Hourou Musuko by Shimura Takako
Hourou Musuko is the story of two fifth graders who form a bond because of a common secret: they both feel happier being dressed as the opposite gender. We start the story with Shuichi on his first day of school and the time he meets Yoshino. After meeting her and some other girl friends, his desire to dress as a girl heightens. We come to find out that Yoshino has started dressing in her brother’s old school uniform and taking the train far away to go about as a boy. Shuichi starts accompanying her posing as a girl. Throughout the story they not only deal with what this desire means about them, but also more common issues such as being bullied, friendship, and the future. Their friendship is the center of the swirling confusing time of coming of age that is only made more complex by their gender confusion. Shuichi and Yoshino understand and accept each other creating a bond that sometimes makes others in the story feel left out. However, I can’t help but think, “Thank goodness you have someone to share this with!” when reading this. A varied cast also evolves as they meet new people like Yuki and Shi as well as when parts of their friends and family learn about their secrets. There are moments of support, moments of confusion, and moments of hope. While not wholly realistic (not that it need be), this is a tame and thoughtful look at transgender issues.
Say Hello to Black Jack by Shuho Sato
I will start by explaining why I think this manga is called Say Hello to Black Jack. Osamu Tezuka was a doctor before he became a full-time manga artist. One of the major reason he left the medical field was his disgust with the politics and corruption. Black Jack is very obviously the work of a man who had grown disgusted with the state of the bureaucracy in the medical profession. Shuho Sato attempts to show a modern version with a far more realistic doctor who works inside the system to do what Black Jack did outside of the system. The title is basically saying welcome to what made Black Jack the Black Jack we know.
Saito Eijirou is a fresh-faced doctor who comes in filled with high ideals but little real world experience when it comes to medicine. During his internship at a fairly prestigious hospital he takes a night job at another hospital to cover his living expenses. He quickly comes to see that the Japanese medical system is filled with bloated bureaucracy, outdated customs, petty politics, questionable ethics, and outright corruption. After almost being broken by his initial encounters with utter darkness he eventually begins to learn how to balance keeping his ethics and enthusiasm to help his patients while learning to operate and use the system. He might even be able to change things for the better.
This series is cynical. This cannot be understated. It views the Japanese medical establishment as darkly as possible. While there are good people in the system most people are either part of the problem or simply ignore it. Also it is a bit dry. There is little humor and it can get technical when it wants to. There are three major reason it look into Say Hello to Black Jack. First, it’s an interesting insight into a part of Japanese society we don’t get to see. Second, it’s good explore other genres and medical manga is always a refreshing change of pace. Third, it has a new experimental release structure. Shuho Sato is selling chapters for download-to-own on the web. I am extremely curious how well that is going to work out.