I heard about this anime from Carla of Pop Culture Literary during the July OWLS Tour with the topic “mirrors.” She wrote an excellent post on the anime, and you should definitely read it. It’s one of my favorite OWLS posts ever. You can read it here.
This anime had been on my list since then, but only recently did I get to finish it. Before I got into the anime, though, I found Volume 1 of the manga in my city’s library system. Unfortunately, to purchase Volume 2 from Amazon, it’d be around $80 and I couldn’t find it anywhere else for cheaper. Along with that, the translations were short-lived, so I wouldn’t be able to read all of it anyway.
I decided that just those first eight or so chapters would be a good enough basis to start the anime, and I think I was right. It’d be a bit confusing to jump into the anime raw, so I suggest if you’re going to watch it, at least read up on the beginning a bit. This review should give a bit of an insight into the beginnings of the two main characters’ story prior to the anime adaptation, but I still recommend reading at least some of the manga first.
This heartwarming and tragic tale follows Nitori Shuichi and Takatsuki Yoshino, middle schoolers who have become unsatisfied with their birth given gender. Nitori is a boy who wishes to be a girl, and Takatsuki is a girl who wishes to be a boy. When they become friends, and learn of each others’ wishes, they begin dressing up as they wish, and take a train far from their town to experience dressing how they want. The other characters in their class and school have mixed feelings about their wishes. Some are supportive, and don’t see anything strange about it, while others cackle in disgust.
This show both broke my heart and warmed it to its core. The major thing I saw that I want to express is how hard it is for Nitori to be able to make the transition to becoming a girl. A boy dressing like a girl is laughable to most people. It’s generally used as a means of comedy. A boy wearing a skirt, a dress, makeup, long hair, nail polish, anything, generally sparks a negative response. But in the case of Takatsuki, there’s almost no problem. Any time others see Takatsuki wearing boys’ clothes or short hair, most people comment about how cool that is. I’ll get into some of the negatives with Takatsuki later.
It makes me sad to see that. All throughout my watching this show, I was so happy every time I saw Nitori in girls’ clothing. But then when other people saw it, the responses sometimes made me feel sick to my stomach.
Middle school is such a confusing time for all people. You’re finding yourself, what you like and dislike, hormones are a mess, and everyone seems to be pressured to start a romantic relationship. It sucks, to put it simply. And to have all those things along with being uncomfortable in your own skin and school uniform makes everything so much worse. The worst thing I dealt with was not wanting to wear skirts anymore and convincing my mom to buy me uniform pants instead. And of course the matchmaking that every kid seems to be obsessed with at that time. I was victim to that on multiple occasions, and it drove me insane.
And gosh the “who likes who” thing is heavy in this show. For Nitori especially. And generally I’d be annoyed by it, but in this case, it’s realistic, and adds to the struggle these kids face.
In the beginning, Nitori is upset that Takatsuki has rejected (him)*. Then, Nitori learns that a different classmate is interested in (him), and even after that, there’s a friend of Nitori’s sister that (he) also becomes interested in. It’s confusing to keep up with who is crushing on who, but like I stated before, it makes total sense to include this in a show of this nature.
There’s also mention of Nitori having acne, Takatsuki’s struggle with periods and wanting to wear a binder instead of a bra. Near the end of the series, Nitori also realizes that (he’ll) have a voice change and growth spurt, which could throw a wrench in making the transformation. All very real things that every kid in middle school deals with, even if it’s not to the extent these kids do.
* I’m putting a pronoun in parentheses since it isn’t the character’s preferred pronoun, but it is the one used in the show, and some of my sentences are nearly impossible to write without using a pronoun. I wish I could fully change the pronouns, but the show never goes through their entire transition, so it wouldn’t technically be appropriate.
I love, love, love the art style and animation in this show! The art is an exact reflection of the manga style, giving it a very innocent and gorgeous feel to it. The coloring is done in a style much like watercolor, which happens to be my very favorite style of coloring. Both the characters and the background look like they’ve come straight out of a painting.
It makes the anime have such a soft feel to it, even if some of the content is heavy. And the music that goes along with the animation fits so well. Very piano heavy and gorgeous, like everything in this show.
Wrapping up the Loose Ends
I’ve never watched any anime with transgender characters. I have read comics, and I’ve read what transgender people actually go through, so when I heard about this anime, I got really excited. And from what I know about what transgender people go through, and what I know about being in middle school, I think this anime gives a decent realistic view on the struggles and oppression.
Also, Nitori’s feminine outfits are completely adorable, and it makes me so happy to see Nitori in them!
There plenty of people who don’t take well to Nitori’s decision, which is the reality of this situation, unfortunately. This happens to Takatsuki as well, but it’s not as intense. When (she) cuts (her) hair, there’s someone who says “it looked better before” and basically makes Takatsuki feel terrible about it. Along with someone grabbing at (her) breasts, commenting on (her) figure, and arguing with (her) for turning a guy down. Takatsuki goes through much of the same ridicule from students, but it isn’t as public as Nitori, and the teachers aren’t as cruel about it.
But with that, there’s also support. There are multiple characters who tell both characters that they look comfortable in their preferred clothing, and that they look nice. The pair even find a trans woman in their time traveling from their town. They confide in her with all of the issues they have at school, and what their next steps should be. I love that they get to relate to someone who’s been through the same things, and it really adds a level of understanding for them.
Personal Experience Regarding Gender
I was born female, and I identify as female, so a lot of this story doesn’t directly apply to me. But, I’ve had some struggles with feeling like I don’t seem feminine enough, and if that’s okay or not. I tend to not wear the typical female clothing: I own hardly any skirts or dresses outside of cosplay pieces, black clunky boots instead of heels, or flats, etc., baggy fitting T-shirts and hoodies, short dyed hair, no makeup besides the rare concealer. I’ve been able to become comfortable with it now, I don’t really care what others call me or what they think of my clothing, but maybe a year ago, I was feeling a bit weird about even owning men’s T-shirts and hoodies. But I despise the thin, fitted material of women’s. After a while I realized it didn’t matter what section of a store my clothes came from, as long as I was comfortable, and I liked it. And I wish everyone thought this way. But tradition ends up winning over change most of the time, sadly.
I wish I could get my hands on the manga! I especially wish the anime was longer, with it being only 11 episodes, and the ending not being that satisfying to me. I could use those fan translation sites, but there are a lot of errors and incorrect translations in a lot of those, along with not giving any sort of revenue to anyone who worked on the manga. I used to use them all the time, but I stopped a year or so ago.
This ended up a lot later and longer than I expected, but I just loved this anime a lot, and I needed to get my thoughts out.
I hope you enjoyed this, and I’ll be back on Friday with my OWLS post for the topic of “competition”!