyone might be cross dressing. In any case, it definitely dampens the heavy material presented here, as character appearances become less of a concern than the focus of central themes.
The problems were presented, characters were introduced, and there seems to be a ton of things to develop, equating to a potentially great story here. The whole episode flowed really well, as the characters were introduced cleverly using a class setting, following with conflicts and histories in the middle, and eventually reaching a climax of the truth in how Nitori feels, closing with the two mains mending their friendship. In terms of story telling, Musuko was definitely one of the best I’ve seen this season. The unique animation style works well, and the bright colors look great, especially in the night scenes, where the contrast really shows. There’s a ton of gorgeous sakura petal scenes, and it definitely makes the show very attractive for onlookers and watchers, but the plot isn’t something to scoff at either. Given the source material already doing well, there’s a high chance Musuko will turn into a great show this season, if not the rest of 2011. I also don’t usually have much to say about background music, but Musuko’s piano tracks were brilliant when setting a mood. I do have a weak spot for soft piano music though.
Even though its playful appearance says otherwise, Musuko is a realistic series, dealing with real problems, and with the right direction and development as the weeks wear on, arguably real people. To put it in another perspective, it’s like a live action drama in the medium of anime. While I’m sure drama fans have no qualms dealing with this kind of show, casual viewers may walk in expecting something completely different. So to let you know now, Musuko will generally be a serious series, but it will be a good series. People should try it out for some new experiences and maybe broaden their tastes. Who knows, you may end up with some new feelings you never knew you had.