My Boy, or Watashi no Shōnen, was nominated in 2017 for the 10th Manga Taisho awards, whereby a committee of mostly bookstore staff voted for the series they would recommend for the freshness of theme and execution. It also received the “This Comic is Great” Award for Men’s Comics 2017 and My Best Manga Grand Prix 2016. That's an impressive pedigree!
It has now been translated for the UK/US markets and only time will tell whether this potentially controversial subject matter will receive the same critical acclaim over here.
My Boy tells the tale of two characters and the unusual relationship that they form. Satoko Tawada is a 30-year-old woman who works in an office-based role for a sporting goods company and has recently been treated badly by a former partner. Her life changes when she meets Mashuu Hayami – a 12-year-old high school student with a difficult home life. These two characters meet when Satoko comes across Mashuu practising his football skills in a park - concerned that he is out alone late, she ends up offering to help him prepare for his up-coming try-outs, as she used to play soccer when she was young (convenient, one might say). After his trial isn’t as successful as he hoped, Satoko continues to help him, even hiring a car so that she can take him to a soccer game, and their friendship grows.
The artwork is generally good, however, it was often difficult to discern between speech and thought. The character of Mashuu is drawn to look more like a girl than a boy (something even referenced in the story), which may well be intentional. I can only assume that this is deliberate and can only think of two reasons why this could be. Either, in a future chapter, Satoko will help Mashuu go through some kind of appearance transformation or this has been done to try and prevent people from thinking that there is any sexual element to their relationship. If it is the latter though, I would ask why the character wasn’t just a girl in the first place.
In the epilogue, the author explains that, initially, this was the story of an older man befriending a young girl, but when she lost motivation on the project she switched the genders. At this point, I think the author realised that she had something somewhat unique and this spurred her on.
The story flows nicely, but it is a bit of a slow burn. After all, this isn’t a story full of battles, magic or comedy. It is merely a story of pure human interactions, friendship and eventually (presumably) transformation.
This first volume focuses mainly on Satoko’s backstory, her previous relationship and lifestyle, but we also learn a bit about Mashuu’s situation. There are, however, more questions than answers and I guess that this is an indication of good writing. I am keen to read on and find out more about Mashuu’s background and ultimately see whether these two seemingly lost souls can enrich each other's lives.
The only indications that this story could be going to take a turn in a more controversial direction is the fact that there is reference of child abuse (in the form of a news broadcast that Satoko is listening to) and we are privy to Satoko’s own concerns about judgements that other people are having about her relationship with Mashuu. I'll reserve judgement and am keen to get my hands on volume 2!