My goodness, if ever a chapter was screaming out for game-changing interpretation, it was this one. That’s a dangerous road to go down, of course, but there was some awfully interesting stuff in there that demands analysis.
First off, what I loved about this chapters is that it focused on the core group exclusively – Nitorin, Takatsuki, Chiba, and Makoto – and that it was a fine example of everyone behaving like themselves. Nitorin was kind and noble, Takatsuki was hesitant, Chiba was blunt and indignant, and Makoto was shy and full of self-doubt. I love the rest of the cast (especially Anna) but it’s nice to see this group in the spotlight.
But there was an odd feeling reading this for me, a mixture of warm nostalgia and sadness. Because running through the entire chapter was a theme of change – I kept thinking it should have been titled “Last Hurrah” because that’s what it felt like. This is all speculation, but there was some foreshadowing to back it up. My sense was that we were seeing one last “date” for the core group, at least with Nitorin and Makoto cross-dressing. One last fling for Nitorin as a girl , perhaps. And possibly, for Takatsuki as a boy.
What really cemented this impression in my mind was the two-page cut to Ebina-san – who was in no other way connected to the episode – throwing away his wig and his ladies clothes with the burnable trash. This was happening just as Nitorin was calling Takatsuki to invite her out – and we’re also in the midst of Takatsuki seriously thinking she might want to start dressing like a girl, and Nitorin passing on what would be a socially acceptable opportunity to cross-dress for the cheerleading competition at his school. I could be completely off and this could be headed in another direction entirely, but there’s been a building sense of change on the way, as if the story were either entering its final stage or metamorphosing in some way – and this only makes be more convinced of that.
The heartrendingly touching part of the chapter for me was seeing that the bond between Takatsuki and Nitorin was still as strong as ever, after all that’s happened. As Takatsuki more and more seriously considers that she might just be ready to see what it feels like to be a girl for a while, she’s tormented by one thought – “I wonder if Nitorin feels like I’m betraying him.” Of course in part it’s because she’s thinking of wearing a skirt, obviously. But it’s also because she’s becoming a woman, and he’s becoming a man, and all that implies in their relationship – all the dreams and fears they’ve shared over the years.
But when she confronts him, Nitorin only tells her that it’s just fine, because everything they shared was all about being whoever they wanted to be – and this was absolutely no different. Whatever she wants, that’s what he wants for her. She’s left with the thought, “Nitorin is so cool”, and he with “Takatsuki would look really good in a skirt”. Of course these two are still in love with each other in their way – but their relationship is so much deeper than romance or friendship. You hear the term “soul mates” tossed around a lot, but these are two characters for whom it’s actually justified (and this was something the ED of the anime captured so perfectly). Nitorin and Takatsuki’s relationship has always been about one thing – acceptance. No matter what happened in the world, each of them was always willing to accept the other whatever happens, no questions asked. That’s what got them through their dark moments, and it’s what keeps them connected so closely even as they’ve superficially drifted apart. This is the relationship at the heart of Hourou Musuko, and for all the other wonderful things about the story, it’s still where the series achieves it’s profound truth. Whatever else may happen and whatever change the events of this chapter might portend, I don’t think that will ever change.