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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 2016-06-27 00:00
The Heart of Thomas
The Heart of Thomas - Moto Hagio,Matt Thorn This felt like being caught in a disturbing dream, though not in a bad way. The combination of the gorgeous but surreal and often symbolic art, the claustrophobic setting, the intensity of the drama as well as the mystery plot made the whole book otherworldly and unsettling. What was going on? Who knew what? How much had actually happened?

The story starts with a suicide, and it seems clear why, but as the book unfolds via the perspective of his doppelgänger (another ethereal element), the story starts unravelling and reweaving around the reader. It's very, very well done, and I can see why it didn't initially fly in short serial form. I will probably read it again.
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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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