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review 2016-07-15 15:13
The search for identity
Wandering Son, Vol. 1 - Shimura Takako,Matt Thorn

I watched a really interesting anime a few months back called Wandering Son which focuses on two main characters who are transgendered. It was such an intriguing storyline but I felt there was potential for so much more. Luckily, anime are generally based off of manga so I did a little search and Wandering Son, Vol.1 by Takako Shimura (translated by Matt Thorn) fell magically into my hands. As you can guess, there are a number of volumes in this series which consist of multiple issues. The story focuses on two fifth graders who share a secret: They both want to be the opposite gender. This is the second book that I've read which discusses gender identity but it's the first I've read with characters this young. There are the normal trials and tribulations of adolescence (puberty being one of them) as well as the added anxiety of gender identity and secrecy. It's an interesting storyline but unfortunately not a lot is covered in this volume (even less than in the anime) so I think I'm going to have to read several more before I get the more that I was craving. (I'm not sure if I'm interested enough to continue honestly.) The majority of the artwork is average but there are a few pages which really shine. If you're looking for an anime/manga combination that explores a topic which you may or may not be overly familiar with then you might want to give this one a chance...as long as you understand you'll have to be committed for the long haul. 5/10 since this volume fell short of my expectations.

Source: readingfortheheckofit.blogspot.com
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review 2016-06-12 18:08
Nope, nope nope...
Wandering Son, Volume 1 (Hardcover)--by Shimura Takako [2011 Edition] - Matt Thorn Shimura Takako


This starts out well, with a boy who wants to be a girl and classmate who seem to accept him.   It's cute, he's shy, and yeah. 


Then they start pushing him into wearing dresses, including in front of his family - who he still hasn't come out to, and it gets... weirdly intrusive.   Look, if someone doesn't want to come out, don't push them.   They end up giving him gifts for his birthday that include a dress; when he returns it, that girl trashes it in front of him. 


It's all weird, tense, and pushy.   I kept cringing for the boy, and wanting to tell everyone to back up.   Even the friend of his - a girl who wants to be a boy - ends up calling him names if he doesn't go with her when she goes on an 'outing.'   (She dresses up like a boy and goes as far away as she can on the train, and hangs out.   She gets hit on by girls and stuff.   But, seriously, even though it ends up all good, this isn't fucking support.   This is making him seriously uncomfortable and why is that everyone's first instinct?)


A lot of this is good.   The moments when he's alone and thinking this through are quiet and introspective. 


And then someone else comes along and tries to push him into something uncomfortable and embarrassing.  


Gross, gross, gross.   This was easy to read on one level - the writing - and hard on another - I wanted to punch everyone in the face because everyone was trying to be nice, but they were all really assholes. 


In conclusion:


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review 2015-12-20 07:36
Wandering Son (vol. 5) by Shimura Takako, translated by Matt Thorn
Wandering Son, Vol. 5 - Matt Thorn,Shimura Takako

The start of a new school year. Yoshino makes a new friend, Sarashina Chizuru (I'm calling her Chizuru from here on out), a girl who showed up to the entrance ceremony in a boy's uniform just because she felt like it. Yoshino also has to deal with more unwelcome physical developments: she now needs a bra. Meanwhile, Shuichi is fretting about his voice eventually changing. The class decides (or is strongly encouraged by their teacher) to put on a play, which Shuichi and Saori will be writing together. Shuichi still isn't over Yoshino, and Saori isn't over Shuichi.

I'm “meh” about the romance drama, although I care about the characters enough to want to see where everything is going.

The new teacher is...um. Maybe not the best. And probably in over his head. He's a first-year teacher and a bit of a flake. He keeps arriving to school late, and he mentally matched every student in his class up with kids he used to know when he was in school, thereby handily prejudging everyone. He also pressured Shuichi and Saori into turning the class play into a mystery. He isn't very professional and seems very flawed. I'm worried he's going to somehow make the series' relationship messiness even worse.

Chizuru is strange. She seems oblivious to a lot of things, but she does try. When she realizes that Saori doesn't like it when she touches her, she stops. She doesn't seem to “get” Yoshino, though.


(Original review posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)

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review 2015-12-20 07:32
Wandering Son (vol. 4) by Shimura Takako, translated by Matt Thorn
Wandering Son, Vol. 4 - Matt Thorn,Shimura Takako

Shuichi quits modeling due to issues with a girl in the group, Sueanna. Unfortunately, Maho becomes best friends with Sueanna, oblivious to the hurtful things she's said to Shuichi. Maho is upset that everyone seems to be falling for Shuichi. Meanwhile, Shuichi thinks

he may be falling for Yoshino even though Yoshino only likes him as a friend. Saori likes Shuichi and hates Yoshino for being loved by him. The whole thing is a mess. And so everyone enters junior high with fragmented and awkward relationships.

(spoiler show)

This volume is so incredibly messy and complicated. There's so much going on that even the stuff that should be painful to read just isn't. There isn't enough time to stop and process everything.

I think I've overloaded on drama. I'm also getting super frustrated. We have gender, sexuality, and general “coming of age” stuff going on here, and the drama of it all is overwhelming. We finally learn that Saori

encouraged Shuichi's love of dresses because it brought the two of them closer – she could invite Shuichi over and give him as many of her dresses as she could convince him to take.

(spoiler show)

I hate to say this, but at this point Shuichi comes across as kind of annoying, writing “poor me”-type stories. I have a feeling Teenage Me would have taken all of this much better than Adult Me. In part because Teenage Me wrote "poor me" stories too.

The volume's ending reminded me how very gendered high school uniforms are. I'm sure high school will be just wonderful for everybody.


(Original review posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)

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review 2015-12-20 07:28
Wandering Son (vol. 3) by Shimura Takako, translated by Matt Thorn
Wandering Son, Vol. 3 - Matt Thorn,Shimura Takako

Maho drags Shuichi to her audition and asks to be accepted or rejected as a set. They're accepted, but their new modeling gig turns out to be both excitement and torture for poor Shuichi. Also for Maho, who is gradually beginning to understand that she is maybe being cruel towards Shuichi because she's hurt that Riku likes Shuichi more. She arranges a date for Riku and Shuichi, and

Shuichi finally can't take it anymore – he tells Riku that he's Maho's brother. At school, others read Yoshino and Shuichi's exchange diary and make fun of Shuichi. Yoshino tries to help by distancing herself from Shuichi and dressing as a girl. During their time apart, Shuichi makes a new friend, Ariga Makoto (referred to from here on out as “Mako-chan,” because he'd like it), another boy who'd like to be a girl (this phrasing becomes important later on - I suspect Mako-chan isn't so much trans as he is gay and interested in cross-dressing).

(spoiler show)

Mako-chan seems to be one of the most emotionally stable characters in the series, steady even when he takes on Maho at her worst. After she almost calls him a faggot:

“You were just about to leave a scar on my heart that would never heal. And I would never have forgiven you for it. But you stopped yourself first, so I'll let it slide.” (136)

Yuki's overly touchy feely behavior bothered me since her introduction, and in this volume Yoshino reached her breaking point, becoming so uncomfortable that she tried to slip away from Yuki's place without telling her. If I had been Yoshino, I probably would have too. No matter what Yuki, Shuichi, and Yoshino all have in common, Yuki is still an adult with a sometimes screwed up sense of boundaries.

In this volume we learn that Yuki's relationship with her parents isn't very good. Maho's near slip-up with Mako-chan and her behavior lately with Shuichi makes me worry about what Shuichi's relationship with his own family might be like in the future. I worry about what's going through Maho's head.

I wish Shuichi were more outspoken. He just allows Maho to drag him wherever she wants, never saying what he wants. Does he want to be a model? Does he want to date Riku? Then again, the problem may be that he doesn't know what he wants, or is afraid to say his wishes aloud. But, ugh, it's frustrating to watch.


(Original review posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)

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