Hourou Musuko, Wandering Seiyuu Madness, What Fractale Is Not

I think noitaminA is fortunate to show Hourou Musuko after Fractale, simply because Wandering Son is a great animation. It’s not to knock on Fractale, but it is overshadowed by Hourou Musuko “stunning” presentation.

This is kind of amusing in a sense. From what it appears on the surface (and we are really doing “Judge-by-Cover Part 4, Winter 2011″ here) Fractale has actual plot chops. It has a rich setting and some pretty amusing characters from the get go. It is exactly NOT what people like Daryl Surat is whining about when they talk about Hiroki Azuma’s Database Animal book, about character trait.

On the other hand, what makes Hourou Musuko so great is these superficial things. Granted what is presented to us on a watercolor, sparkly, white-filtered platter is character drama, I can’t help but to notice the stereotypical otaku elements are largely present: the tsundere, the trap, the tomboy, the cooldere, the fast-to-mature, the flirt, the shota (this is a Josei TV segment right?) and the loli-appealing. That gorgeous animation and those masterfully-done characters are what make this show so good at the start. But that is exactly what fuels the desires of the database animal.

This is what we get if we skip 30 some odd chapters, I guess. I don’t know, I can’t offer any of the whining and gensaku hakai outrage those who have read and adored the original manga can offer you, because quite frankly it is outside of my interests. All I can say is it was directed so well that it didn’t confuse me much, if at all, even if the show drops you deep within the original narrative.

And I’m not even done listing all the “elemental” things about Hourou Musuko that appeal to the otaku. Cross-gender forbidden romance? Awesome seiyuu cast? Ball-busting sakuga? The soundtrack? It goes on.

Hourou Musuko makes Fractale looks like the least pandering piece of work on noitaminA ever. And yet people call that stuff moe. I don’t understand it anymore. Or rather, comparing these two show is probably the best example of showing up that people who complain about moe are just talking about shows they don’t like but others do, for no real substantive reasons.

Oh right, the awesome seiyuu cast is well within my range of interests. Let’s just say this. And that. And Nana Mizuki cracked me up. The last time that happened in an anime was probably never, though I managed a chuckle during her Aoi Bungaku segment.

If there’s one negative thing I want to say about Hourou Musuko, it is that the whole gender identity issue aspect feels tangential and is really just a plot device to get drama juicy. Watching the show, I feel not really compelled about Nitori’s gender struggle as much as his attachment to Takatsuki, or what happens between them. Which is to say, episode 1 of Hourou Musuko is like a well-done template for teenage romance. Instead of a cute okama-to-be it could have been several other things (drugs, depression, etc), and it would not have changed the look, the feel, and the awesomeness of episode 1 of Wandering Son.

Unless you have a thing for shota traps, of course.

Fractale, on the other hand, is quite wholesome. Even with nudity, it merely pushes against the line that is dotted with the kind of nudity found in mainstream anime in Japan. I think a part of this is attributed to how unusual, lack of a better word, Kobayashi sounded in the lead male role. I suppose we are just getting started with this episode though, and it wouldn’t be wise to judge this book by the cover. Because despite wanting to say “hey Yamakan went to all these Ghibli and mainstream TV anime and stuck those iconic elements in,” it’s not what is carrying this narrative. Basically, I would probably watch this for the plot and setting.

Okay, Phryne is pretty moe during that scene when she’s talking about smiles. But that is more like moe for Kiki or Nausicaa, right?

As for flaws, Kurogane is pretty succinct, and I would be among those who find the BGM clashing a lot more than it should, despite if the music when consumed on its own, may be pretty okay. The animation is not perfect, but a Toradora-7/10 sort of rating would be more than what I can ask for out of Yamakan’s latest bid to bet the house. I think he’s on a good start towards that.

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6 responses to “Hourou Musuko, Wandering Seiyuu Madness, What Fractale Is Not

  • Hogart

    Fractale certainly does have it’s moe elements. In fact, my knee-jerk reaction until the last couple of minutes was that it was basically a more laid-back Nadia with more moe characters and character traits.

    Focusing on Phyrne isn’t going to do any good when Clain was your typical nervous moe ball of hormones, just thankfully with some dignity. And the trio of villains had a clear-cut moe stereotype in their midst.

    If anything, it reminds me of Sora no Woto – hell-bent on presenting an intriguing setting with hastily-introduced yet subtly mysterious characters. If it doesn’t squander that like SnW did, then I won’t mind it using moe gimmickry to draw in a larger audience.

  • Kurogane Shiroikaze

    Phryne’s not the main heroine in Fractale, from what I’ve seen. She’s more of an enigmatic meeting in Clain’s life that utterly changes his life purpose from here on…. or so says the manga.

    Kana-tan’s Nessa is supposed to be the heroine, and she’s… rather innocent. Waiting for more of her.

  • omo

    I don’t even know what you guys are talking to/about? I mean seems Phryne is going to show up again sooner or later. Who knows how it will turn out…

    Sora no Woto, yeah, it does remind me of that, but probably because Sora no woto was gunning for the same idea Fractale is.

  • TheBigN

    I am hoping for more concrete world-building in Fractale than Sora no Woto provided.

    That Hourou Musuko hits so many right buttons for me and for others makes it sound cheap when broken down like you did. And I think that’s part of Azuma’s point. But man, sounding cheap and animalistic rarely sounds good. :P

  • danie~

    >> Instead of a cute okama-to-be it could have been several other things (drugs, depression, etc), and it would not have changed the look, the feel, and the awesomeness of episode 1 of Wandering Son.
    ^ exactly what some people who read the books are afraid of by cutting the important 30 chapters of their elementary school life because Hourou Musuko IS about gender confusion and how spot-on Shimura-sensei portrayed it on the book. I don’t know what directions the makers want to go with this anime, but with following episodes I hope they can put more weight on the real issue.

  • omo

    As an ad for the manga I think it works great, so people who are interested in the subject matter would know where to go to read more about that. In fact you can see it in people’s blogs etc.

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