Hitomi Takano’s My Boy follows the intergenerational friendship between Satoko Tawada, a thirty-year-old office worker struggling with feelings of emptiness, and Mashuu Hayami, a middle school soccer player with a difficult home life. The series’ premise is unlike any I’ve seen in manga before, and it provides ample room for character analysis and growth. Vol. 1, published by Vertical Comics, collects the series’ first four chapters, which introduce the two main characters and the basic facts of their lives. Does this volume establish the series’ tone effectively and build excitement for future installments? Is it good?
As I stated previously, this manga is unlike any I have read before. It’s not just the premise that’s unique–the focus on character development is almost unparalleled. There are no action scenes or fantastical twists; My Boy is just the story of two people going about their day-to-day lives, for better and for worse. Takano does a good job conveying the importance of Tawada and Hayami’s bond, largely by establishing them as separate characters with lives beyond their time spent together. Their friendship wouldn’t be a convincing refuge if we didn’t know what they were seeking refuge from, after all.
Of the two leads, Tawada receives the most character development in this volume. We get insights into her work life, her awkward relationship with her ex-boyfriend, and her cloudy perception of her own emotions. The scenes depicting her irritable interactions with co-workers feel especially significant, as they expose us to some of her most recurring frustrations. We get a few hints about what her childhood was like, but they’re not substantial. It would have been nice to see that topic dived into more, if only briefly.
Far less concrete information is provided regarding Hayami’s life, but it works. As Tawada ponders the conditions of his home life, so too does the reader. There’s definitely something wrong going on at Hayami’s household, but I appreciate that Takano doesn’t rush that particular plot point. It’s delicate subject matter after all, plus leaving so much unsaid builds anticipation for future volumes’ developments. I particularly enjoy this volume’s third and fourth chapters, which depict Hayami’s school life and difficulties understanding the concept of kindness. These struggles hit deep and foreshadow future plot revelations without insulting the reader’s intelligence. Plus, we get to see how compassionately Hayami takes care of his school’s rabbits, which are adorable.
Visually, this volume impresses. The textures throughout add a sense of realism to the characters’ clothes, as well as natural details in the backgrounds. Takano’s renderings of foliage are particularly lovely. Facial expressions are usually well-rendered as well, reflecting the characters’ subtle emotions and the fact that their most prominent thoughts often go unspoken. My main con with this volume’s artwork only comes up occasionally, when Takano heightens her level of detail for dramatic moments. These panels usually depict characters’ faces, with hair and tears that are even more well-defined than usual. My qualm isn’t that these images look bad so much as they just stick out like a sore thumb from the rest of the volume. These are the only moments where Takano’s work borders on becoming overly dramatic.
As a whole, My Boy Vol. 1 succeeds. It introduces the series’ main characters both individually and in the context of their relationship, which has a profound effect on both of their lives. The volume’s emotionally poignancy is due not just to this thoughtful writing but also to the beautiful art, which has few missteps. Though I wish a few of its plot points received more development, My Boy Vol. 1 is a well-paced and affecting debut for the series.