It’s been better than six months since episodes 10 and 11 aired, and if you recall, 10 was a “compilation” of what was originally episodes 10 and 11. I’m still not sure exactly what the reason was, but the upshot is we have the full version of episode 10 here, with the full version of 11 to appear with the next Blu-ray volume. In any case I’m thrilled to see any new material for this wonderful series, which is going to place highly in my Top 10 list for 2011. To be honest I don’t recall the episode as aired in great detail, and since then I’ve read through the manga version of events, so I’m not completely certain what’s new in this version and what isn’t. But some things certainly do stand out.
The first thing I noticed this time was that Maho had acted to spare Nitorin’s feelings by telling him that she’d forbidden Anna to visit after Shu went to school dressed as a girl. Of course, Anna was so freaked out by what had happened that she couldn’t bring herself to visit, and I find it oddly touching that the ill-tempered Maho would have done that for her brother, who had just caused her a great deal of social discomfort of her own. In the original episode Anna lowered the boom on Nitorin, but in this extended version that’s just the cliffhanger (manga readers will know that there’s more to that story than shown in the anime).
What else was new? The rotational visits by Nitorin’s circle of friends were given much more time, as was Nitorin’s visit to Yuki’s house with Seya on the day after the “tragedy”. Seya is an exceptionally kind boy, and I was happy to see that scene extended because it’s never as clear in the anime just how nice a person he is as compared to the manga version. Also greatly extended (and if my memory serves it may not have been in the TV version at all) is an encounter Nitorin has with Ninomiya, the boy from Saori’s church who wants to be her boyfriend and has a very active curiosity about Nitorin’s lifestyle. I remember his line about the nun being “scarier than the one from The Blues Brothers” very well, as it really made me laugh when I read it in the manga. It’s almost as if AIC Classic were sowing the seeds of what was to happen, as this relationship is another one that will develop quite a bit in the manga. Ninomiya isn’t a bad kid, but he’s utterly tactless when it comes to Nitorin, and as such I suppose he’s a good match for Saori…
More than anything, what I get from this version is a deeper dive into everything – all of the emotions of that day, and the days that followed. There’s more opportunity for Nitorin to reflect on who he is, for Anna to reflect on her feelings, for Chi to wrestle with her guilt over semi-encouraging Nitorin the only way she can deal with anything – by talking – and especially for Takatsuki to think about Nitorin’s situation as compared to her own. She’s quite right in pointing out the unfairness of a world where she and Chi can more or less get away with cross-dressing, but Nitorin becomes a pariah for it. This is clearly a time when Takatsuki is wrestling with very difficult questions about herself. A boy confesses to her, Saori tells her that she’s cute, and she comes to realize that her cross-dressing is really something of a game, and that’s she’s not really fooling anybody (again courtesy of Saori’s bluntness). Sadly, she’s never able to bring herself to go to Nitorin at his darkest hour, only to write him a letter. The connection between those two is the strongest in the series, but it was already apparent by this point that it was starting to fray at the edges.
There are very few series I can think of where the characters feel as alive and real as they do in Hourou Musuko. That’s a great credit to Shimura Takako’s manga – which I heartily encourage you to read – but also to Aoki Ei, Okada Mari and AIC, who did the seemingly impossible and captured the essence of that 102-chapter (and counting) manga in 11 anime episodes. While the circumstances of Takatsuki and especially Nitorin are certainly unusual in their detail, the feelings of the kids in this series are incredibly universal. I’ve heard Hourou Musuko criticized because the kids are too emotionally mature, but I think this series gets it remarkably right for the most part, and that adults have a tendency to dismiss the emotional complexity of adolescents. This is an adaptation that probably never would have happened if not for NoitaminA, and that makes the current reality of the block all the more sad. With next season consisting of Guilty Crown and Black Rock Shooter, all pretense of giving voice to series that would otherwise never be produced is pretty much out the window at this point. But that just makes me cherish the masterpiece that this show as all the more, as we’re likely not going to see many like it again.