Series: Wandering Son, #1
Translator: Matt Thorn
Publisher: Fantagraphics Books
Pub. Date: 2003, 2015
Genres: Contemporary Realistic Fiction, Manga
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
At the threshold of puberty, two fifth graders, Shuichi Nitori and Yoshino Takatsuki, live with loving families and are well-liked by their classmates, but they share a secret. Nitori is a boy who wants to be a girl, and Yoshino is a girl who wants to be a boy. As they try to figure out their gender identities and places in the world, they have to deal with their peers’ reactions. Wandering Son, Vol. 1 by Shimura Takako is a coming-of-age manga about two transgender kids and the exploration of gender.
I saw this on display at the library for LGBT History Month, which is in February for the U.K. and in October for the U.S. I’m not sure why my American library decided to display it in February. I haven’t seen many transgender characters in YA or MG books, and I haven’t seen them in any graphic novels until Wandering Son, Vol. 1. I was excited to see what this author and artist would do.
Nitori and Takatsuki are the primary characters, and they are trying to find their place in the world. Since this volume holds eight chapters, it manages to show the full development of them revealing their secrets to each other and the start of puberty. I like that they are friends and can support each other, and this makes it easy to juxtapose their experiences and struggles. Their friendship is sweet, and I want to see more. I’m not sure how true this is to coming to learn your gender identity since I’m cisgender, but it felt realistic.
I was confused at times about what was happening because the conversations switch too fast and because I had trouble telling Nitori and Takatsuki apart about halfway in. Having those combined made it harder to understand what was happening. Despite the fast switches between settings and conversations, the story moves at a fairly relaxed pace. I already had trouble keeping track because most reactions and events are told solely through art.
Concerning the art style, Shimura’s style is not like shoujo or shonen, which are the manga styles I’m used to. The characters are drawn with rounder faces and small points for noses, which helps make them look like children and androgynous. Most of the detailed line work is in the clothing to create texture, and nothing is truly elaborate. If anything were elaborate, I think it would take away from the minimalist way of telling the story. The artwork is clean and effective to telling the story and developing the characters.
On a minor note, I’m impressed by this translation because of the translator’s note at the back of the book. Thorn explains gender, pronouns and the honorifics used in this manga.
I’m disappointed that my library doesn’t have any of the sequential volumes because I want to keep reading. I recommend Wandering Son, Vol. 1, if you want to read a calm story about young kids figuring out who they are.