Spoilers ahead if you haven’t already read this far…
‘Now that you’re fifteen-years-old, try to recall something connected to your present life that couldn’t have happened unless you stuck with something in the past! Try to remember something from your club activities, studies, family, local area, etc.’
Mashuu is struggling to fill in a form for school as part of his Winter Break homework when he remembers the school rabbits that he and Nao Ogata looked after in elementary school. Pursuing this journey back into his past, he seeks out Ogata and, on a trip to the local mall together, they end up discussing what it means to be friends as a boy and girl and why people automatically assume if they’re out together that they’re dating.
Meanwhile in Sendai, Satoko is out (it’s New Year) with her sister Mayu and Mayu’s new boyfriend, Tatsuro Shoji, a lawyer. Satoko, who’s been brooding over everything that’s happened since she first met Mashuu, asks him for advice. Even though he admits his area of expertise is business law, he listens to her story and gives wise advice. Mayu observes, “It’s a tough problem, isn’t it? An adult and a kid just hanging out.”
Outside in the busy street who should they bump into (literally) but Satoko’s ex, Yashima – who’s still (perhaps understandably) hurting from being rejected. The ensuing showdown (enthusiastically captured by passers-by on their smartphones and uploaded straightaway to social media) is defused by the sudden arrival of Satoko and Mayu’s mother. From here on, we keep swapping between Mashuu going food shopping, dragging his reluctant father along (Dad’s home, unusually, for the New Year) and Satoko, reflecting bitterly on her relationship with her mother who still, she feels, treats her as a little girl. And when Mashuu, idly flicking through the latest tweets, recognizes the woman being publicly upbraided, he sets off for Sendai without a moment’s hesitation. But will he find his ‘Miss Satoko’ in time?
It’s Volume 7 and My Boy is still very readable, with not a panel wasted in pushing the story forward and keeping readers eagerly turning the pages. There’s a constant sense of awareness now that it’s treading a very narrow line between what’s acceptable and not acceptable in society – as the fact that Satoko turns to Shoji for legal advice demonstrates. Mangaka Hitomi Takano is not inviting us to judge her characters, but we’re still aware that Satoko is the adult here – or seems to be – when she admits she wants to apologize to Mashuu’s father for her earlier behaviour and formally ask him to allow her to meet with his son again. But in the chapter entitled ‘Parents and Children’, the mangaka poses the question: who’s the more responsible and grown-up of the two: Satoko or Mashuu? By the final chapter in the book, we’re seeing Satoko as a young girl in school uniform as she talks with Mashuu, who simply says, “You can tell me anything.” Perhaps, Takano is implying, we don’t all mature at the same rate and although we are called ‘adult’ after we pass a certain age, we aren’t all ready to behave like adults?
Takano’s art is as distinctive and versatile as before, delivering flashes of insight into Satoko or Mashuu’s minds with the same skill as she brings to the realistic everyday scenes, like the supermarket or the crowded shopping mall. The final chapter brings some truly touching moments on the train as an undeniable shift in the relationship dynamics between Satoko and Mashuu takes place. The sensitive translation for Vertical Comics is by Kumar Sivasubramanian and really helps to convey the shifting dynamics between the two central characters. Volume 8 is promised for November 2021 – and after that, there’s only one more volume to go in this unusual and readable slice-of-life series.
(Do we ever find out what becomes of Satoko’s angry and hurt ex-boyfriend? Just wondering…)