Welcome, to this brand new feature! This will be an occasional feature where I will talk about one anime and why you need to watch it. Sometimes these anime will have LGBT themes, sometimes they won’t. This is just a place to recommend some great anime!
To kick things off, let us start with Hourou Musuko, otherwise known as Wandering Son. The reason I wanted to start with this anime, is that it is one of the very few anime I personally know of (feel free to let me know of any more!) that tackles issues of gender identity, crossdressing and being transgender.
Below is a synopsis of the show:
“Effeminate fifth grader Shuuichi Nitori is considered by most to be one of the prettiest girls in school, but much to her dismay, she is actually biologically male. Fortunately, Shuuichi has a childhood friend who has similar feelings of discomfort related to gender identity: the lanky tomboy Yoshino Takatsuki, who, though biologically female, does not identify as a girl.”
“These two friends share a similar secret and find solace in one another; however, their lives become even more complicated when they must tread the unfamiliar waters of a new school, attempt to make new friends, and struggle to maintain old ones. Faced with nearly insurmountable odds, they must learn to deal with the harsh realities of growing up, transexuality, relationships, and acceptance.”
Anime doesn’t have the best reputation for tackling issues like this. Some anime handle it really well, some don’t touch on it, and some bungle it completely. The most famous example of the latter is probably One Piece, which attacks racism and then shortly after uses racist stereotypes.
But from my personal experience with all eleven episodes, and the general reception and reviews surrounding this anime, the feeling seems to be that Hourou Musuko is one of the best LGBT animes out there. It is naturally a slice of life anime, with the usual school setting.
What makes and breaks those kind of shows (for me) is the characters. When I’m watching an anime that lacks the usual fantastical settings of many of the heavy hitters, it all comes down to the story and the characters. Both of these are critical to keep me hooked into an anime set in the ordinary world.
Thankfully, Hourou Musuko nails this, with complex and interesting characters. Naturally, the usual anime tropes do raise their heads, but they are always handled in a new and interesting way. Even the most tired of them all, the love triangle, is captivating as it grows more and more complex, especially when you take into account the issues of gender identity that we are tackling here.
The LGBT characters in general are very well written here. All too often we see LGBT characters in both TV and film boiled down to very basic elements, characters with no depth or interest and only exist to be “the gay one” or “the lesbian”. Thankfully, we don’t see that here. The LGBT characters are acting like, you know, actual people and the LGBT aspect is just one element of their character.
As you can see in the image I provided above, another thing that makes this one stand out is the unusual art style. It has a very minimalist, watercolour style that lends things a very unique feel. It makes it feel more warm, somehow, than your usual clear lines and bold colours. It is almost like a moving painting, and just adds another layer of uniqueness. In a way, it is a pleasant contrast to the melancholy feel that hangs over the whole thing.
So in short: Hourou Musuko is a must watch anime, even if you aren’t usually into anime. There is no fanservice, the tropes are well explored in new and interesting ways, and it’s a good story well told with compelling characters. Even if you’re usually put off by the usual storytelling style of your typical anime, give this one a shot. You can even watch it for free (legally) over at Crunchy Roll. You won’t regret it.