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)

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  • Bam
    (Saturday, Aug 23. 2014 01:03 PM)
    PSYCHO-PASS Extended Edition is worth a (re)watch.
  • Emma
    (Saturday, Aug 23. 2014 10:28 AM)
    @Aidan: My current ranking of the visual novels I’ve played goes like this:
    1. Swan song 2. Saya no uta 3. Sharin no kuni 4. Kara no shoujo 5. G senjou maou 6. Fate/stay night.
  • Emma
    (Saturday, Aug 23. 2014 10:26 AM)
    @Aidan:And though not a big thing, I really liked the soundtrack to this and felt it went a long way.
    The investigation and notebook parts were a nice touch. I also thought the bits where the game put you in the head of the killer were very effective.
    So yeah another good recommendation from you, you know your stuff in any case.
    Issues then, any time it stopped being serious, didn’t like the h-scene I got, Tojiko is kind of annoying.
  • Emma
    (Saturday, Aug 23. 2014 10:26 AM)
    @Aidan:Of the characters I was most interested in the adults , mostly Reiji and Natsume.
    The plot/mystery itself was engaging, well paced and thought provoking, its good to read a story that gets me using my head. In addition to being moody and immersive the game also lingers on and stays with me after playing which is a good sign of its impact. I also was quite fond of the depressing and macabre nature of the game
  • Emma
    (Saturday, Aug 23. 2014 10:25 AM)
    @Aidan:Yo’ Mr A, I had a go of Kara no shoujo and completed my first playthrough of it, felt I’d tell you how I got on.
    I wound up getting Orihimes ending, I focused largely on her, Yukari and Toko. However I have taken a look at playthroughs/walkthroughs of other endings/lead up to those endings including the true end.
  • Emma
    (Saturday, Aug 23. 2014 10:23 AM)
    @Asuka:In any case I consider myself forewarned about Dubai.
  • Asuka111
    (Saturday, Aug 23. 2014 10:20 AM)
    @Emma It feels like all a sham, really. And the heat… 40° celsius outside at 12 AM. And I still see people working. This is eye opening for me as well, as I had previously never been to the UAE.
  • Emma
    (Saturday, Aug 23. 2014 10:15 AM)
    @Asuka:Admittedly my knowledge of Dubai is slim, I feel like you’ve taught me something. But from the sound of it I agree, it seems like a genuine sorry state of affairs.
  • Asuka111
    (Saturday, Aug 23. 2014 10:04 AM)
    But the UAE is an exception, because no matter which person in the service industry you talk to, the story is identical. They’re here on a temporary work permit (usually 2-5 years), and work 12+ hours per day, 6-7 days per week. They’re literally bused to work, work all day, bused back to their “compound,” sleep, and start the cycle all over again.
  • Asuka111
    (Saturday, Aug 23. 2014 10:03 AM)
    @Emma But here’s what’s depressing about the UAE — it’s the first place I’ve honestly felt sorry for the people serving me, be it in a restaurant, hotel, taxi, or elsewhere. I’ve seen poverty, but I’ve never felt “sorry” for the average person there. That’s simply because I don’t think there’s a connection between wealth and happiness. You see families in India living in poverty that are happy because they value what’s important in life (health, family, etc.),

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