There’s no other manga out there right now quite like Hitomi Takano’s My Boy. The series stars Satoko Tawada, a single office worker who’s unsatisfied with her life, and Mashuu Hayumi, a young boy with an unhappy home and an interest in soccer. One day Satoko happens upon Mashuu while he’s practicing alone in a park at night, and she opts to teach him rather than allow him to continue risking his safety with no adult supervision. The pair’s friendship means a lot to both of them, but it also upsets Mashuu’s father when he realizes they’ve spent much more time together than he was previously led to believe. Satoko was forced to move away in Vol. 3, and two years passed without her seeing Mashuu until they happened to run into each other on the street. Vol. 4 picks up there and follows the two characters as they struggle with whether or not they should reconnect, and if so how. So, is this volume good?
Plot-wise, this volume is notable for shifting away from Satoko and having Mashuu drive most of the action instead. This results in the reader getting much less information from Satoko’s point-of-view, but this matches the way Mashuu experiences the story. He, and for the most part the audience, doesn’t get any insight into Satoko’s thoughts besides what little she tells him via phone calls and text messages. By withholding information from the reader, Takano is able to amplify their understanding of Mashuu’s confusion and how the characters’ physical distance from one another is eclipsed by the even larger emotional distance. It’s also a nice change of pace to see Satoko from the outside in for once, and to let Mashuu be the driving force in his own story instead of just reacting.
The art in this volume also does a lot to convey the characters’ heartache. Takano continues to pay a lot of attention to the details in characters’ eyes and hair, and we get a lot of close-up shots of confused and crying faces. The shading majorly amps up the drama in these panels, such as in a shot of Mashuu standing in a dark corner next to a vending machine. Most of his body and the background are cast in shadow, but just enough of his face is illuminated to draw the reader’s focus to how utterly emotionally exhausted he is. There’s also a notably creative page where Mashuu remarks that he can no longer picture Satoko’s face, and the image of her on-panel is partially blacked out. Not only that, but parts of Mashuu’s narration boxes are also blacked out, effectively conveying his panicked and cloudy mental state.
The characters’ mental states are poignantly conveyed through the writing too, as both the narration and dialogue are very well-written. Satoko and Mashuu’s voices remain distinct without being exactly the same as they were in prior volumes. Two years is a lot of time to grow, and Takano does a great job depicting how the characters have changed. Awkward moments in social interactions are especially well-handled, as we see the protagonists struggle with everyday tasks and habits in relatable ways. Mashuu and Satoko’s intense grieving stands out all the more against the monotony of their everyday lives, whether it be Mashuu’s teacher using bizarre mnemonics in class or Satoko’s sister prying into the details of her love life. There’s very little to complain about with this volume’s writing besides just some occasional small pacing issues with certain scenes.
All in all, My Boy Vol. 4 is a great follow-up to the last volume. It picks up right after the cliffhanger and gives readers a sense of how both protagonists have changed (and remained the same) over time. The choice to shift most of the focus away from Satoko and onto Mashuu is an effective one, giving us new insights into the characters while effectively conveying the emotional distance between them. The art is also lovely, with lots of dramatic shadows and illumination that command attention. There are some occasional pacing issues and iffy faces, but other than that there’s virtually nothing hampering how great of a read this is.
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