I don’t know if you can technically call Hourou Musuko a “slice-of-life” – and no, I don’t want to open that can of worms – but one of the most magical things about Shimura Takako’s writing is the ability to create tremendous tension around the seemingly normal facets of daily life. The anime gave us a great example of this with the first gender-bender play episode, which could have given Another a run for its money in the suspense department. She really makes me feel the reality of these kids’ lives, and the anxiety those lives cause them.
It was inevitable that the question of physicality between Nitorin and Anna was going to arise sooner or later, but coming on the heels of another weighty chapter cements my belief that things are cranking up in a big way, generally speaking. With Nitorin sprawled out in bed exhausted (and given his schedule, he should be) Anna innocently suggests a massage. Except it’s not so innocent, and Anna has an ulterior motive – and when she gets close to the equator, it’s pretty clear that the action is spawning the desired reaction in Shuu. If Maho hadn’t walked in on them…
The reality is of course that we’re talking about high-schoolers here, and this sort of thing can only be ignored for so long. Everyone’s reaction to it is interesting – after her initial shock, Maho seems almost pleased. Anna feels guilty, and Shuu – while embarrassed – doesn’t exactly deny the possibility that Maho walked in on something on its way to being something else. This being Hourou Musuko we have to have obfuscation, of course, and the next day Nitorin meets Ebina-san for lunch – almost as if he has to reaffirm he’s still the boy who wants to be a girl. As for Ebina-san, he crosses paths with the woman he’d met at a marriage meeting, potentially disastrous if she recognizes him.
This is played out against the continuing framework of Nitorin’s clock ticking, as Mako reminds us in the introductory scene when he points out that Nitorin is starting to develop some muscles. This is the second time in two chapters that Nitorin’s physical maturation has been noted by others, and with Ebina-san in the picture the message is clear – he’s about to be faced with hard choices. For Makoto, we see the same combination of envy and attraction for Shuu – he may be filling out too, but in his own mind he was never cute enough to pull off being a girl anyway. As long as Makoto continues to define himself in comparison to Shuu, he’ll never be happy.
Decisions are looming all around for Nitorin. Whether to have a physical relationship with Anna, how to deal with his increasingly masculine physicality, and how to deal with Minamoto, who refuses to gracefully accept Nitorin’s desire to end their relationship. I expect the next few chapters will continue to be very eventful.