All in all, a fascinating chapter of Hourou Musuko this time, with a heavy focus on Nitorin and the double-life he’s still trying to lead.
Once a month just isn’t enough for this manga. I’m always dying to know what’s going to happen next, and having to wait. But it appears that in the person of Minamoto, an old elementary classmate of Nitorin, we’re finally going to get the impetus to push this plot forward hard. For she’s writing a novel (she says) and after recognizing Nitorin wearing the waitress uniform at the café, she wants to know more about “what it feels like” to be a guy dressing in girl’s clothes. And she asks him the question that’s always sort of an elephant in the room in this story – “Do you like men?”
It’s funny how Minamoto asks that question in a very offhand sort of “Oh by the way…” fashion, but it cuts to the heart of where the story will go in many ways. Makoto likes men, as he’s told us, but as far as we know Nitorin – like many cross-dressing males – has only expressed an interest in girls. As it becomes harder and harder for him to pass as a girl, the day comes closer when Nitorin has to decide who he wants to be in the future. Takatsuki is largely absent from his life now, but Anna certainly isn’t. And the dilemma he faces at the café every day of which uniform to wear is highly symbolic of the one that hangs over his entire life.
We also get a quick touch-base with Doi and Oka, who now seem to be more or less fully integrated with Nitorin’s circle of friends. When Doi gets roped into joining the cheer squad for a school festival, a chain of conscription starts and doesn’t end until Nitorin, Oka and Mako-chan are roped in too (cheer squad, forbidden PT job and cheer squad? Nitorin is a busy boy). There’s a bump-in with Sasa, cheerful as always, and a mention of Chiba and her boyfriend at WacDonald’s. But I’m really jonesing to hear the rest of that conversation with Minamoto.
There are so many characters with so many interesting things happening in this story that it’s impossible to do them all justice in any given chapter. That’s the torture of following a current manga, especially a monthly. I think Takako-sensei has made a conscious decision to pare down the story as Nitorin’s problems become more complicated, and Takatsuki has sadly become a casualty of that. She’s sorely missed, but I support the decision. The story is so far along now that there’s more urgency to confront the long-standing conflicts, and most of those have always focused on Nitorin.