26 August 2019

review of Shishunki Bitter Change

author: Masayoshi

Shishunki Bitter Change

Credit:  https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/d/dc/Shishunki_Bitter_Change_volume_1_cover.jpg

Before I get started on the main manga, there is a story to be told.  It originally started in Japan,  from Empress Koken.  (孝謙天皇, 713-770 CE)  It describes the tale of the cow-herder and the seamstress,  or Higoboshi and Orihime.  To keep things very short, they were very star-crossed lovers.  Due to her father's anger, they would only be allowed once a year.  In modern times, slips of paper would be handed out, with wishes for the future written on them.  They were then hung on a holiday tree.  (perhaps analogous to a Christmas tree)

Japanese woodblock of Tanabata, 1852
Credit:  https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/f/f3/Tanabata_Festival_in_Edo_%28Hiroshige%2C_1852%29.jpg

Now to the manga.  Yui (大塚 結依) and Yuuta(木村 佑太) are, in the beginning, elementary school students at later grades.  (5th-6th grade?)  Supposedly, they were at an earlier grade, but this is where the drama takes place. The change takes place immediately, with Yuuta falling from the tree onto Yui.  Perhaps you don't see it (well, at this point you don't see at all, unless you're psychic) but the hint is starting to crop up; the cap is seen.  To  Masayoshi's credit, he puts in the tiniest detail, things that you won't see for detail, but things that are there - to which an uninformed public will pooh-pooh him for his (relatively) spare drawing. 

However, to his demerits, are the supporting cast.  One of the earliest is Haruki (木村 春樹) one of the kindest, most thoughtful little boys around.  Yeah, he's a bit of a squirt, but that's the exception rather than the rule.  However, in his last scene (and absolutely the most important one)  neither Yui nor Yuuta mentions his name at all.  Not once.  If taken alone, he might as well be a stick figure.  Granted, Yui and Yuuta are involved in one of the most intense conversations of their lives... but still, Haruki deserves better.

One other problematic person is that of Tachibana (橘 隼人).  He doesn't show up until chapter 20, and when he does appear, you might think that he's little more than a street punk.  However, he does appear far more greatly.  When he does (finally, at last) decide to attend high school, he has grown to such an extent that he qualifies as a minor/major character.  Shortly after the kiss he plants on Yuuta, however, he becomes strangely silent.  It's not nearly as irksome as what happened to Haruki, but it left me wanting nevertheless.

The singular problem facing Yui and Yuuta is not, strictly speaking, "transgender".  For example, in the earlier sections, both Yui and Yuuta desperately want to change back to their "normal" skin.  But what is "normal", after all?  Neither Yui nor Yuuta can dodge the complexities of life.  They can't escape that this is normal.

In the final chapter,  Kazuma (高岡 和馬) one of the other minor characters, nevertheless gets to utter one of the more intriguing passages. He says, "I... think it's (Yui and Yuuta) been decided ages ago."

We - all of us who follow a different path - are descendants of the cow-herders and seamstresses.