The cross-generational friendship manga returns.
Thus far, Hitomi Takano’s My Boy has been one of the most interesting new manga of 2018. The series stars Satoko, an office worker who is unsatisfied with her current circumstances, and Mashuu, a child with an uneasy home life. The two meet when Satoko sees Mashuu practicing his soccer skills, and Satoko decides to tutor him. They develop a bond which is important to the both of them, but they struggle with the appropriateness of their relationship. They have no familial nor formal ties, so is it acceptable for them to keep contact despite their age gap? While things are purely platonic between them, Satoko worries that her desire to help the troubled youth could be misconstrued. Vol. 2 of the series, published by Vertical Comics, collects chapters 5-9. Does it fulfill the high expectations set by Vol. 1? Does My Boy continue to handle its unique subject matter with grace?
Story-wise, this volume is excellent. Satoko and Mashuu are both very well-written, with dialogue that matches their personalities and feels suitable for their respective ages. Some media with protagonists from multiple age groups struggle with doing this effectively, and the characters’ voices and mentalities get homogenized a bit. That’s definitely not the case here; there’s are clear differences in the ways that Mashuu and Satoko view and process the world around them. Part of the series’s drama comes from the fact that, while both characters cherish the other’s friendship, they’re not on equal footing socially speaking. Satoko has to process a lot of the consequences alone, as Mashuu is too young to take part in certain conversations. This results in some painful moments that are saddening to read. Takano does a great job making the characters endearing so that the reader can easily become invested in their struggles.
A large part of this volume’s emotional success is due to Takano’s citing of specific moments and social interactions. In a chapter entitled “Favorites,” Mashuu inquires about Satoko’s favorite things, as children are wont to do. This chapter does a great job highlighting the differences in the characters’ world views, as Satoko realizes that discussions about favorite things can easily bring up painful memories. She feels that she enjoys fewer things as she ages, and some of the things (and people) she used to like have become things she dislikes. It’s a poignant analysis of the worst parts of growing older, and many readers will likely find these portions of the volume relatable.
The unique positions that Satoko and Mashuu occupy in each other’s lives become more apparent as various supporting characters receive more page-time in this volume. We get a rare glimpse of Mashuu’s father, whose presence is very imposing. There are also some new revelations regarding Mashuu’s home life that make it easy to understand why he would want another mentor, even if that person wasn’t a blood relative. The page-time spent with Satoko’s ex-boyfriend is also effective. Mashuu gives Satoko a keychain as a gift, and there are flashbacks to when the ex-boyfriend also gave Satoko one. Don’t worry, Takano doesn’t do this to draw parallels between the two characters as both being romantic interests, just as people who are close to Satoko. The characters’ different dynamics are well-handled, and these scenes provide a glimpse of Satoko’s ex-boyfriend’s frustrations with the way their relationship turned out. As a result, his character has become a bit less flat than it was in Vol. 1.
As great as its writing is throughout, My Boy wouldn’t be the same without its impressive artwork. Takano’s style is pleasing to look at and fits the tone and content well. The characters and environments are rendered relatively realistically, although not to the extreme of photorealism. Characters’ faces receive the most intricate details, with highly expressive eyes as well as hair that makes one feel like they could actually reach out and brush it. The art’s flaws are so minor as to not feel worth mentioning; there’s just the very occasional iffy face. The writing is similarly free of fault. There are times when certain events could have used a little more or less page-time, but only such a small degree that it’s nitpicky to even point out.
Overall, My Boy Vol. 2 is a great follow-up to the series’s intriguing and strong debut. Satoko and Mashuu’s relationship is further fleshed out, and the gulf between them is emphasized in poignant ways. The artwork is also strong, and it matches the tone of the story very well. My Boy Vol. 2 may not be a perfect volume, but it comes very close. I highly recommend it.