Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Wandering Son

I just got back from lunch and I liked this manga I was reading soooo much that I had to immediately blog about it. Usually, I like to percolate about a title first, but this one just touched me as a reader I want to gush about it.

Wandering Son Volume One by Shimura Takako

follows Nitori Shuichi (male) and Takatsuki Yoshino (female) (last names first, first names last) during their fifth grade year as they become friends. They each feel a disconnect with themselves and their gender. Takatsuki's mother keeps buying her dresses. One day Shuichi sees a dress and tells her that it's pretty. Takatsuki tells him it would look good on him, but gives it to him to give to Shuichi's older sister. Shuichi dreams of wearing the dress--has nightmares where his family calls him a freak. Little does he realize that Takatsuki wishes she wouldn't hit puberty and could stay asexual where she could easily pass as a boy. The artist has taken such a sensitive subject matter and has made it accessible and understandable to readers of both sexes.

I know this title isn't going to be for everyone. But there are very few titles --prose novels and graphic novels -- that delve into this topic that when one appears as shining as this one did to me then I need to mention it to as many people as possible. A co-worker just interrupted my writing to talk about something else and I told her about Wandering Son. That's how well done I think it is.

Beyond the storyline, there will be other things that will detract from its readership. It's a manga first of all. There are so many people out there that won't read it purely because it's sequential art and not a prose novel. Okay, but in addition to that, it expects the reader to know manga. It references Rose of Versailles--which if you are Japanese you will know, even if you don't read manga. But if you're an American, you probably don't know it unless you have read a lot of manga and watched anime (it's referenced a lot in manga and anime). (side note: It's awesome as well and should totally be released in English--please!!!) There aren't any background notes to help readers out, so they may be a little confused in places.

Overall, this is a very well done graphic novel in general; a great exploration on the gender dissonance in two pre-teen children; and deserves a wider audience than it will probably reach--hence, my gushing at the beginning.

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