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Manga / Shonen Note: Boy Soprano

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Spring is here. A gentle breeze is in the air. The cherry blossoms bloom bright pink against the blue sky. It's the first day of school for a new class. Yutaka can't help but cry on a day like this.

Yutaka Aoi is a young boy who is unusually sensitive to the sounds around him— in particular, the sound of beautiful music is enough to bring him to tears. The choir club at his new middle school has seen better days, so they're surprised when Yutaka asks to join, and eagerly accept him once he reveals he's a rare boy soprano. Yutaka's talent and passion for music get him noticed and begin to affect those around him... but the transient nature of his gift looms overhead all the while.

Shonen Note: Boy Soprano is a Seinen manga by Yuhki Kamatani that ran in Kodansha's seinen manga magazine Monthly Morning Two from 2010 to 2014, spanning eight volumes. The series would not be translated into English until Kodansha USA announced they had acquired the license in 2021, beginning to publish the volumes in 2022.

Shonen Note: Boy Soprano contains examples of:

  • Always Identical Twins: Tomo has younger identical twin sisters.
  • But Not Too Foreign: The Russian Vladimir has a Japanese grandmother, explaining his ability to speak Japanese.
  • Cast of Snowflakes: There are many characters but they're all quite distinguishable from each other. They have a variety of body types, hairstyles, and facial features.
  • Child Prodigy: Both Vladimir and Yutaka are boy sopranos who are considered above average. In fact, Vladimir is a celebrity.
  • Cultural Cross-Reference: The manga has a reference to Star Wars when one of the characters appears as a jedi with a Darth Vader shadow, when he mentions he might be going to the dark side.
  • The Foreign Subtitle: The series is just Shonen Note in the original Japanese, the Kodanasha English release adds the "Boy Soprano" subtitle.
  • Heroic BSoD: When Vladimir disparages Yutaka's singing as not having any identity, it, along with struggling to really channel Miles in The Turn of the Screw and forgetting how to sing the way he used to stresses him out and makes him retreat into his room to the point of missing an important competition. Luckily, Ise manages to talk to him and help him deal with his issues.
  • Huge Schoolgirl: Tomo is male but still fits many of the stereotypes. He's a lanky middle school boy who's well over One Head Taller than most of his peers (his best friend's head only reaches his elbows) and has insecurities about his height. His parents treat him like he's an adult and refer to him as such due to his height, which upsets him.
  • Improbably Female Cast: Downplayed. There are several male characters; however, in-series it's noted that there are few boys in the choir.
  • Incorruptible Pure Pureness: This is actually deconstructed by the series: when Machiya sees Yutaka singing in public in response to the sounds of morning, she actually compares him to an angel because of how "pure and unashamed" he is. However, when she witnesses Yutaka having a meltdown during an argument over whether or not he can be in an opera troupe and the choir club at the same time, Machiya begins to wonder is the only reason Yutaka seems so pure is that it's the only way he can live without constantly being completely overwhelmed. Yutaka's unusual, unabashed sensitivity to sounds and the emotions they invoke is part of what makes him such a good singer, but it also means negative emotions can be completely devastating to the young boy, and he does his best to suppress them.
    Machiya: Those darker emotions... Yutaka is afraid of them, so he just stuffs them into a glass box people call "being pure."
  • Innocent Blue Eyes: Yutaka has bright blue eyes befitting his sweet and gentle nature.
  • Innocent Soprano: A non-musical Rare Male Example — it's pointed out that Yutaka's ability to sing soprano is exceedingly rare for boys. Fittingly he has a bright, sweet, innocent, and caring personality.
  • Language Fluency Denial: Vladimir, a Russian, learned Japanese from his Japanese grandmother (and presumably also speaks it with one of his parents) but usually pretends not to know it.
  • Mentor in Queerness: Minoru is initially introduced as Yutaka's big brother, but one day Mito runs into them wearing a skirt. Upon being questioned about it, Minoru displays a casual, almost fluid relationship to gender. Mito, likewise, is initially introduced as a girl but is uncomfortable with "feminine" things and longs for a deeper voice, hinting him to possibly be a closeted transgender boy. Mito forms a sort of Intergenerational Friendship with Minoru and later is inspired by them to try dressing in a way more comfortable to him.
  • Mukokuseki: Shonen Note mostly averts this with most of the characters having brown and black eyes and hair. Vladimir is one of the few characters with light hair, and he's mixed Russian and Japanese. Notably, though, Yutaka has bright blue eyes that are probably to emphasize his pure, innocent nature.
  • Phenotype Stereotype: Vladimir is Russian and has blond hair and blue eyes... even though he is also 1/4 Japanese.
  • Pure Is Not Good: The series posits that Yutaka is in fact "pure" in the sense that he experiences all emotion in an unabashed, unashamed way to the point it shocks others around him. This way of reacting to emotion is hinted to be part of what makes him such a great singer, but it is shown that it is also actually extremely overwhelming and exhausting for him, so he tries very hard to suppress negative emotions— and when he can not, the guilt and unpleasant feelings will actually cause him to become physically ill.
    Machiya: Maybe the reason Yutaka seems so pure... is because it's the only way he can live without being completely overwhelmed.
  • Sailor Fuku: The school uses sailor fuku and gakuran for their school uniforms.
  • Tsurime Eyes: The aloof Midori is one of the few characters with tsurime eyes.
  • Tender Tears: Yutaka is very sensitive and cries easily.
  • Workaholic: Vladimir is the same age as Yutaka, but being a celebrity, he is shown working almost all the time, and by choice, which causes his uncle Anatoly a lot of worry. In fact, Vladimir gets viscerally angry whenever someone even suggests that he not take on so much work.
  • Younger Than They Look: Tomo is a preteen whose height makes most people think he's a high schooler. It's actually discussed by the manga that being treated as older than he actually makes things difficult for the young boy.

Alternative Title(s): Shonen Note, Shounen Note