Hitomi Takano’s My Boy almost defies description. The manga’s story of an office worker (Satoko) making poor decisions and bonding with a neglected child (Mashuu) despite their massive age gap has been fascinating from the first installment onward. The series’ steadily rising sense of dread finally peaks in Vol. 3, out now from Vertical Comics. Mashuu’s father finally finds out about Mashuu’s soccer practices with Satoko, and Satoko struggles to preserve their friendship without crossing more boundaries than she already has. How well is this touchy subject matter handled? Is My Boy Vol. 3 good?
The writing is this volume is great. Satoko has been heading straight toward disaster ever since Vol. 1, and the fallout from her actions here is huge. Takano doesn’t shy away from confronting just how deep in trouble Satoko’s gotten herself, and the fact that Satoko actually faces consequences maintains (and upps) the series’ tension. The stakes have never felt higher both in terms of the characters’ emotional lives and their material realities. The dialogue throughout flows very well and all the major characters’ voices are distinct from one another. This is also the first installment where Mashuu’s dad plays a role, and though he doesn’t get much page-time we still get a good feel for him as a character.
Art-wise, Takano delivers strong work. The characters’ facial expressions are pivotal in making the manga’s most emotionally charged scenes hit home. Mashuu’s deep despair and brief moments of happiness are both poignantly displayed on his face. Satoko also has a great range of emotions from exhaustion to confusion to relief. The characters’ eyes and hair look especially good thanks to the shading highlighting their luster. Other visual highlights in this volume include renderings of fireworks in white against a black background, literally illuminating the darkness. There’s also a great group of four panels that show the same hallway and one character exitting on the right in the first panel, followed by the other entering from the left in the last panel. It’s a fantastic depiction of the pair just barely missing one another, and in context it reinforces the sadness of their separation.
My main qualm with this volume is the quick pacing of its final chapters. Satoko’s consequences for her actions all pile up at once and are followed by a two year timeskip. Given that she herself was rushed in her actions, I don’t mind some of the rapidness. Nonetheless, there’s a massive gap where we don’t get to see either of the protagonists’ emotional states. One could argue that the manga essentially glosses over their weakest points in the story thus far, stripping these events of much of their emotional impact. On the plus side, the scenes post-timeskip do a good job conveying the rut Satoko has fallen into. We get some effective character work regarding what Satoko wants in life, as well as what she doesn’t need. The volume also ends on a fantastic cliffhanger.
After two tense volumes of buildup, My Boy Vol. 3 brings the characters’ status quos crashing down. On the whole, Takano handles this very effectively. The characters have plenty of emotionally resonant moments, the art matches and conveys the mood very well, and the final cliffhanger is as striking as it possibly could be. Nonetheless, the rushed pacing in the final chapters robs them of some of their potential poignancy. Even so, this volume is an enjoyable read with major stakes, and it successfully generates suspense going into Vol. 4.