I want to write a dissertation or a book on this story some time. Hourou Musuko is what made me fall in love with anime. Sure it isn’t typical or reflective of what most anime is like, but it did something that surprisingly a lot of other realistic slice-of-life anime and manga do to. When I was younger I could only take interest in the fantastical stories of Harry Potter or Percy Jackson or whatever, so it was kind of a surprise how much I enjoyed watching — and immediately reading after I finished watching it — this down-to-earth, pathos-intensive, realistic anime.
I fell in love with Hourou Musuko because I had never seen anything like it before. Here was a realistic narrative taking place over about a decade whose protagonist is transgender during one of the most difficult time for transgender people most often: puberty. Now, puberty is hard for everyone I’m sure. It’s when you get your period every two days and guys start ogling your boobs or your voice starts cracking and your penis is erect every time the wind blows. But I think it can be difficult to comprehend the pain that people like Nitori go through when their penis gets erect every time the wind blows but they are tempted to pull out the kitchen shears and cut it off because of their disgust with it.
You’ve seen and heard and experienced enough of those middle school pains where the one girl is totally flat and doesn’t have her period yet by eighth grade. Imagine how it must feel to not only be totally flat, but to have your voice start deepening and hair start growing on your face. Imagine the embarrassment only intensified when your parents tell you that you’re only going to get more hair and your voice will only get deeper. What do you do?
Shaving just leaves red marks all over your face, and you don’t know where to begin with keeping your voice higher pitched. Pretty soon you won’t look like a girl anymore and then you won’t be able to be with all your friends. Imagine what the Plastics will say to you, “Would you carry my backpack for me with your big, strong, man-arms? Pretty please?”
But this was going to happen eventually, wasn’t it? What can you do about it after all? Incur the wrath of your mom and dad by telling them you’re a girl? Only intensify the bullying from your older sister if you tell her. Your friends might reject you too.
I’m sure there are plenty of transgender people who had 0 trauma when coming out and transitioning. I know plenty of trans people take medication even prior to starting puberty to avoid the hormones of their assigned sex at birth. This is just thinking from the perspective of Nitori. I’ll talk about Takatsuki some other time. That’s a whole other kettle of fish.
I think this is shown to us throughout the manga, but Nitori has such a remarkable mental fortitude. Sure she’s shy (Look, the book she writes at the end is called “I am a girl.” If that doesn’t tell you she/her/hers pronouns then I don’t know what does), but never once does she totally crack. I think the mental stress and shame and simple pain of having the incorrect gender’s genitalia attached to you is enough to warrant the 40% attempted suicide rates of transgender people and 50% depression rates. Yet Nitori never even flinches. She never becomes suicidal or self-inflicts wounds. She never even totally breaks. There is this inner courage and confidence about her. Never once does she say, “Hmm… Maybe I’m wrong about all of this. Maybe I actually am a guy after all!” Nor does she totally fold under pressure and try to convince herself she is a guy because the alternative is too shameful a thing to be.
Actually from what I hear it’s exceedingly rare to be as confident as Nitori is about her gender. For a lot of trans people there is an element of doubt. A, “What if this was all a mistake?” And to an extent it’s warranted too. People do de-transition.
Sorry, I’m kind of just rambling about how amazing Nitori is at surviving against all odds. She’s a role model to me, in being a generally good person and getting better at saying things with confidence and vigor. It doesn’t matter how shy or outgoing you are during small talk. What matters is if you can overcome your jitters during the ‘big talk,’ so to speak.Mind you Takatsuki isn’t the only other person I want to talk about. There’s so much interesting stuff to Yuki and Mako as well, and I’ve only scratched the surface of the psychological beauty that is Nitori.