One thing I can say for sure – 24 pages a month of Hourou Musuko just doesn’t cut it.
The degree to which I’m invested in the characters in this series is really remarkable, considering it’s a monthly manga. What really impressed me in the singularity of everyone in the cast. Takako-sensei is a very economical writer in the she manages to imbue each chapter with a remarkable amount of significance without a lot of action and melodrama. A character can appear relatively infrequently, but they feel like a living, breathing person – fully endowed with a personality that you recognize as surely as if they were one of your friends in high school.
The character in question at the moment is Makoto. The supporting cast is like a group of planets all orbiting Nitorin, and they feature when their orbit swings around into the light – with Nitorin gravitational pull the thing that holds them all together. Occasionally the orbits align and we get a chapter where the whole group is together, but a lot less often now – it’s usually ones and twos, and this is Makoto’s time.
As we left Mako-chan he was stressing over having been seen cross-dressing by Oka. As it turns out he was worried for nothing, as Oka didn’t even really register that it was Makoto (or at least that’s what he says) but he says something that really cuts Mako to the quick – “There’s no way I could picture you as a woman.” As usual Oka-kun doesn’t really mean to be hurtful, but he could hardly have said anything that would more effectively cut Mako to the quick, as it plays on all his insecurities. It doesn’t help that Mako probably had a crush on Oka (though that’s hardly surprising, as lovestruck Mako seems to crush about anyone with a Y-chromosome, up to and including his teachers).
As Mako retreats to his home, skipping out on club, Maho and her mother are watching Anna on TV, musing over how odd it seems that she’s Shuu’s girlfriend. So, eventually, is Mako-chan, who expresses his “I wish I was cuter,” mantra to his mother. What’s really striking her is how his mother takes the supportive role, encouraging him to try makeup and telling him he’s “a hundred times cuter” than Nitorin – embarrassing the both of them when Nitorin shows up and overhears. It might be unrealistic to see parents of transgender kids be that understanding, but it’s still refreshing to see.
The elephant in the room here the rarely discussed but always present reality that Makoto is in love with Shuu and always has been. “Why is he going out with Anna? Not that I could ever compete with her – even if I were a girl.” Makoto is, as he says, “losing his nerve” – the reality of the obstacles he’s facing as his body changes overwhelming him, even with the support of his mother and Nitorin (who might actually be doing Makoto a favor by distancing himself for a while, though he couldn’t possibly have kinder intentions). He suggests a visit to Yuuki-kun, stepping back into her role as a sort of life coach, and it’s be interesting to see if her advice to Makoto is aligned with what she’s always communicated to Shuu and Takatsuki.