Hourou Musuko Episode 11 (final)
What this is about: Watching all of the anime shows so you don’t have to! For more information about me and my reviews, click here for details on what I am reviewing.
Series Premise: Hourou Musuko, a.k.a. “Wandering Son” is a weekly television series that aired between January and March 2011, based on a long-running manga series by Takako Shimura. Shuichi is a boy who wants to become a girl, and Yoshino is a girl who wants to become a boy. Both of them are on the cusp of puberty, exploring their own identities and such unexplored topics as transsexualism and gender identity as they enter the difficult years of junior high school.
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Episode Summary: The school prepares for their upcoming festival, and despite the strained relationship between Shuichi and Doi, he is able to ask him for help on the script. Saori invites Shuichi over to wear dresses, Yoshino also visits and they reminisce about how much fun they had earlier. Anna runs into Shuichi at the festival, and apologizes to him. Makoto confesses to Shuichi about how jealous he is of him. As the curtain rises for the festival play, the series ends.
My Impressions: Hourou Musuko is probably a perfect example of why I am sampling everything in the world of anime (well, *almost* everything; porn and blatant yaoi are still off-limits). Reading the first one or two sentences of the description of the series, seeing the words “transgender” and “gender-bending” and “middle school” would elicit a big, fat NOPE from me. And I suspect the strong majority of anime fandom had the same reaction.
But by pushing my boundaries I end up sampling shows I would normally never touch with a ten-meter cattle prod, such as Kuragehime or Hyouge Mono or Kaichou wa Maid-sama. Or this.
I’ve mentioned this a few times in the past, but what makes Hourou Musuko so interesting is the heartfelt honesty and reality of the characters. It’s a large cast, but it is easy to relate to all of them in some way, they all remind me of people I would have known or could have known in middle school or high school. While the primary theme running through the show (middle school boy who wants to be a girl/girl who wants to be a boy) is controversial and unusual (doubly so in a Japanese culture that values harmony and constancy), it is dealt with such sincerity and earnestness that it becomes totally believable, and draws you in. Instead of shying away from Shuichi for his deviance from the norm, within a few short episodes you are rooting for him to be brave and accepting of himself. But at the same time in the final couple episodes when he is being ostracized, you can understand the reactions from his classmates and friends as well. If anything, this show points out that there are now cut-and-dried happy endings; there is no black and white, there are no easy solutions. It’s just life laid raw and bare.
This final episode is not so much of a conclusion than a “well, let’s just stop here for now”. It’s a fitting ending, done in such a way that you do not feel an urgent need for more episodes or a second season. (Although if you do want more, there’s always the manga…) After such a troubling tenth episode where Shuichi faces the aftermath of his decision to come to school while cross-dressing, the eleventh episode is all about the first steps of healing — not only for those people around Shuichi, but for him as well. It’s been quite a journey, but you have a feeling that he is finally becoming comfortable accepting himself as he is in the present, confident in his convictions. Many of the relationships which have become fractured over time are mending; between Shuichi and Doi, between Saori and Yoshino, between Shuichi and Anna, between Shuichi and Maho (last episode), between Shuichi and Makoto. That’s not to say the relationships are forever changed and will never be the same as before, but healing nonetheless.
The one thing that the final episode points out is that if PEOPLE ACTUALLY TALK TO EACH OTHER, so many problems or misunderstandings would be solved so much quicker! Way too often in anime shows (and honestly non-anime shows, too) is that by avoiding each other, little problems just fester and become big problems, little misunderstandings turn into insurmountable roadblocks. Yeah, yeah, I know that if characters in anime shows actually talked to each other and worked things out, that would eliminate like 90% of the conflicts in drama-based shows, and therefore the reason for their existence. Hence the reason for such intransigence in the first place. I’m just sayin’.
Of course, not every problem was solved (or on the way to being solved)…not by a long shot. But by the end of the final episode, you are left with the impression that there is a light at the end of the tunnel for Shuichi and his friends.
FINAL GRADE*: A- Hourou Musuko was a breath of fresh air in a world of anime shows with unrealistic characters in unbelievable situations. Unfortunately, it also garnered “record low ratings”, which does not bode well for similar projects in the future.
(* – Final Letter Grades are only assigned to television shows where I watch the entire season.)
P.S. There were eleven broadcast episodes, but when Hourou Musuko was released on DVD, the tenth broadcast episode was expanded into two full-length episodes, and this final episode became the twelfth.
For more information:
- My earlier reviews:
- Info resources: My Anime List, Anime News Network, AniDB, and Wikipedia
- Watch full episodes online: on Crunchyroll
Sampling of Online Reviews:
- “A satisfying end to a satisfying adaptation!! I’m still a bit iffy on the “edited-gattai” episode and the fact that an extra 12th episode means this isn’t the real finale, but for what it’s worth, AIC covered some good ground. I like Nitori’s progress at this point; he’s more honest (perhaps too honest) with his feelings whereas before his thoughts would only wander in monologue.” – Sea Slugs!
- “Somehow, in the course of 11 episodes, this series did an excellent job with creating a very human, at times very compelling, coming of age story with some rather unique twists. In the end, how the episode leaves off, with Nitori approaching (yet accepting) of puberty, as well as his more mature prospect on life after his cross-dressing incident, really spoke volumes about far things have come since the beginning. Grade: 8.7/10.” – Emory Anime Club
- “Overall, Hourou Musuko is a really excellent series. I have a sinking feeling it’ll be quickly forgotten (or at worst, only remembered as the Noitamina show that aired at the same time as that godawful Fractale), but it’s definitely worthy of the timeblock it aired on. For me, Hourou Musuko stands as the perfect example of how to condense a long slice-of-life manga into a stunning and very enjoyable anime. Grade: 8.5/10.” – Sekijitsu
- “This show actually made quite a bold statement by not animating the first X volumes of the manga it’s based on, but instead starting somewhere in the middle. The great thing about this show is that despite this, it still doesn’t feel incomplete…It’s a terrific way of characterizing them, and the entire cast of this series pretty much feels incredibly genuine and believable. Oh, and finally we’ve found another show that takes a realistic look at romance, as opposed to the overly sappy view you see in nearly every anime. Grade: 87.5/100″ – Star Crossed Anime Blog