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Wandering Son, Book 1 Hardcover – July 5, 2011
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“In the series’ debut-in-English, Shimura treats both protagonists’ journeys of self-discovery with gentle honesty; her characters are wide-eyed and adorable, uncertain and searching.” (Terry Hong - BookDragon (Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Program))
“Shimura balances a full plate in this story, all the while offering it with the kind of easy grace that makes the balance appear to be almost magical.... In Shimura’s sympathetic hands, this manga is neither gag nor message heavy: both main characters, their peers, and their family members are credible and developed with enough depth that readers can think about them beyond the bounds of the book. ...[Wandering Son Vol. 1] belongs in every high school library, as well as in public collections that are accessible to both youth and adults.” (Francisca Goldsmith - School Library Journal)
“Wandering Son is an important manga series, much celebrated for the sensitive treatment of its two young transgender protagonists. It offers nuanced portrayals of these two middle schoolers, their friends, and their families. The tone is sweet, gentle, and hopeful, making it a pleasant reading experience. At the same time, it doesn’t turn away from realistic issues like bullying and the pain of experiencing puberty when your body already doesn’t match the way you feel inside.” (Nic Willcox - No Flying No Tights)
“...Shimura Takako is a master at portraying subtle events in a slice of life story about adolescence that never feels didactic.... Like the storyline, Shimura’s art is simple but nuanced.... As you’d expect from Fantagraphics, the production quality for Wandering Son is excellent.” (Anna Neatrour - Manga Report)
“What makes Wandering Son work is its slow-burn pace and calm atmosphere. It takes a delicate subject – transgender children- and explores it slowly and carefully. Much like its characters, it moves at its own pace, easing the reader into the characters’ lives.” (Shannon Fay - Kuriousity)
About the Author
Shimura Takako lives in Tokyo, Japan.
Matt Thorn is from in Lansdale, Pennsylvania. She is a cultural anthropologist, writer, and an associate professor in the manga department at Kyoto Seika University. Her translations include the New York Times Best-Seller Nijigahara Holograph by Inio Asano and Hayao Miyazaki’s Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind.
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Top Customer Reviews
Wandering Son is a very gentle story, with no politics and no drum to beat. What Shimura Takako does best is to convey the emotional turmoil of people who are dealing with being, and especially just realizing that they are, different in a way that is going to cause trouble, one way or another. If you've been in such a place, this may be something of an emotional roller coaster, but it's a good ride.
A manga about crossdressing fifth graders sounds like a terrible idea, but Shimura Takako's "Wandering Son" is a gentle, sensative portrayal of two children finding their identities at an already awkward age. Actually, it's more than that. Shimura takes time to develop other characters and their struggles as well, so it's also a story about childhood and growing up. Saori is a strange girl who doesn't get along very well with others, but she secretly struggles with herself, feeling like she's a bad person. Nitori's sister, Maho, seems like a mean girl at first, but she's going through her own changes, and is confused and embarrassed by her brother's behavior. Nitori himself is sensative and sweet, while Takatsuki is more headstrong. All of them are sympathetic, and think and behave so realistically for their ages.
The story is sort of slice of life and follows the characters as they go about school and play. It jumps around at times, and there were a couple of sequences that didn't seem to have much purpose (such as when Maho gets in a bike accident with a teacher). Still, the story is interesting enough and brings out the character's personalities well. I especially like the part where Nitori and Takatsuki go to a faraway town together, cross-dressed. I really appreciate that the story is never preachy. You never get the sense that it's trying to teach you a lesson. Instead, it's a strait-forward story about two children who like to cross-dress and the difficulties they face. The characters are sympathetic, and this promotes understanding much better than a message story would.
I love the artwork in "Wandering Son." It's simple, but it's also gentle and warm. Despite what Shimura says about her own work, the characters are all easily distinguishable. They're also very emotive, which is very important to me when reading manga.
Fantasmagraphics Books (which previously published Moto Hagio's A Drunken Dream and Other Stories) has done a really bang up job with the publication. The translation is great and retains much of the nuance of the original dialogue, and it reads right to left to preserve the artwork. The book is hardcover with the color pages from the original Japanese version included. The paper is nice and thick, and the binding is strong. There's also an essay in the back by the translator, Matt Thorn, about gender and the use of honorifics in Japanese. This will be informative for those not familiar with the language, and even students of Japanese might learn a thing or two. The only thing I don't like about this publication is the glaring omission of translation notes. This is a manga with a wider appeal than most, and there are sure to be plenty of people who don't know what things like the Takarazuka Revue and "The Rose of Versailles" are (they are a musical theatre of all women with bright, flashy costumes based in the city of Takarazuka and Takarazuka play based on a famous girls' manga about a female guard of Marie Antoinette's, respectively). Some notes on what foods mentioned in the manga are would also have been nice, but aren't as necessary to understanding.
"Wandering Son" is a beautiful coming of age story about developing your identity and the difficulties therein. It's more literary than most manga and ought to have a broader appeal. It's really meant for adults, but I think children will also be able to relate to it and appreciate it, especially those who have trouble fitting in with their peers. Recommended for anyone who's ever lived through puberty.
If you like emotional, thought provoking stories and are not turned off by the watercolours I would suggest watching the anime before or even after reading the manga. :)