Hourou Musuko

February 4, 2012

What are little girls made of? Sugar, spice and everything nice? What about little boys? Snips, snails and puppy dog tails? Well, today’s world isn’t as straightforward as it seems like in the past. Okay, maybe there were many cases too but people weren’t that connected around the globe or that informed. What am I talking about? When you hear the word ‘cross-dressing‘, what is your first opinion when a person does so? It’s either you accept or you reject these kind of people. So in the case of the anime series, Hourou Musuko (also known as Wandering Son), we look at issues of cross-dressing, the prejudice and discrimination that comes with it. Okay, perhaps not that deep but at least this series is trying to address this problem as many of the people today increasingly open to declare they are LGBT (Google it if you don’t know what it means).

Shuuichi Nitori is a middle school boy facing this problem. With his effeminate looks, he wants to be a girl. Yoshino Takatsuki, the tall tomboyish girl who is also the same age as Nitori, wants to become a boy. It’s like swapping genders, eh? But here’s another thing. Nitori likes Takatsuki. He confessed but was rejected though they remained best friends. Well, even if they both did become a couple, there wouldn’t be any big issues, right? Just wondering which one is the boy and which the girl. Add in a few of their friends into the fray, and you’ll have a mixed bag of romance, drama and slice of life as the protagonists wade through life trying to find their identity. Oh, there’s that dreaded thing called puberty too.

Episode 1
It’s the start of the new school term and the main characters are eager to start their schooling life. We are introduced to the other characters, many of which are in Nitori and Takatsuki’s class. They are Makoto Ariga (another boy who secretly wants to be a girl and shares the same cross-dressing passion as Nitori), Saori Chiba (the girl who likes Nitori and possibly the one who encouraged him to cross-dress in return for his love but of course it backfired), Kanako Sasa (the energetic but friendly petite girl), Chizuru Sarashina (often calling herself as “Chi” and is not afraid to dress either as a boy or a girl when she feels like it because of her free spirited and unconventional behaviour) and Momoko Shirai (Sarashina’s childhood friend who always suck up to her). As the class introduces themselves, one of the boys shamelessly asks Nitori if he and Takatsuki once dated before. He gets whacked by Chiba’s textbook on the head. Scary. Don’t mess with her. She’s got that unfriendly ‘I-don’t-want-to-be-your-friend’ look on her face. Looks like that girl still harbours some feelings for Nitori. Later Takatsuki bumps into Sarashina. The latter invites her to join the basketball club due to her height. After school, Nitori cross-dresses and goes out to the city while Takatsuki meets Hiroyuki Yoshida AKA Yuki (another transsexual woman who loves dressing as a guy and supports Takatsuki’s desire to be a boy). Nitori feels anxious since this is his first time dressing as a girl in a crowded place as he only does so at home. He looks pretty convincing. You can’t even tell if he’s a guy. When Nitori goes home, he sees his sister, Maho and her friend Anna Suehiro in their room (both of them are models). After they leave, Nitori gets attracted to put on Maho’s dress. Of course the girls return to the room since Maho forgot her handphone. The sight of her brother in her dress is most unpleasant. She forcefully tries to take it off him seeing it will stink for her photo shoot tomorrow but he pushes her away. Nitori felt hurt so he runs out of the house and runs to wherever his feet take him. Along the way, he encounters Takatsuki. He starts crying because he can’t stand anymore of this. They talk about Nitori trying hard to be a girl and perhaps be more like Sarashina. When he goes home, Maho apologizes by giving him her fried shrimp.

Episode 2
Next day in school as Sarashina dresses in a girl’s uniform, a girl asks her if she was the one who dressed as a boy before. Next thing she knows, Sarashina is in Street Fighter mode and shoves the girl! WTF?! Momoko tells her everybody is watching so she runs away in embarrassment. What… The… Hell? As Nitori and Takatsuki walk up the stairs, they chance upon Chiba coming down. She calls them filth. And you’re not hearing things when she narrates that she hates everyone. Man, this girl has got an attitude problem. In class after drawing lots for their seat arrangement, the gang decides on a leader via rock-scissors-paper. They hear a ruckus Momoko trying to tell off Chiba for badmouthing and insulting Sarashina, though Chiba is just speaking her mind that she’s weird. Chiba was even ready to hit her but stopped short. During recess, Nitori goes to Maho’s class to give her forgotten bento. Her classmates note how girly he looks, much to Maho’s annoyance. Then more trouble for Chiba when several seniors call her. Something about her not snubbing them but she just tells them she did but they ignored her and leaves. After school, Sasa walks home with Chiba and Takatsuki but notices that both girls aren’t on good terms. Sasa got so upset that she tells them off she’s not talking to them anymore. Takatsuki thinks of buying the hatchet but Chiba doesn’t want to. Does she hate her that much? Well, Chiba throws back the same question to her and leaves her speechless. Back in Takatsuki’s room, she remembers the events 9 months ago that led to this. Chiba visited her and asked about her feelings for Nitori. Seems she had forced some information out of that girly guy about his confession to Takatsuki. So why was she here if she’s the last person she wants to see? To yell at her? To tell her off she hates her? Well, Takatsuki didn’t do anything wrong so she thinks she’ always playing the victim and making her the baddie. So yeah, Takatsuki hates her just as much. Takatsuki tries to find Sasa but she’s not around. Looks like she’s ‘hiding’ at the infirmary and not going to class and is taking her point of not talking to those girls seriously. Takatsuki goes up to Chiba and suggests that they all walk home together. Sarashina likes the idea and soon everyone one of them joins them walking home. Everyone else is having fun buying and eating ice cream except for, you guessed it, Chiba. Then she reveals she actually snubbed her seniors so Sarashina laugh so hard and loud. Sure finding it funny, eh? Well, it may be the much needed ice breaker for her so Sasa agrees to accompany her to go apologize to them tomorrow.

Episode 3
Sarashina again is laughing so hard and on the other hand Takatsuki is in shock so much so she’s just lying on the floor like as though it’s the end of the world for her. For the upcoming cultural festival, the class is taking suggestions and what to do. Surprisingly Chiba comes out with a suggestion of not just a normal play, but a gender bender play. Boys play the girls role and vice versa. Interesting. Walking home, Sarashina is thrilled with her idea but Chiba continues to be cold and decides to split herself from the gang. Sarashina starts liking her much to Momoko’s dismay because she always gets attracted to weird things. Chiba and Nitori are in charge of writing the script. As Nitori burns the midnight oil, he can’t help think of his own case and Takatsuki’s, though he thinks that they’ve already decided they should be friends. Next morning, seems Maho got sick. Nitori has caught some too but it’s not that serious as he makes his way to school albeit he rests at the infirmary. Surprisingly Takatsuki is also there. She asks him a weird question if he ever wanted to wear a bra. She doesn’t want to and wished her chests were as flat as his (probably it has something to do with that incident at the beginning). Nitori gets more ideas for the play so he writes it down in his notebook. Later Riku Seya (Maho’s boyfriend) sees Nitori and wonders if he can come visit her later. Makoto notices something different about Seya and that is his voice is breaking. They fear this puberty period among the boys will put a damper on their dreams to become a girl. So he gets this idea of recording their voices now before they forever lose it. But why change into girl clothes? I guess for realism. Then they take turns recording their voice over the handphone with their slightly modified girly names. Nitori doesn’t know what name to use so Makoto suggests using his sister’s. Well, she heard it and isn’t too pleased. Then they have a visitor. Maho seems to panic so Makoto opens the door to see Seya. Yeah, he is pretty shocked to see girly Makoto. But even more shocking, he sees Maho trying to force Nitori out of his girl clothes! He is disturbed upon seeing her undressing her brother! Note, when Seya first met Nitori cross-dressing, he thought he was a girl and blushed. Nitori and Makoto are kicked out of the house so Seya thinks her fever must be making her act weird. Maho thinks he must have caught her illness since they kissed yesterday. Next day, Nitori and Chiba present their script to their homeroom teacher, Manabu Saisho. He is impressed but thinks they should read each other’s story. Since both are saying the other’s script is better, Saisho suggests combining the good points of both scripts. Seems impossible, eh? But Nitori won’t give up yet as he and Chiba work together at the library, only to receive taunts from other boys that he is ‘cheating’ on Takatsuki. Chiba suggests doing so at her house and promises she won’t do anything funny. You mean something funny happened to last time? Nitori comes up with the idea of Romeo and Juliet with a twist. Romeo wants to be a girl and Juliet a boy. But Chiba can’t help think it’s just like Nitori and Takatsuki. She won’t allow Takatsuki to be Romeo if Nitori plays Juliet. Meanwhile Sarashina checks whether Takatsuki is wearing any bra by groping her boobs, much to her annoyance. Back home, she laments with this kind of chests, she can’t wear a boy’s uniform. Next day as she heads to school, Nitori notices her wearing a bra.

Episode 4
For the pool lessons, Sarashina is once again bold wearing a bikini instead of the usual school swimsuit. As Chiba and Nitori work on their script, Nitori isn’t paying attention to what Chiba is saying (“The people in the mansion are committing mass suicide”) due to the many distractions so Nitori thinks it’s better for them to meet at his home. When Nitori goes home, he sees Maho and her friends. As he continues on his script, Anna gets a little naughty by taking a peek at his work. Till he made him cry. Oh, you just made a girl, oops I mean a boy cry. Takatsuki visits Yuki who is currently living with her boyfriend Shiina. Saisho asks for Nitori and Chiba’s progress but the latter tells him they have nothing to show him. As Chiba visits Nitori, Makoto is also there. He asks if she still likes Nitori because he’s pretty sure Nitori still likes Takatsuki. I’m sure she doesn’t have nice things to say for him being nosy. One of them being they’re both being stubborn and dumb. So she asks if Nitori likes Takatsuki as a girl or a boy. She thinks it’s the latter so he can be a girl and thus the reason why he wrote this play. It’s the same case for her because she wanted to be Juliet. As Chiba leaves, Makoto notes how she controlled herself and didn’t embarrassed Nitori as bad as he thought. Nitori gets a call from Takatsuki asking him to accompany her tomorrow. Both of them cross-dress and over lunch they talk about… Bras and boobs? As Nitori dresses back into his boy self, Takatsuki mentions about the voice recording he did. She says she is willing to give him her name but in return he has to give her his. Nitori wants her to be Romeo for the play because he wants to be Juliet. That’s because he sees her as a boy. It’s a play not about him but them being stars, a play that represents his wish. Takatsuki is surprised but apologizes that she never realized this was so important to him and will do her best to make this play a success. Nitori goes home. Maho gives him a weird ugly handphone strap Anna bought when they were at a karaoke joint. She thinks Anna hates him or something. In class, Saisho asks for volunteers to help with the script. The first person who put her hands up is Takatsuki. Soon the rest of their friends all join in (I guess Momoko didn’t want to be left out). Then Nitori gets a call from Chiba to meet her at a place because she wanted them to meet alone before everybody else starts working on the script. Acting out Nitori’s script, Chiba seems like a natural. She then says she wants her to have her name. However he tells her he already had that talk with Takatsuki. He goes on saying how he liked Takatsuki, got rejected and yet he still wants to become a girl and wear pretty clothes. And it’s not because of Takatsuki. Chiba asks his next plan since he won’t become a girl by just waiting around. Sure he can swap names but that won’t be the same as swapping places. Unless he undergoes a gender surgery. Nitori hasn’t thought that far yet so Chiba says she can’t bring herself to like Takatsuki and never to talk about her when she’s around. For a very long time, Chiba rushes down to the church and makes a deep prayer. One, for her teacher to have brains (and pox?) and two, let Nitori be Juliet and her to be Juliet not Takatsuki. Desperate, eh? I guess that’s only when people only go to church.

Episode 5
As everyone gathers at Chiba’s place, she still puts up that long face. I guess even mommy is used to it. Fumiya Ninomiya visits Chiba. Who is he? Chiba’s girlfriend. Not! Her childhood friend. When he sees Nitori he instantly recognizes and points out to that kid who loves to cross-dress. Now the secret is out. Takatsuki defends Nitori. Sarashina is absolutely thrilled and pesters him with questions about his fetish so Takatsuki tells her she shouldn’t be forcing answers out of people. Takatsuki leaves so Sarashina suddenly feels so bad and dramatically apologizes. Well, it’s not her fault as Chiba points. It’s Ninomiya’s. Now he’s being made the scapegoat. Well, Ninomiya sure has feelings for Chiba and he’s not amused that girl sees something in that cross-dresser. Ninomiya also tries to act a little girly in the bathroom and he thinks he is way cuter than Nitori! So the gang work on the script as the days of summer pass and eventually came to an end. As they play the fireworks, Nitori notes that even if he is not a couple with Takatsuki, with her around, he’ll be okay since she’s the person who understands him the best. In school, the roles of the characters are drawn via lottery. Yeah, looks like Chiba’s chances are determined by luck now. Good news: Sarashina and Takatsuki pulled out roles as friars each. Even better news: Chiba gets the role of Romeo. Bad news: Yup, you guess it. Nitori didn’t land the Juliet role. It’s Makoto. Bummer. I guess she didn’t pray hard enough to God, eh? Haha, just kidding. Makoto isn’t confident in his role and thinks of giving it to Nitori if he sees him since he suits Juliet better but Chiba tells him off she hates spineless people he can ease that guilt by doing so. Yeah, it’s that rotten attitude again. Though Makoto tries to tell her the world doesn’t revolve around her and Nitori, she responds by saying she’ll kill everybody! She’ll kill off every single character there is! Chiba thinks of revising the script and putting in some doom and gloom. Well, Saisho thinks it’s too late now and wants to talk this over after school. Chiba feels that it was okay when it was just them working on the script but feels everyone else ruined it. Later Nitori and Makoto talk and the latter dismisses the fact that Chiba told him he wanted Nitori to be Juliet. Makoto felt he really wanted to do this role even if people laughed at him. As Nitori and Takatsuki go around handing tickets for the festival, they see Anna modelling in the streets. She sees them and finds out Takatsuki is a girl and wonders if she’s Nitori’s girlfriend. Amused, she snaps a picture of them with her handphone. Maho’s class has finished a poster using Maho as a model for a maid cafe. Nitori’s class rehearse their lines for the play. Chiba is a natural and is very into her role. Hey wait. Aren’t those lines in the script or not? Makoto later apologizes to her for screwing up but she is adamant in doing a perfect job on stage or else she will feel miserable again. Then seeing their other friends working hard, Makoto vows to do a better role of Juliet. He’d better.

Episode 6
The day of the festival is here. Chiba gets into her dress early. Ninomiya comes to see the class and Chiba isn’t thrilled to see that talkative guy. He finds out Makoto will be playing Juliet and though not what he expected (he thought it’s going to be Nitori) he finds it interesting. Maho isn’t pleased with her maid job. Till her modelling idol, Maiko shows up. However she couldn’t read the atmosphere that she is here on disguise so everybody in the cafe finds out. Yeah, she’s quite popular and this becomes an autograph session. Yuki is also here at the festival with Shiina but she dresses up so well as a guy that you can’t tell. Sarashina suggests checking out the haunted house before their play. Before Chiba leaves, Ninomiya hands her a bouquet of flowers. He thought of giving it at curtain call but thinks it’s weird for him to walk around carrying it the entire day. Chiba makes some sarcastic remarks that she’ll accept it since the flowers have done nothing wrong but she feels like puking each time he makes his insensitive remarks and never ever do this again. She’s not joking. Makoto has this idea of erasing his nervousness and letting his voice out by entering the haunted house with Nitori. But the ‘ghosts’ seem so lame it’s not even scary. Then they hear the voice of their other friends as they all start shouting and screaming while running through the dark corridors. Yeah, even the ‘ghosts’ become scared. Sarashina dashes out first and comes face to face with Maiko. Yup, she’s her biggest fan. But not Anna. Uh huh. She didn’t like her because she looks mean. The truth hurts. She starts fawning over Maiko so much so she forgot all her lines! Don’t panic, let’s go over them one more time. Yuki and Shiina visit Takatsuki but learn Nitori as the narrator instead. As the play starts, Makoto is still nervous. What more, words of other people expecting to see Nitori in the role kept increases his anxiety. He is about to give up and cannot proceed. Till he sees Chiba’s face. He makes a recovery to restart the play again. Maho feels she wants to see her brother’s play but as Maiko advised, they would only distract everybody. You mean, only her, right? The play ends with a success and to a standing ovation. Except maybe for Ninomiya. He’s just clapping lethargically. Like he’s doing them a favour. Saisho is reduced to tears over the play’s success as the class hold a little celebration. Makoto is glad everyone saw him as a girl named Juliet. Chiba passes the bouquet of flowers to him and says it was from some anonymous guy who sees him as Juliet. So when Ninomiya wonders what happened to the bouquet, Chiba’s response? She feels like puking… As for Makoto, her mom can’t help tease how cute he was. Stuttering on stage, that is.

Episode 7
As Nitori reads out a book, the girls in class start laughing because it’s like he’s reading about himself, a pretty boy. Nitori goes home to see Anna waiting in his room. He asks her for advice to make his skin pretty like hers. Seems there’s a pimple on Nitori’s nose. When Maho comes in, she misinterprets that she’s interrupting something. Following Anna’s advice using facial cleanser, wiping it gently and turning in early (it’s only 7pm!), he wakes up next morning to find his condition worse than before. Yeah, another pimple on his face. Nitori continues to follow Anna out to get tips on how to beat the zit. Nitori is also scouted to join the drama club. Takatsuki and Chiba chance upon each other in the toilet. Though Takatsuki tries to remain friendly, Chiba isn’t. Yeah, b*tchy mode on. Whatever they talked about, Chiba asserts she hates her. Later Chiba quits the volleyball club to join the drama club, leaving a somewhat bitter taste in Takatsuki’s mouth since it was the former who invited her to join this club. As everyone gathers at Nitori’s house for a group study, I guess Maho is envious and spews out how Anna and Nitori are dating. WHAT?! WHAT?! WHAT THE?! I thought I was hearing things just like Makoto did but Nitori himself confirmed he really is going out with Anna! Shock! So from what it seems was a simple outing to help his skin problem, led them to visit the karaoke joint where she got that ugly handphone strap for him just to see the manager’s face (he’s ugly too). Then in the karaoke box, that’s when Nitori blurted out he likes her and wants to go out with her. Nitori and Takatsuki pay Yuki and Shiina a visit. Yuki thinks they should become a couple when Nitori reveals and surprises them all that he’s in a relationship with Anna. On the way home, Takatsuki suggests they stop doing this together since Anna may not like it. When she says goodbye, Nitori felt a distance in her words. Well, I have an idea what that means. Even when they have normal conversation, there is distance in her words. It must be fate for Takatsuki and Chiba to meet each other in the toilet. Chiba ignores her like she doesn’t exist. Desperate to fix the relationship between them, she says that Nitori is going out with Anna. Look at that surprised look on Chiba’s face. Must be news, eh? Over the next day, Chiba is missing from class. She is not only skipping school but thinks of quitting! So serious ah?! Luckily her mommy is nice and understanding, trying to talk to her about her future. Well, she could be somebody’s mistress. Is she joking? Takatsuki feels guilty for causing Chiba to act so and visits her to make up. Has it ever worked out before? Well, since Nitori isn’t in love with either one of them, there’s no reason for them to fight, right? But that doesn’t mean they should be friends. Admitting she has always been anti-social, Chiba feels she’s doing this so as not to hurt Sasa. But Takatsuki says she is here on her own free will. Chiba loosens up a little and mentions to drink her tea before it gets cold.

Episode 8
The new school term is here. Most of the friends are split up into different classes and Takatsuki spots a longer hairstyle. Well, looks like Chiba is back in school too. Though Nitori continues to go out with Anna, Maho feels he should break up with her if he wants to continue dressing like a girl since Anna is a normal girl. Takatsuki ponders about Chiba’s words if she really wants to become a boy. She is still hesitant to put on a boy’s uniform and feels others think she just wants attention like Sarashina. Nitori wanted to ask Takatsuki for some advice on Anna but feels she is still distant. So she seeks Yuki’s advice. The best answer if Anna will love or hate his cross-dressing is if asks the person himself. Yuki gets a shock when she learns it was Takatsuki who rejected his feelings. On Nitori and Anna’s next date, Nitori reveals his desire to wear girl clothes and possible the ones she is wearing. Wondering if she finds him disgusting but she knows he likes cross-dressing ever since the first time she saw him doing so in his room with his sister’s dress. She even encourages him to dress as a girl on their next date because she sees him as her little sister. Nitori talks to Makoto about this and he feels sorry for Chiba since as a couple he thought they would be doing stuff like kissing. Too bad Chiba overheard them so she tells them off she doesn’t care about Nitori anymore. In class, Shinpei Doi wonders who that attractive hot chick (Yuki) Nitori was with the other day so he says it’s his friend. Oddly, a naughty kid like Doi wants to be friends with Nitori. Has he changed? Why is he holding his hand?! Anna helps Nitori to apply some make-up. Because Nitori asks her if she wanted to kiss him, this throws her off her pace and accidentally messes his face. She asks him the same question but he is unsure. I don’t know, if Nitori isn’t wearing a wig, he doesn’t convincingly look like a girl. Along the way, they bump into Takatsuki and Chiba. Seeing those 2 together is as rare as seeing a dog and a cat together. At the karaoke box, Chiba and Takatsuki excuse themselves to the toilet. The former thinks Anna is a nice girl so she gets a rebuking remark that she’ll accept anyone’s invitation if they’re nice. But Chiba also came along, right? Then about Takatsuki wanting to be a boy, she cautions there are lots of indecisive boys out there. Back in the room, as they place their drink orders, Chiba wants to order beer! She’s serious. Anna takes a swipe at her rotten attitude. Takatsuki tries to calm the duo and explains that Chiba likes Nitori but Chiba feels this is uncalled for and blames Takatsuki as the one who led him on. Chiba continues that Nitori and Takatsuki used to go out (of course that did not happen) and though she loves him, she was turned down. End of story. So where’s her beer to drown her sorrows? Nitori suggests singing together but Chiba wants to do a solo. Anna is impressed of her exceptional singing. If she could only sound this lovely in normal conversation. At the end of the day, Anna wants to exchange numbers and email with Chiba but she has neither. Nitori wonders if they can go back to the way it they used to be.

Episode 9
Takatsuki is seen talking to Anna. She is asking for her permission to hang out with Nitori. No problem. I guess it’s better safe than sorry and make it clear that you’re not messing with other people’s boyfriend. Takatsuki goes to school in a boy’s uniform, making others turn their heads. Another Sarashina in the making? Speaking of her, she’s bloody ecstatic to see Takatsuki in one. She gets called by Saisho about her stunt that only Sarashina can pull off. When asked if she likes girl clothes, she replies she doesn’t like them at all. Another fateful meeting between Takatsuki and Chiba at the toilet. The latter just fixes her collar. Later Takatsuki invites Nitori to go out on a date with her. Okay, let me rephrase that. She wants him to accompany her to Yuki’s place on Sunday. However Nitori lets her know he is busy. In class, Nitori gets an SMS from Doi that he wants to meet that hot chick this Sunday. I don’t know why he agrees but come Sunday, Nitori has Takatsuki as his ‘bodyguard’. WTF. Takatsuki lets Doi know that Nitori already has a girlfriend. And it’s not her. During the train ride, the coach rocks a little, causing Nitori to fall into Takatsuki’s chest. As they arrive at Yuki’s place. Yuki wants to know what Doi wants from this transsexual. Yes. Yuki used to be a man before becoming a woman! OH SH*T!!! Doi is sure shocked upon learning that so he just tells her he is here to say how pretty she is. Man, you can tell from his face how he’s feeling. As they leave, Doi wonders their screwed up relationship or if their family is with the mob. Takatsuki advises Nitori not to listen to Doi. In class, Doi talks to Nitori that he should try being a girl and wants to see it. Back home when Nitori’s family are all out, Nitori dresses as a girl as Doi enters the room. For that moment of suspense, I thought he was going to rape Nitori!!! Though with that unenthusiastic look, Doi comments he really looks cute and should come to school like this. Hey, Takatsuki did it, so why not? Nitori and Maho are forced to go over to their grandparent’s place and Maho is not happy because this interferes with her date with Seya. When they arrive, their grandparent’s friend mistakes them both to be lovely girls! As they stay over, Nitori remembers the talk with Doi after that demonstration. He was like trying to find out his likes and hobbies and apparently knew about his hobby of dressing as a girl because he read it once in his diary a long time ago. Hey! That’s privacy invasion! Nitori goes to see Sarashina working as a waitress for some advice. She is very frank with him. People may think he is a weirdo and pervert. But the ultimate decision lies in him. Though she thinks he is cute cross-dressing, she feels if he doesn’t want to attract unwanted attention, he shouldn’t do it at school. Nitori visits Takatsuki and wants to borrow her girl uniform as he wants to wear it to school. She thinks Doi put him up to this but he insists that he wants to do it though Doi may have did play a little part in that. Since nobody said anything about Takatsuki as a boy then, what difference would it make? Maho gives Nitori a hairpin from Anna and teases that both idiots can match each other now. As Nitori heart pounds and his mind thinking deep, he finally makes a resolution. Next day, the teachers are very shocked to see a cute transfer student girl. Wait! Isn’t that Nitori? Or someone that looks like him? Nope. Nitori admits it is him. This causes the entire school to be abuzz. Everyone is shocked, including Nitori’s friends. Never in their wildest dreams would he turn up in a girl’s uniform. He is taken to the infirmary and his mom soon came to take him home.

Episode 10
Nitori’s family has a talk and mom wonders if he’s doing it as a penalty game. She even thinks Maho was the source since she used to dress him up like a girl. Daddy and Nitori take a walk as he tells son that before Maho was born, their grandparents make a bet if their first born would be a boy or girl. Grandma lost the bet when Maho’s loud crying made her think she was a boy. Then when it’s Nitori’s debut to the world, they thought it was a girl. Perhaps they’ve got their positions mixed up. Maho got so sick about this that she wants to skip school. In school, Sarashina, Takatsuki and Nitori were called to see Saisho and he thinks the gender bender play influenced them though Sarashina disagrees. Nitori replies that he had always wanted to do this. Nitori and Seya went to see Yuki and tell her about what happened. So why come to see her? Maho may want to stop coming to school. After that embarrassing stint, can you blame her? In school, a couple of boys tease Sarashina and Nitori that the cross-dressing weirdoes have formed their own club. Momoko doesn’t want Sarashina to hang out with Nitori anymore because everyone will think she’s a freak. Sarashina doesn’t mind because she really thinks she is one! What’s this Sarashina’s comment that she won first prize in a freak contest in their class? Did they really have that? Nevertheless Momoko pulls her away from him. The nightmare begins when other boys start bullying Nitori by locking him out of the classroom (Saisho is a wuss) and Doi even comments how he was a moron to come to school so. Wasn’t he the one who encouraged him? Meanwhile a guy confesses his feelings to Takatsuki but she rejects him outright. His friend chides her for rejecting a nice guy like him but she ignores him and leaves. Chiba accidentally eavesdropped and mentions that she’s a girl after all. She was happy when a guy confessed to you. That’s not a compliment because as she continues, it’s only going to get worse because she’s pretty cute right now. Meanwhile Anna is being consoled by her classmate. Probably she doesn’t know where to put her face now. She didn’t really think Nitori would pull off such a feat. I thought she was okay with his cross-dressing? Maybe privately and not openly. Though she understands his reason to cross-dress, she worries about his future and wonders if he’s going to be the same when he grows up. For the upcoming school cultural festival, the class suggested the gender bender play. Sasa was against it since it will make Nitori a bigger target but I guess majority wins (even Doi agreed to it). Maho’s class is going to do another maid cafe but this time the guys will be the ones putting on the girls’ outfit. On an outing with Seya, she gets close to him. Appreciating what she has? Nitori remembers how his last meet up with Anna, she just wanted them to remain friends (can take the pressure?). Then on the way home with Doi, he tells him how he stopped dressing as a girl ever since so people won’t make fun at him. Then for the first time, he got angry with Doi for reading his diary out loud to everyone and wanted to laugh at him when the class wanted to do the gender bender play. Well, he agreed to do so because he wanted to. He signs off with the classic “I hate you”. For once, Nitori has got the balls to do something that leaves Doi very much stunned. And I’m beginning to fear that Doi might be some trap fetish because he’s kicking the road barrier in frustration! On a day their grandma pays a visit, Nitori’s hair has grown longer and it seems he has grown taller than Maho.

Episode 11
Takatsuki has cut her hair short, surprising Chiba. Well, summer is going to be hot. Is that really her reason? Anyway Doi is ad-libbing Nitori’s script and the class went into delirium. Later Nitori meets Doi and requests his help to write the script. Doesn’t he hate him? Well, sort of yes. But he’s better at writing the script. So does he actually mean he doesn’t hate him? Doi’s buddy passes by and thinks the duo are forming some sort of gay comedy act. Chiba invites Nitori to her house since she has more dresses for him to wear. They can invite Takatsuki too. Oh, and her class is doing some boring exhibits on the town history. Only Sarashina was bloody eager. Yeah, Chiba’s in her group. In her room, Nitori puts on a dress and a hair piece. Chiba notes how cute he is and starts caressing and fondling his head. She says he has always been a special boy to her. Then Takatsuki comes in. Chiba wants her to put on a dress. Reluctantly she just put it over her clothes and she looks horrible. But the girls laugh it off and they continue chatting on friendly terms. Wow. They must be really on good terms to have a friendly conversation. Nitori reads Doi’s script and is impressed it’s good. Doi suggests he comes back to class as he won’t force anything on him (ever since Nitori pulled off that girl uniform stint, he has been attending class alone in the infirmary). Everyone works hard for the festival and that day soon arrives. Maho couldn’t get enough of Seya in a maid outfit so she has her friends snap a pic of him and one herself when she could no longer hold it in. Nitori, Chiba, Sasa, Sarashina and Momoko visit Makoto and Takatsuki’s class doing a planetarium. They may be creative in using the revolving disco ball as stars but it looks kinda cheap. They also have a special feature in which they can make a wish on a ‘shooting star’. Nitori at first wishes for his voice not to change and to become a girl. But he changes it and hopes for the play to be a success. Later Makoto talks to him and he apologizes for always being jealous of him ever since they know each other because Nitori looks and can act cute unlike him. However Nitori truly believes that Makoto is also cute.

Ninomiya visits the festival but nobody seems to recognize him. Why? Because he is dressed as a girl! Woah! Meanwhile Anna has been forced by Maiko and Tamaki to visit Maho’s class. Anna didn’t want to come because she doesn’t want to face Maho after breaking up with her brother. However Maiko thinks that is a separate issue and that they are friends. But it’ll be a different matter if she stole Maho’s boyfriend. Anyhow, Anna manages to slip away and ends up in Nitori’s class. The ex-couple go talk as Anna apologizes for the mean things she said. She mentions Nitori is her first boyfriend (surprised?) and it’s the same for Nitori (Takatsuki rejected him so that’s not counted, right?). She was happy when he asked her out and was the first time anybody did that. Even though she’s pretty, she has always kept her distance from both boys and girls and only Maiko was the one that wasn’t afraid of her. Though Nitori looks like a shy boy, he speaks his mind and even if he looked like a girl, she didn’t feel he was one. Thus she always viewed him as a boy. So when he came dressed as a girl, she got confused, freaked out and couldn’t handle reality. But Nitori says that he still loves her and this is how he is so it might make her uncomfortable. Chiba and Takatsuki are watching from above their classroom. Chiba notes how Nitori’s voice is changing. She initially though he was special and different from other boys but came to realize he was just ordinary. Takatsuki replies that she thinks everyone including herself is special so Chiba feels her answer is kinda lame but that’s how she is. As the play is about to begin, one of the girls requests Nitori for her lines. He reads it out to her when she notices his change in voice. But he isn’t fazed and doesn’t mind it. Nitori steps into the spotlight as the lead character of the play “I Am A Girl” to the applauding crowd.

Still Wondering Some…
Oh, it ended just like that? Why do I get that unfulfilled feeling in the end? But even if you ask me on how to end it, I guess I will be at the cross-roads too. Basically it’s about life going on and facing reality as it comes. Whether Nitori’s dream of becoming a girl will be a reality is yet to be seen because I suppose for now he just takes things as they are. He’s got lots of good and supportive friends around him even if many of the rest ridicules and shuns him. There are many factors that lead to one in realizing his or her own sexuality. Would Nitori been a normal boy if he wasn’t given the girly experience from a younger age? Would it be a non-issue if he was born as a girl in the first place? It’s all about acceptance and finding a place that we are comfortable in. This series tries to touch and explore these issues and since the characters here are still high schoolers and it’s making a fuss, imagine what it will be like in the adult world. Sure, you can do anything you want but can you really? Freedom has its limits still.

All the while Nitori was confused and afraid to let others know about his cross-dressing for fear of society’s perception and its impact. When he finally got the courage to do that, that was what exactly happened. Takatsuki didn’t go through the torment as bad as Nitori simply because females have a choice of donning skirts or pants, right? But when a guy wears a skirt, that has got to be more than an eyebrow raiser. But they both share the same ideal and the difference in their gender and society’s norm is what set them apart. Sarashina is the liveliest of the bunch and her answers are honest, frank and in-your-face. She may be annoying and loud but that’s how she is. She is not afraid to speak her mind and do what she feels like doing and perhaps of her weird character, people tend not to treat her occasional cross-dressing as an isolated case but rather but of her weird behaviour. If everyone was like her, I don’t think we need rules anymore. I just don’t know how Momoko sticks around her for so long if she sometimes gets embarrassed by the funny things she do and hanging around other ‘weirdoes’. Well like they say. Opposite attracts and birds of the same feather flock together. Hey! An oxymoron. Initially Chiba was a girl that everyone would love to hate. Her b*tchiness makes you feel like you want to slap her. She’s making it like as though the whole world is against her. But you can’t blame her because she’s sour, grumpy and full of detest after the boy she likes is a cross-dressing freak and interested in another cross-dresser. Her remarks and words can sting your heart if you’re not careful. But sometimes her sarcastic remarks are the source of the witty lines that make you chuckle. Even if she sounds full of hate, noticed she never once raised her voice? Takatsuki didn’t want their them to stay on bad terms always so she tries to make up but I guess in a way Chiba feels guilty for awakening Nitori’s cross-dressing ways and it’s better that she openly hates everyone instead of putting up a fake nice front. Though she loosens up a little in the end and is friendlier with Takatsuki, it still remains to be seen if she really has bury the hatchet and thrown away her grudge for good. Maybe not. You don’t know how deep a woman’s grudge can run.

The other character that is probably second to Chiba’s irritable attitude would definitely go to Maho. It’s normal that brothers and sisters don’t get along with each other but each time they interact, she puts on her moody and full-of-complaints outlook. Like she’s not too happy of him being her brother. Hey, if you have a little brother this cute, he can rival you as a model! Nice girl Sasa loves her friends to be on good terms with each other. After all, that is what friends should mean, right? If Makoto had cross-dressed, he might have got worse attention than Nitori simply because he isn’t cute as him so it’s obvious he’ll get easily picked on given his timid demeanour. And that talkative Ninomiya guy? Has he awakened to the thrill of cross-dressing even he himself noted Nitori’s gross ways? Well, so long as nobody finds out. Initially I was having these thoughts that Doi might have some ulterior motive on Nitori. For a guy who has a naughty reputation in the past suddenly gets friendly with Nitori, encourages him to dress as a girl, mocks him when everybody else does, then goes back on his word, you’d think that he had some sort of trap fetish as I feared. Yeah, that one moment I thought Nitori was even going to get raped by him. Thinking back, perhaps it was his frustration that upon learning Yuki was once a guy, he took it out on Nitori by persuading him to cross-dress so that he can see the reaction of others. Though I feel that Nitori too had long wanted to cross-dress to school, just that he needed that little push for him to do so.

For the chemistry and romance part, I don’t feel the impact anywhere near. I feel the romance section was just secondary and something to support the cross-dressing and transgender issue that this series explores. Nitori and Takatsuki never became a couple and eventually remained as friends. When Nitori surprisingly had Anna as his girlfriend, something tells me that deep down in Takatsuki’s heart, she likes him because she was a little uncomfortable to hang out with him and her interaction with him slightly changes. It’s in her body language. Of course when Nitori and Anna were dating, it doesn’t feel like they’re a couple too simply because Anna likes anything that is cute and perhaps was viewing him like a little brother. Though she did mention that she viewed him as a boy. As a boy, not a lover or boyfriend. There is a difference in that. As we know the love triangle between Nitori, Takatsuki and Chiba, it doesn’t feel intense. Chiba never gave up on Nitori but I’m not sure in the end if she is still pursuing him even after he and Anna broke up. I also would like to know if Ninomiya is still bent on Chiba. Although Chiba gave lots of stern warnings never for that jerk to pop up in front of her again, but I don’t think he’s the kind that would easily give up. Though Maho and Seya are going steady, it would be nice to see their relationship being fleshed out more instead of making them as ‘side distractions’ from the main plot. The other couple that are doing fine is Yuki and Shiina. After that revelation that Yuki was previously a man, I can’t help but wonder if Shiina is actually gay, bi or erm, straight? Living with a woman who was formerly a man is equivalent to a man and a woman living with each other, right? So technically there are no issues, right?

I need to mention about this series’ drawing and art. They are simple and look like they are done via colour pencils. Yes, it’s not your conventional Japanese anime art and animation so watching this kind of different illustration is somewhat refreshing. It’s like as though a still picture has been brought to life with animation. However a downside of this kind of drawing is that I had a hard time trying to distinguish one character from another because some look quite close to each other. For instance, I got confuse between Takatsuki and Ninomiya, Sasa and Maho. It’s hard to tell them apart visually unless I hear their voice or if not, observe their behaviour. Of course there are others that stand out like Sarashina (who else is the noisy one and making those eager-beaver expressions?), Makoto (specky kid) and Momoko (permy hair).

Because I have a hard time trying to differentiate the characters, so much so I couldn’t even recognize some of the seiyuus I know that my ears should have picked up after listening to so many of their roles in other animes. For instance, Aki Toyosaki as Momoko (Yui in K-ON!), Nana Mizuki as Maho (Kotoko in Itazura Na Kiss), Saeko Chiba as Sarashina (Dokuro in Bokusatsu Tenshi Dokuro-chan) and Yui Horie as Anna (Kotori in Da Capo series). Maybe I was trying too hard to tell the characters apart that I didn’t notice these familiar voice actresses. Once I found out and upon listening to them again, I went “Gosh, it IS really them! How could I miss it?!”. Yeah, that. However, I only recognized Kazuya Nakai as Saisho because he still sounds like Zoro from One Piece without that boisterous swordsman attitude. Kousuke Hatakeyama makes his debut as Nitori and currently this is the only role he has. He did quite a good job making Nitori’s voice as one who is feeble and worried about his cross-dressing. Nitori’s sound may not make him idol material but the monotonous and dull voice certainly fits into the character. The other main supporting casts seem not to have a long list of anime roles to their name or are newcomers. So you can say that they are relatively unknowns. They are Asami Seto as Takatsuki (Amelita in Dog Days), Yuuichi Iguchi as Makoto (Kanazawa in Durarara!!), Yuuka Nanri as Chiba (Nao in Mai-HiME), Yoshino Nanjou as Sasa (Kokoro in Tantei Opera Milky Holmes), Yoshitsugu Matsuoka as Seya (Kazunari in Ro-Kyu-Bu) and Kaoru Mizuhara as Ninomiya (Gisen in Hyakka Ryouran Samurai Girls). Other ‘old hands’ include Takako Honda as Yuki (Hone Onna in Jigoku Shoujo series), Hiroyuki Yoshino as Doi (Hibiki in Vandread) and Keiji Fujiwara as Shiina (Ladd in Baccano). I like both the opening and ending themes. I find them catchy and enough to sing along. The lively pop opening theme is Itsudatte by Daisuke while the lovely piano-driven moderate pop ending theme is For You by Rie Fu.

Maybe cross-dressing will become something accepted in the next few generations when more people are becoming well informed and aware. But as for now, it is still pretty much a taboo and forbidden in certain places. What defines a boy and a girl isn’t clear cut these days. If a guy puts on a skirt, does it really change who he really is? But ironically sometimes it is the other party who changes the most. Especially friends and family who can’t accept cross-dressing and the likes are tend to react in a way that they perceive in their eyes as the norm of society. Well, I guess you can’t really apply the term clothes maketh a man here now, can you? Then again, who are we to judge others. Remember, what is most important is not the outside but the inside that counts.