「放浪息子はどこまでも ～Wandering son’s progress～」 (Hourou Musuko wa Doko made mo ~Wandering son’s progress~)
“Always a Wandering Son ~Wandering son’s progress~”
This was certainly a satisfying finale. Slice of life doesn’t really ever conclude since there is no central plotline to start with, but there was some closure and previous events were alluded to, making it feel somewhat like the conclusion of an essay. For one, I would say the three main characters Nitori, Takatsuki and Saori have definitely made up, after their friendship broke up before the events of the anime. They had their nostalgic moment with the three of them together, as they were in elementary school. Saori has definitely softened up her personality as well, and is finally on good terms with Taktsuki again.
Romance among them ends at a standstill though. There was a touching moment between Saori and Nitori while she was helping him crossdress, but I just can’t see them getting together as a couple. Takatsuki and Nitori remain as just friends for now but they have definitely gotten pretty close. Anna is back too and she can’t face Maho after dumping Nitori, probably because their relationship really was concluded rather “incompletely” in my opinion. They had a much needed talk to tie up loose ends and it looks like it did a lot of good to Anna especially as she said she didn’t quite understand Nitori’s situation in the beginning. I really do like how Nitori speaks his mind openly, and his “I still like you” to Anna blew my mind away and made Anna blush like hell, possibly tearing up too.
The other characters got some closure in the last episode as well. I haven’t read the manga, and so my thoughts echo Nitori’s words that it’s hard to tell whether Doi is mean or nice. Personally, I think he’s both (as people are in real life), and although he’s not a very likable character I’m glad the series ended with Nitori and Doi on a civil note, without grudges. They actually worked together on the script for the play, which of course is mutually beneficial. I really don’t understand why they are doing a gender bender play again (gender bender maid cafe in Maho’s class too) given the incidents in the last few episodes. Most gender bender plays I’ve watched are usually done in part for some comedic effect and it’s probably the same way here; I don’t see Nitori’s class getting that much more tolerant. Nevertheless, it was a good point to end the anime on, and it felt a bit like Lucky Star in that the scene cuts at the curtain, which does provide the same emotional hit that makes for a “happy ending”.
I actually got into this series initially because of the unusualness of the premise and the unique art style, then got hooked. Hourou Musuko is definitely one of the best slice-of-life dramas I’ve seen, because of its great character development and realism. Stepping back and looking at all the episodes together, there is no way this show is “boring” and although things go rather subtly at times, the characters all progress greatly and the way they interact changes a lot. It’s a great mix of light humor, romance, friendship and personal struggles.
One of the highlights for me includes Nitori and Anna’s relationship. Even if it didn’t work out in the end, I still really enjoyed seeing them together and their quirkiness was fun to watch and I’m sure they’ll remain friends in the future. As it was the first for both of them, I think it influenced their development heavily, and in a good way. There wasn’t any direct implication but Nitori and his sister’s relationship also seems to have improved through Anna. Takatsuki and Saori were also memorable for me and their relationship had one of the biggest shifts throughout the series. I do wish Saori’s personal struggles were shown more explicitly, since she just came off as a prick in the begining, but it later becomes clear that she is much more than that. I still vividly remember the scene with Saori praying in the church and wish more of such was shown.
Per its genre, Hourou Musuku is very character driven and a snapshot into a specific period in life of the characters. There’s not all that much “happening” and the pace can be pretty laid back, but the characters are awesome and the interactions intricate, which is definitely what made the show for me. The characters are well designed (I especially like Sarashima), and the characters are far from one-sided, even someone like Doi who could be considered a “villain”. It seems impossible to hate anyone in this series. Because of the large cast shown, there can be a lack of focus at times, but in the end most things do tie back to the main characters.
As for the subject matter, no clear statements or opinions are given about gender identity disorder, and the story is just shown as it is without implicit messages, which I find to be one of the pluses of Hourou Musuko. Obviously it’s a controversial topic, and gender roles can be very complex, but this makes it a very strong backbone to the series. It shows a lot of glaring issues in our society, and there is much that could be discussed from double standards to intolerance which shows. Stepping back at looking at the themes, these gender roles are definitely sociological products (that includes gender identity disorder), as opposed to biological sex, and in my opinion they just cause unnecessary boundaries and divisiveness especially against the deviants. Because of these issues though Hourou Musuko ends up as a really niche series. Most people I talked with about it were quite turned off by the premise; it seems “traps” are only appropriate as comedic fodder. It’s unfortunate since a lot of people will miss out on an interesting series. Echoing Divine’s sentiments, those complaining about the “decline of the quality of anime these days” really should look to series like this.