NOTE: Old post, sorta rambly.
At the end of the first episode of Hourou Musuko we get the image of the younger brother, the character this story seems to focus on primarily, and the older sister sleeping on bunk beds. The sister is on the top bunk and the brother is on the bottom bunk, lying in the opposite direction to one another. The image gives us the sense of distance between young boys and girls entering adolescence, that sense of intrigue when we first become truly aware of what makes us different. We’re usually quite separate up to that point, but by adolescence we often yearn for understanding when it comes to the opposite sex.
During the majority of my early adolescence I felt that sense of distance from girls. I never had any thoughts about abandoning my masculinity and I certainly never wanted to cross dress, but I was so fascinated by girls, how they seemed to live in their own world that I never remotely understood for all those years. I came to grips with femininity as I got older. One moment that stands out to me as a moment where I became comfortable when it came to feminine things was when I got myself involved with the Brony fandom. I didn’t consider demographic to be part of my enjoyment of MLP and I still don’t, most of the reason as to why I’m no longer involved with Bronies despite still being a fan of the show. Despite that, getting into something that was intended for a female audience made me feel like I was finally aware of that seemingly distant world that girls lived in, and it really gave me a profound sense of fulfillment.
The protagonist of Hourou Musuko is still at that point where he’s just learning to understand females. He’s just begun his first year of Junior High School, and we’re shown that he had cross dressed in the past, but it’s evident that as he’s entered adolescence and started to view girls differently that he’s more insecure about it. We also see a tall, mature looking girl in his class dressed in a boy’s uniform. When asked about it, she views it rather lightly, saying that she did it simply because she felt like it and would just as often be willing to wear a girl’s uniform. We get the sense that girls are much more able to cross those gender barriers, that it’s much more socially acceptable, which is mostly true. However, we also get the sense that it’s not quite the same for all girls. We see another girl, presumably the secondary protagonist, looking on from the distance at the girl in the boy’s uniform. Maybe it isn’t quite that easy to act like a boy for some girls, and maybe some of them find boys equally as fascinating.
The protagonist changes into his drag and wears it on the way home, pretending to be a girl. He looks at a clothing shop, and the lady at the counter gives him a four-leaf clover shaped hairpiece under the assumption that he’s a girl. This image of a four-leaf clover is one that appears two more times in the episode, but I haven’t gripped what it symbolises. Later on he gets caught trying on his sister’s dress. When his sister tells him off, he hits her and runs away, showing disgust and shame in his interest for dressing in drag as soon as its viewed negatively by others. He meets his friend as he runs, who comforts him and gives him a hooded jumper so that he’ll appear more feminine. At this point I find the relationship slightly unsettling. I honestly can’t imagine being a young adolescent and having extremely socially unacceptable hobbies embraced by any friends. There’s still a lot more to go, and hopefully some of the imagery and the significance of this relationship will become more apparent as the series goes on.
Horou Musuko is a series that by sheer concept alone makes me look back on those awkward early years of adolescence. Having watched the first episode, I can say that the series handles the concepts very maturely. There are no dramatic shifts in visual and sonic direction so far, with a whimsical and seemingly effortlessly flowing soundtrack and cherry blossoms as far as the eye can see. It gives the sense that the author, or at the very least the director of this adaptation, believes that there’s nothing wrong with adolescent curiosity.