A Warning Before Reading: This series deals with some issues that will make a lot of people uncomfortable and/or angry. If you have a problem with the issues discussed in this anime and, consequently, this review, I don’t want to hear about it. Calm rational discussions are welcome, insults and flames will be tagged as spam and deleted.
Quick & Dirty
Initial Interest: High
Favorite Character: Takatsuki
Shuicihi Nitori appears to be a shy and quiet preteen boy, when he transfers to a new school he quickly makes friends with the tomboyish Yoshino Takatsuki who sits next to him. It soon becomes apparent that both Shucihi and Yoshino are more than simply a sensitive boy and masculine girl, they both are transgendered. Together they decide to take the first steps toward becoming the people they want to be.
I ran into this one while wandering about a fandom website. Someone mentioned something about calling Takatsuki “her” when she clearly gender identifies as a boy. Now I can honestly say that I’ve never had any gender identity problems and I’m not really sure I understand the mindset of people who do, which is part of why I went out of my way to read the manga. I’m a firm believer that gender is irrelevant but I also believe that if a girl would rather be a boy or vice versa that that’s their business, if they can do it and want to then they should. But I don’t want to soap box too much here, so I’ll move away from too much of that speak. The general point is that since this is a minority group in society I thought that an anime/manga that explored the special issues involved would be interesting, especially for me who doesn’t really understand the underlying concept all that well.
I did read the manga (what’s out/translated online thus far) and enjoyed it. I intend to finish it when possible and I may buy it someday. So it’s safe to say that I’m looking forward to watching the anime, as I generally tend to enjoy color and motion just a bit more.
I picked Takatsuki but this is a series that I don’t really feel like any of them are my favorite. I like the characters (mostly) but I don’t feel drawn to one or another. It’s just that kind of story where no one stands out too much but it’s still really good.
So there are two special issues I feel are worth noting before I proceed with my judgments. First, I read the manga before I watched the series, which will color my opinions some. I said above that I liked the manga so the anime has a high standard to meet. Second, I only just read the manga a month or so ago. I’m not the kind of person who tends to enjoy something twice in close succession. Having just read the manga I should have expected to feel just a little bored.
What they did well: I absolutely love the song they used for the opening theme and I only wish that the subber had translated it. I’m not good enough at my Japanese to follow most of it so I can only get a sense that it’s probably very relevant. I also really like the animation style they used. Every shot looks like a full-color airbrushed page from a manga. I feel like on some level the creators of this anime really understood the underlying feeling they needed to present and it comes out in a thousand subtle ways.
What they didn’t do well: One thing that struck me as both annoying and stupid within the first 5 minutes of the first episode was that they started in the middle. It honestly felt like I was watching season 2, but I really wasn’t. I get that starting in media res is a stylistic technique, but it’s one that works for some things and not for others. This is not a series to start in the middle. There is so much relevant back-story that just got skipped and a deeper understanding of the problems these kids are facing. I was honestly concerned for a few episodes that we’d managed to skip enough content to change the story from one which deals with two children who want to be the opposite gender into a story about two children who like to cross-dress. Thankfully I was mistaken on that front as episode 3 or 4 introduced the issues of getting cleavage and the lowering of a man’s voice, which brought us back to gender identity rather than just cross-dressing (which I am by no means dismissing as a real issue for those who face it). But we still missed so much that really enhances the audiences understanding of the problems Takatsuki and Nitori face. Not to mention that if you start with the anime rather than the manga you’re very likely to be confused at various points. I can’t really confirm this, however, because Kaze didn’t watch it with me.
I was also kind of surprised by some of the casting decisions. Anyone who has watched really even a little anime (in Japanese) is probably familiar with the fact that girls can voice boys and it’s no big deal. (For those of you who just didn’t notice my biggest example would probably be that Romi Park – a woman – voiced Edward Elric in Fullmetal Alchemist). So I was kind of surprised at how boy-ish Nitori sounded to me, especially knowing that at some point he and Mako record their pre-puberty voices while they still sound cute and feminine. I was even more shocked when another character that is interested in Saori and is – in his attitudes toward Nitori – very opposed to the concept of cross-dressing, sounds as though he is voiced by a woman. I guess that’s not necessarily a “what they didn’t do well” but it seemed kind of strange to me.
In the end I’m not going to recommend this anime. If the story interests you read the manga first. If you love the manga, feel free to watch the anime. But I don’t think anyone should start with the anime on this because it doesn’t really add a lot and it takes away too much.
Next Official Review: Kore Wa Zombie Desu Ka? (“Is this a zombie?” or possibly – based on the synopsis – “Am I a zombie?”)