There’s no other manga out there quite like Hitomi Takano’s My Boy. The series follows Satoko, an unhappy office worker, and Mashuu, a young boy she befriends and tries to support after learning about his unhappy home-life. Mashuu’s father isn’t happy about this, however, and he forbids his son from seeing Satoko again. After years apart Satoko and Mashuu reconnect, but Satoko struggles to figure out how to– and morally, whether or not to– pick up where they left off. That’s where Vol. 5 begins, and it’s a book full of character drama and depictions of the conflict from both protagonists’ points of view. Is this volume good?
Artistically, Takano’s work continues to impress. The framing of panels throughout shows a well-thought-out attention to mood, with the angle of events reflecting their emotional impact. Take, for instance, a shot of Satoko as she sits, stricken with internal turmoil, on a bench. The reader looks down at her slightly diagonally from above as she crumples downward. Her physical state and the manner in which it’s presented both match the downward spiral she’s in mentally.
There’s much more to appreciate about this volume’s visuals than just the page and panel compositions. Simply put, this manga is pretty. The shading is lovely and contributes to the realism of certain textures. I’ve read very few other comics that have so effectively conveyed the slight wetness of the surface of eyes, or the sheen of light reflecting off them. Characters’ hair and facial expressions also look great throughout. Plus there are all the lovely patterns and gradients from lower to darker values. The occasional nature imagery is especially pleasing to look at, calling to mind the sense of wonder one feels when taking in the beauty of things beyond humans’ control.
The writing here is also up to snuff. Some of the most notable developments concern Satoko’s sister Mayuko. She’s developing into a nuanced character as opposed to just a set piece in Satoko’s life. There are some flashbacks to the siblings’ childhoods that explain a lot about both of their temperaments and their awkward relationship. Mayuko is now an interesting figure in her own right, though it should be noted that her larger presence in the plot also produces ripple effects that complicate the other lead characters’ interactions. As a result, scenes with all three present are some of the most compelling in the book.
Satoko and Mashuu also drive the story forward with some of the series’s best written internal monologues to date. Small, seemingly insignificant items often hold a lot of metaphorical weight when they’re utilized effectively, which Takano definitely does. Multiple links between the characters’ pasts do heavy lifting here, from a marble to a math study guide. The intense focus both protagonists pay to objects like these makes sense and takes on an added layer of sadness when you consider that they have little else to latch onto. Since they both care deeply for each other but are extremely limited in their ability to express said care, even the tiniest objects can take on deep meaning.
All in all, My Boy Vol. 5 is yet another captivating and character-driven installment in the series. There’s very little to complain about– the occasional odd pacing choice or slight clarity issue, but never anything major or long-lasting. This book is a great read, both visually and in terms of character development.