Posted on 31 March 2011 with categories: Anime Reviews, Hourou Musuko




The past season had three series that really stood with head and shoulders above the rest. They were all genuinely good and took their genres into new and fresh directions. Hourou Musuko takes a look at cross dressers. Most of time when they’re portrayed in a medium, they’re portrayed for laughs or flamboyance. Hourou Musuko however is entirely built around showing the issues that boys who feel like they are girls (and vice versa) run into while growing up. And it does so brilliantly.

For starters, this is one of those series that has a slow pacing, yet somehow manages to make a ton of stuff happen in each episode. It’s full of subtlety, and because of this it can get a ton of genuine drama out of the characters using its limited time of only 11 episode excellently.

This show actually made quite a bold statement by not animating the first X volumes of the manga it’s based on, but instead starting somewhere in the middle. The great thing about this show is that despite this, it still doesn’t feel incomplete. Characters sometimes refer to things that have happened to them in the past, but it’s apparent enough to the viewers to figure out what happened. This method gave the characters both a rich past and future and it gives the impression that there really is much more to them than what we see in the series. It’s a terrific way of characterizing them, and the entire cast of this series pretty much feels incredibly genuine and believable. Oh, and finally we’ve found another show that takes a realistic look at romance, as opposed to the overly sappy view you see in nearly every anime.

It’s a series for which I’ve had hardly anything to criticize for. The story is perfectly balanced, the plot twists are amazing in their subtlety, the cast is amazing, the animation brings both the cast and setting come alive and there is hardly anything that this show does wrong. If I had to nitpick at something then it’s that the characters are portrayed a tad too mature for their age. But so what? This is a wonderful portrayal of growing up. The cross-dressing is only a tiny part of this series. There’s so much to this show, and it’s only 11 episodes long.

Storytelling: 9/10 – Wonderfully subtle, with some amazing plot twists.
Characters: 10/10 – Amazing portrayal of young teenagers growing up,and their issues dealing with it. Wonderful development.
Production-Values: 8/10 – This show is really good at far away shots, with restrained animation, still bringing its cast to life.
Setting: 8/10 – Excellent portrayal of a school in japan. This show knows how to ring its environments to life.

Suggestions:
Aoi Hana
Asatte no Houkou
Sasameki Koto

Posted on with categories: Hourou Musuko



Okay, so this was supposed to be episode 12, even though it was labelled everywhere in the episode as episode 11. It contained no recycled material whatsoever however, so I guess it’s safe to assume that it was really episode twelve. I’m not the only one who is a bit confused, right?

In any case, this was an excellent closure to an excellent series. Even with an episode cut out, Hourou Musuko felt like it had no weaknesses whatsoever to me. It consistently engaging, from start to finish. This episode really ended at the perfect point, with Nitori’s voice changing. It denotes the start of a huge change for him. The time where his body starts changing has finally arrived, and within a few years, he’s going to make the decision whether or not to get surgery.

And yet there was so much more that happened in this episode that developed so many other characters: Doi, Chiba, Takatsuki, Anna: this show took its chance to give all of them even more development than they already had.

Overall, Hourou Musuko understood what it means to be a Noitamina series: you only get 11 or 12 episodes, and that’s the length that you have to work with. They took an excellent part of the manga and made it feel like a complete story: characters have lives that continue on both before and after this show takes place, and yet the series feels complete. I especially loved that talk that Nitori and Anna had, right before the play started.

I’m looking forward to next year’s Noitamina. C is bound to be awesome. Even Kuchuu Buranko, Kenji Nakamura’s least impressive work, was really enjoyable and interesting. Anohana meanwhile is one of those shows that doesn’t seem to belong in Noitamina at first sight. Along with Hana Saku Iroha, it’ll have to take Hourou Musuko’s place as the serious teenaged slice of drama of the season. If they’ll end up as well balanced and written as Hourou Musuko, we’re really in for a treat here.
Rating: *** (Awesome)

Posted on 25 March 2011 with categories: Hourou Musuko



I am confused here. Basically, this link explains how this week showed a compilation of episodes 10 and 11, with the real episodes 10 and 11 being released when their DVDs get released. that’s nice and all, but what the heck is next week’s episode going to be about? The preview says that it’ll be episode 11 again. If I had to guess, then that will probably be a compilation of episodes 11 and 12. AIC probably ran into some delays in the same way that Madoka Magica has been delayed.

Setting that aside though, this episode was brilliant. It was just an amazing aftermath to last week’s episode and made even better by a time skip along the way that showed Nitori actually growing up. The condensed nature of this episode left out quite a bit, but the added a whole bunch of new stuff to this series. Never did this series address Nitori’s anxieties and the people who make fun of him so directly. This episode rocked because it did a truckload of new things for this series, and yet nothing felt out of place. Or apart from those guys who confessed to Takatsuki, perhaps.

Overall though, this has been an excellent season, and it has set the bar for the rest of 2011 very high in terms of romance, comedy and mahou shoujos. Hourou Musuko, Madoka Magica and Level E: all have just been brilliant. Hourou Musuko took a while to get going, but it can really call itself equal to Aoi Hana: they’re both amazing series, but both are in their own distinctive ways.
Rating: *** (Awesome)

Posted on 18 March 2011 with categories: Hourou Musuko



The drama in this episode was just utterly brilliant. It’s where everything comes together, the build-up is really paying off and the characters start to change even more. Doi turned out to be a wonderful addition to the cast here.

This was a terrific example of the heights that subtle drama can reach. The entire episode was quiet, but so much was going on. The red thread was Nitori doing the impossible and coming to school in his girl outfit, being nudged by Doi in order to do this. It brilliantly made use of his insecurities as a girl in a guy’s body. It all culminated wonderfully until the climax of this episode.

Now, there still is the matter of that ending. This is a manga adaptation after all and I still haven’t forgotten the cheap way in which Kuragehime ended its run, but if that ending is good then this really is an excellent experiment of Noitamina to try and focus on series with a different group of lead characters (unlike Fractale for example). Noitamina is a very double-edged sword, but those who understand its limits (like the creators of this series seem to do) can use it to air some of the most wonderful series.
Rating: *** (Awesome)

Posted on 10 March 2011 with categories: Hourou Musuko



This is something that has been baffling me for years now: why are romance shows so scared to show people in an actual relationship? I mean, the climax of 60% of all romance series is the confession, and 30% just refuse to end without anything happening between the lead couple, having them remain forever in this “yes we’re in love but not actually dating so that we can have harems and love triangles forever”-type ending. That, while you can definitely get some good drama out of a relationship, which is what this show is currently doing brilliantly.

Nitori vs. Anna made this into a really excellent episode. There is some uncomfortable tension between them, but it’s the healthy kind of tension that still leaves plenty of room for them to grow either closer or further away from each other. It’s not cheesy in the slightest, and it’s definitely been one of the most down to earth portrayals of romance in quite a while, even though we’re talking about middle schoolers here.

That little shot of Chiba, Takatsuki and Nitori together when they were younger was a great little addition, by the way. This really was an episode of nostalgia as well, with both Nitori and Takatsuki trying to move on in their own ways. Nitori by exploring other sides of romance, Takatsuki by growing her hair a bit and trying to make up with Chiba again. If I have to critique the creators for one thing, it’s that they show a tad to little of Chiba when she’s not near Nitori. In this episode for example Takatsuki told Nitori that chiba was behaving normally again, but we unfortunately didn’t get to see those scenes.

Instead, we got this former bully. Now, with the way in which bullies are usually portrayed in anime, this guy is a HUGE improvement. He’s bratty, but in a subtle way and he’s definitely having an impact on Nitori. Whether it’s wise to introduce a new character three episodes before the ending is a different story, though.
Rating: ** (Excellent)

Posted on 3 March 2011 with categories: Hourou Musuko




Hourou Musuko… just surpassed itself. Seriously, this episode was better than any of the previous episodes so far, and convinced me that the creators know what they’re doing. Finally we have another romance that tries to portray love realistically, and FINALLY we have another series that subverts the “lead characters are soul mates” trope.

While Fractale is currently showing just how much of a double edged sword the Noitamina timeslot can be, Hourou Musuko just nailed it. This is the part where we really get to the interesting character development. Nitori suddenly deciding to date Anna was a brilliant move. He’s actually moving on, after being rejected by Takatsuki and exploring the different sides of love, with someone completely different from the one who was first made out to be his soul mate.

It’s here where the power of this show really shines. This show has lead characters, but beyond that the creators make sure to give each of the characters a down to earth portrayal, and it’s not unfair towards anyone: the scenarios are written so that nobody really gets the chance to devolve into a stereotype, even the energetic girl has subtle different sides, miles away from your usual cliched energetic girl. This episode showed the subtle side of this show at its best.

The oddball here is Chiba, who seems to have a lot of issues throughout the series. She’s a great source of drama, and yet she doesn’t devolve into cheese. It’s hard to make a character like her believable, but I think that the creators did it by having her constantly tell how she feels, and what she thinks.
Rating: *** (Awesome)

Posted on 24 February 2011 with categories: Hourou Musuko



Usually when an anime shows its characters perform a play, it’s a real highlight. This time though, it’s the aftermath that really caught my attention. The play itself was rushed through and didn’t have much impact, but the impression it left on the different characters was what really caught my attention in this episode.

The big strength of this show is how it’s able to breathe life in a relatively large cast in a relatively small amount of time, and this all came together in that aftermath: just about everyone had something different to say about it and experienced something different, from Saori’s subtle compliment to her co-star to Nitori’s sister commenting how he just wrote himself into the story.

As for the “school festival”-part of this episode, it really was the standard fare that you always see in those kinds of episodes: a huge crowd, a cafe and a haunted house. It’s more realistic than usual, but still it reminded me how the slice of life isn’t why I’m watching this show. Instead, this is all about its characters, and whenever this episode built further upon them, it was really excellent.
Rating: ** (Excellent)
On a side-note: I’m currently experimenting with a new imagehost: upl.co. Has anybody ever had any bad experiences with them? Like, them deleting images or something?

Posted on 17 February 2011 with categories: Hourou Musuko



I do think that this series is overestimating the acting capabilities of children. I remember when we at elementary school (elementary school in the Netherlands usually lasts from the age of five till the age of eleven or twelve) got to participate in the school plays, we didn’t really know anything about proper acting and understanding your character. We mostly practiced saying all of the lines correctly and the choreography (a lot of the plays we did back then were musicals), while practicing this over and over again. Seeing people completely caught up in their role with even the right theatrical gestures, intonations and movement is perhaps a bit beyond random kids.

The creators nailed the drama, though. The scene in which that guy randomly blurted out Nitori’s secret was really well done and involved a lot of different characters who were at the scene. It also really shedded some more insight about how Nitori feels about his identity, and how Takatsuki helped him in the chapters that the series skipped over.

Saori meanwhile got the bitchy character right. Throughout the entire series she’s being strange and trying to stand out, but she does it in this subtle way that doesn’t make her annoying, yet uses the drama that she created well. And at the same time, her character is far from one-dimensional so she doesn’t end up as your typical stereotype weirdo.

As for the Romeo and Juliet play.. yeah, it had it coming that some lead characters would end up playing Romeo and Juliet. Seeing two random classmates play those roles would perhaps have been interesting in a longer series, but with eleven episodes this series really needs to take every chance it has to build further upon the main characters. At the very least we didn’t get the corny solution of Nitori and Takatsuki playing the lead roles, and the current state of events did lead to some interesting drama that again brought some more life to the characters.
Rating: ** (Excellent)

Posted on 3 February 2011 with categories: Hourou Musuko



I’m also watching Kimi ni Todoke at this moment. And really, the difference here shows when a series actually has characters who openly know that people have a crush on them. It makes for much more interesting drama here, beyond the usual “when in God’s name will they ever find out that they’re into each other!?”

This episode was mostly building up. Those episodes are rather dangerous in a Noitamina series of only eleven episodes, but this episode still added a lot of stuff to the series here. It established that both Saori and Shuuichi are too stubborn to give up their crushes. I also like how they are constantly talking about this and their feelings, instead of keeping it all cropped up. And I mean, they’re teenagers so they’re bound to be impulsive and strange at times, but in the same time I like how Nitori wants to be a girl, not just for the sake of this crush, but because he really feels like he is born in the wrong body.

I also like how the problems that Yoshino has aren’t some kind of mirror of Shuuichi here. They both have to deal with growing up physically, but she is far less bothered with hormones and love than Shuuichi is.
Rating: * (Good)

Posted on 27 January 2011 with categories: Hourou Musuko




Most of the time when anime use far-away shots, this is to save budget: after all, it’s easier to draw something smaller because you don’t need as much detail. Hourou Musuko however puts a great amount of detail into these shots, making them look just great. It’s really something that could not be done before the era of HD. On top of that, I also love the attention this series spends on its backgrounds. I don’t mean the regular background art: that’s just some art with a watercolour filter over it. Instead, I love how this show draws all of the people in the background, with all sorts of realistic poses and make them more than a bunch of cardboard copy-pasted cut-outs that are just there to fill space.

This episode, among many others, also introduced a staple of school-based series: the school festival. Interestingly, with some help from Saori the thing that the class ended up doing was a gender-bender play. Interestingly, the students get to write the play themselves (by Shuuichi and Saori, to be exact). It’s here where Shuuichi shows that he’s actually a capable writer, but like most writers of his age, he’s very much into self-insert fan-fiction.

Oh, and this series broke another big taboo here as well: some people actually have a relationship with each other. Maho (Shuuichi’s sister) actually has a boyfriend; romance isn’t limited to a bunch of love triangles surrounding the main couple! And even the lead couple is more than just “will they won’t they”: while it’s true that it’s still uncertain whether or not they will end up together, it does seem like they actually both considered to go into a relationship, but chose to just stay as friends. That’s actually much better compared to all of those character that are oblivious to their own feelings and refuse to take their relationships anywhere.

Probably the biggest question-mark of this episode was: who actually knows about Shuuichi wanting to be a girl, and who actually knows about about Yoshino wanting to be a girl? I’m suspecting that very few know about the latter, but at this point I’m not quite sure why exactly Mahou didn’t want her boyfriend to see her brother, because Riku seemed more surprised at Maho wanting to strip her brother than that brother actually walking around in girls’ clothes.

Overall it’s a great depiction of middle schoolers, though. Their actions at times are a bit irrational, like when Saori tried to dress up Shuuichi despite earlier telling him not to, and at the same time it’s not like this show is caught up in its own angst at all: the tension comes and goes very quickly and naturally. Is it as good as Aoi Hana, though? At this point, I’d say not yet: Aoi Hana brought in even more layers in making its characters feel alive. At the same time though, I don’t see it doomed to remain in Aoi Hana’s shadow: if the rest of the episodes are good enough, I can really see this show getting progressively better as it goes on.
Rating: ** (Excellent)

Shoutbox

Name:
Email:
For:  
Mail will not be published
  • Raggers
    (Saturday, Apr 19. 2014 06:16 PM)
    @JaK: Thing is, I’ve already read up about the world and characters abilities (no plot) from the wikia. So at this stage, I expect I’ve already taken the “good stuff” from Mahouka and expect nothing good from the adaptation.
    Which leaves me open to being pleasantly surprised, should it become entertaining at some point.
  • JaK
    (Saturday, Apr 19. 2014 06:02 PM)
    you’d have to make it through the really boring enrollment arc for the hype to be justified though raggers :( ( also the arc manga covered hence the bad publicity)
  • Raggers
    (Saturday, Apr 19. 2014 04:09 PM)
    Oh, and have a look at http://www.overclock.net/t/1480764/oopsie-its-a-program-that-reopens-folders-or-programs-with-customizable-keyboard-shortcuts
    A very useful program that’ll make you wonder why M$ didn’t incorporate it into Windows ages ago.
  • Raggers
    (Saturday, Apr 19. 2014 04:08 PM)
    My bad, instead of “must watch” I meant “truly great”.
    I’m watching Mahouka partly because the hype demands it, and partly because the universe, and it’s rules, are very, very interesting. The hype reason is why I watched SAO, and the first half of GC (though I couldn’t handle more than that). Need to watch enough of it to have a valid opinion on it after all.
  • lohengramm
    (Saturday, Apr 19. 2014 03:45 PM)
    Ah, and Mekakucity, because of Kagepro.
  • lohengramm
    (Saturday, Apr 19. 2014 03:44 PM)
    i’ve read the mahouka manga and tbh i didn’t really like it … have yet to try the anime, though! for me so far the only shows i’ll definitely be following are captain earth and sidonia no kishi, most probably no game no life, and maybe hitsugi no chaika … (sorry for randomly inserting myself in here)
  • Jalapeno Bagel
    (Saturday, Apr 19. 2014 03:42 PM)
    whatever people say, that’s going to be one of the most talked-about shows of the next two seasons, need to watch at least a little bit of it.
  • Jalapeno Bagel
    (Saturday, Apr 19. 2014 03:42 PM)
    Raggers, you’re missing Mahouka.
  • Raggers
    (Saturday, Apr 19. 2014 03:04 PM)
    @moshokosho: There are 5 “must watches” this season IMO. In no particular order:
    Mushishi S2
    JoJo S2
    Baby Steps
    Isshuukan Friends.
    Ping Pong
  • moshokosho
    (Saturday, Apr 19. 2014 02:03 PM)
    still feeling bitter about captain earth, had been hoping for a Eureka 7, Bounen no Xamd style anime richly told

1 · 2 · 3 · 4 · 5 · »

Featured Posts

Clipboard07

Ping Pong – 02

Yes, I know that more people here were involved in making this series beyond Masaaki Yuasa. It’s written by the creator of Tekkon Kinkreet, Taiyo Mashimoto. That guy is awesome. And the combination between those two makes this series even better. Because here’s the thing: anime is significantly different from manga or light novels. Beyond […]

Clipboard02

Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure – Stardust Crusaders – 02

We can never quite get rid of magic fights at a school, now can we, Jojo. Ah well, I forgive it this time, just due to how hilarious it looks seeing these ridiculously bulky men walk around pretending to be high school students. It’s just so over the top, and yet Jojo sets itself apart […]

Clipboard01

Mushishi Season 2 – 02

Oh yes. This is it. This is what storytelling should be about: telling real stories about real people, all with their own problems that need to be overcome. And this show does that time and time again in just one episode. I still can’t believe how authentic this series is. The thing is, when I […]

Clipboard02

Mushishi – Tokubetsu-hen

Mushishi holds a really special place in my heart. Back in November 2005, when I started up this blog, Mushishi was one of the first shows I picked up to cover weekly. At first I didn’t think much behind it: it just looked interesting and I wanted to cover it, but as it went on […]

Seasonal Anime Podcast – First Impressions – 2013 Fall Anime Season

Hey everyone, I participated in a podcast again, together with Deadlights (Deadlight’s Anime Blog) Flawfinder (Standing on my Neck) and Slashe (Behind the Nihon Review) with two new members, Landon (Mecha Guignol) and Tom (Nigorimasen) Today we talked about the past Fall season. You can find the link here, enjoy: http://deadlightanime.blogspot.nl/2013/10/seasonal-anime-podcast-first_12.html

Clipboard07

Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure Review – 89/100

There are a lot of ways to adapt something. Shounen battle series tend to very quickly fall into a very dull variation of that: really slow pacing that goes on forever with long boring drawn out battles that all look like each other. David Production looked at them, and just said “we can do better!” […]

Clipboard06

Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure – 26

Oh Jojo. What an ending. I did not expect what would happen here at all. Perhaps the ending was not as impressive as with Psycho Pass or From the New World, but still this is every way in which a shounen series should end. You hear that, other shounen series? Watch this for how endings […]

Clipboard05

Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure – 25

Okay, so I thought that this was the final episode so I was ready to go all out. And then at the end of this episode there was this “To be continued”-message. Yeah, I was confused. But boy, am I glad, because it means that there will be one more episode of Jojo. They managed […]

Clipboard06

Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure – 23 & 24

And here are the penultimate episodes of Jojo. And seriously, I loved the fights here. The creators really went to the extreme, while keeping true to their philosophy of putting huge over the top powers on one hand, and really delicate things on the other. One one hand you have Stroheim yelling like crazy, while […]

Latest Reviews

Clipboard03

Kick Heart

Okay, so I didn’t want to exit 2013 without having seen Masaaki Yuasa’s Kick Heart. It’s only twelve minutes anyway, and I consider him to be one of the best anime directors out there. The story here is pretty silly and mostly serves as a backdrop, so I mostly want to talk about the nature […]

Clipboard01

Kyousogiga Review – 90/100

Everyone’s taste is different, and that’s a wonderful thing because that allows us to have so many different forms of media that all aim toward their own niche. My blog is obviously written from the perspective of my own taste, and even when a show doesn’t cater to it (which is nearly always), I love […]

Clipboard04

Ore no Nounai Sentakushi ga, Gakuen Lovecome o Zenryoku de Jama Shiteiru Review – 80/100

Noucome! You do not want to know how long I have been waiting for a series like this. More than half a decade, at the very least. Finally a series comes along and puts the incredibly overused harem genre in its place. And it actually does it well. Thank you! So to elaborate: the harem […]

Clipboard01

Pokemon: The Origin Review – 75/100

Normally I try to avoid spoilers with these reviews, but screw it, it’s Pokemon. Pokemon The Origin is a bomb of nostalgia. If you haven’t played Pokemon Red, Blue or Green, then you will not enjoy this one slight bit. This really is made as pure undilluted fanservice for the fans of the first games. […]

Clipboard08

Tamayura – More Aggressive Review – 75/100

I’m not going to dedicate a post for my impression for the final three episodes of this series. It was just too boring to write much about. I guess that that gives a pretty accurate indication of what I think about this series. Right at the start of Tamayura’s second season, I asked one question: […]

Clipboard04

Silver Spoon Review – 86/100

When Noitamina started airing two series per season, it was amazing. It’s a timeslot that on average tends to be aimed at a much older audience than usual, and having two series with the same mentality definitely helped to bring more diversity to anime overall. Unfortunately it’s a schedule that could not be kept up […]

Clipboard07

Yondemasuyo, Azazel-San Z Review – 82,5/100

Reviewing a comedy sequel usually is quite simple: in most cases it just drops the bomb and runs out of inspiration, and in rare cases it actually manages to stay hilarious. The tricky thing with these kinds of series is that you need to remain funny, and you need to have the inspiration for that. […]

Clipboard05

Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet Review – 81/100

Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet tells the storyline of a planet that is completely submerged, with only giant ships residing on the surface, while one of those ships gets visited by this guy and his AI-mecha from this very technologically advanced civilization. Yes, this show is about world building. What this show managed to do […]

Clipboard01

Yahari Ore no Seishun no Love Come wa Machigatteiru Review – 82,5/100

I like surprises, like when a series comes that just turns out to be good against my expectations. Yahari Blahblah from the outside had all the signs to turn into yet another one of those high school comedies: snarky male lead, pointlessly long title that fails at being witty, various other cliched side-characters. And they […]