Lesley Aeschliman

Manga Review: Wandering Son Volume 8

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Wandering Son Volune 8 tells the story of Shuichi Nitori, a boy who wants to be a girl and Yoshino Takatsuki, a girl who wants to be a boy. Back in the fifth grade, they both enjoyed dressing as the opposite gender, and their friends would encourage them. It appears that back then, their friends just viewed this as fun and games. However, it’s obvious that it’s not just a game for both Shuichi and Yoshino.

Wandering Son Volume 8

Wandering Son Volume 8

Written by: Shimura Takako
Publisher: Enterbrain, Inc.
English Publisher: Fantagraphics Books
Release Date: June 10, 2015

Volume 8 sees Shuichi, Yoshino, and their friends starting the eighth grade. They find that they’re split up between three different homerooms for the new school year, so they have to adjust to not having the people they feel closest to in the same class as them.

Shuichi has been dating Anna, one of the girls who work for the same modeling agency as Shuichi’s sister, Maho. This volume sees Shuichi admitting to Anna about liking to dress as a girl and Anna is actually really cool with it. I was glad to see Anna’s acceptance of what Shuichi does, which gives Shuichi the ability to have someone else to confide to about it. Throughout Volume 8, Anna is given a portrayal of being mature for her age and for having a patient and understanding personality. Hopefully Anna will continue to be supportive of Shuichi in future volumes.

Shuichi also has to deal with Doi, a classmate who had given Shuichi some grief over a diary when they were younger. In the diary, Shuichi had mentioned liking to dress up as a girl. After Doi sees Shuichi meeting up with a transgender friend named Yuki, Doi becomes interested in Shuichi’s older friend. Doi doesn’t know that Yuki is transgender, so he decides to become friends with Shuichi in order to have a chance to meet Yuki. Let’s just say that when Doi meets Yuki it turns into a rather awkward moment. After that encounter, I was afraid of Doi trying to cause embarrassment to Shuichi in order to get revenge for the fact that Shuichi never mentioned that Yuki was transgender.

My worst fears come to pass when Doi asks Shuichi to dress up as a girl. After seeing Shuichi in girls’ clothes, Doi tries to convince Shuichi to go to school like that since Yoshino has recently been wearing boys’ uniforms to school. Shuichi asks Anna for advice, and in the end, all Anna says is that this is Shuichi’s decision to make. Shuichi makes a choice, and the reader just finds out the repercussions of that choice when Wandering Son Volume 8 ends.

I’ve been reading Wandering Son since Volume 1, and I continue to be impressed with Takako’s depiction on subjects such as gender identity and adolescence. I also appreciate the sensitivity that Takako approaches these subjects with and makes them relatable to all readers, whether or not they may be dealing with the issues depicted in the series. The progression of the story in Wandering Son has been very realistic, and the engaging characters make it so readers want to continue following them in order to see what will happen to them.

But if there is a “weakness” to Wandering Son, it would be found in the art. Takako is a good artist, but there’s a reliance on very minimalist backgrounds for the panels and sometimes characters aren’t drawn with as much detail as they could be. But since the story being presented is so engaging, this minimalist art style isn’t enough to distract the reader.

Wandering Son has been included on the American Library Association’s Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Round Table Rainbow list several times, and it was the first manga to ever be included. In addition, the series was selected by the American Library Association’s Young Adult Library Services Association division as one of the top 10 graphic novels for teens in 2012. Wandering Son Volume 8 continues the series’ reputation for being an important title that focuses on LGBT characters and their issues.

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