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Wandering Son, Volume 3 by Shimura Takako

Wandering Son, Volume 3

by Shimura Takako

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Wandering Son (Volume 3)

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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, andShuichi 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).

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.) ( )
  Familiar_Diversions | Dec 20, 2015 |
I broke down in tears on page 152. ( )
  senbei | Dec 7, 2013 |
After reading the first and second volumes of Takako Shimura's manga series Wandering Son, I was looking forward to the release of Wandering Son, Volume 3 a great deal. Originally published in Japan in 2005, the English edition of Wandering Son, Volume 3 was released by Fantagraphics in 2012. I am incredibly grateful that Fantagraphics chose to bring Wandering Son to English-reading audiences. Shimura deals with her characters and with identity, particularly gender identity, with a tremendous amount of sensitivity. Wandering Son is one of the few comics that I have had the opportunity to read that has accomplished this as a fictional work rather than as a memoir. Fantagraphics production work and physical presentation of the series is also superb. Each volume has been printed as a lovely over-sized, high-quality hardcover. I have been very pleased with the reception with which Fantagraphics' release of Wandering Son has been received. The series has made several "best of" lists and was even a finalist for an Eisner Award in 2012.

From time to time, Shuichi and his friend Takatsuki sneak out together--she dresses as a boy and he dresses as a girl. They have kept their trips a secret from most people, but when their exchange diary is stolen and read aloud in class, suddenly their secret is out. The resulting fallout hurts both Takatsuki and Shuichi and even puts a strain on their friendship. Shuichi's life at home isn't any less complicated than his life at school when his older sister Maho drags him along with her to a modeling audition. For her, it's a chance to meet her idol Maiko. For Shuichi, it's a chance to dress up. But once again, not many people seem to take him seriously, thinking it's some sort of gimmick or game. Maho even goes as far as to set Shuichi up on a date with her classmate Seya. She happens to like Seya which only complicates matters further. Seya first saw Shuichi while he was wearing a dress and doesn't realize that the cute girl he's developed a crush on is actually Maho's little brother.

One of the things I particularly enjoyed about Wandering Son, Volume 3 was the focus given to Shuichi's sister and their relationship with each other. The two are most definitely siblings. They tease and make fun of each other and get into fights and arguments, but ultimately they love each other. When it really counts, they are there to give their support. It's not always clear to what extent Maho's actions are for her own good versus the good of her younger sibling, but sometimes the two are actually one and the same. Still, Maho doesn't always completely think through her decisions; she's young enough that she doesn't consider or understand what all of the repercussions might be. The result of this can be very upsetting for her, for Shuichi, and for the other people who are directly involved. However, I don't think she is being deliberately malicious. Although she accepts him, Maho is confused by her brother's desire to be seen as a girl (granted, to some extent Shuichi's confused by it, too). She's learning how to deal with how this affects her.

Shimura's Wandering Son works so well because the characters feel real and well-rounded. The beautifully simple artwork draws the readers attention to the characters and their growth. Gender identity is an important part of their lives and an important part of the story, but it is not the only emphasis. Growing up is a difficult process to begin with. Even if Takatsuki and Shuichi make it through their middle school years, they will still be faced with challenges as they explore their identities. Yuki, a transwoman who has befriended the two, continues to be confronted with the outcomes of her own decisions well into adulthood. She is largely a positive influence in their lives, but some of her interactions, particularly with Takatsuki, are disconcerting. Although Yuki has dealt with problems similar to those that Shuichi and Takatsuki are facing, her experiences are different and she can't understand everything they are going through. The fact that the characters aren't characters per se but actual individuals is one of Wandering Son's greatest strengths. Ultimately, the story isn't about the "issues" surrounding personal identity so much as it is about the people themselves.

Experiments in Manga ( )
1 vote PhoenixTerran | Aug 8, 2012 |
I still love this series and the way Shimura tells the story of Shuuichi Nitori, Yoshino Takatsuki, and their circle of friends and family. It is touching, sweet, and a little bit idyllic (with a dash of fantasy) as the reader sees the children experiment with their identity presentation and learn to navigate in society, both as trans* and as pre-teens.

With this particular volume, I found myself especially drawn to Takatsuki, who reacts to teasing about her preference for being boyish by rejecting that identity entirely and dressing in (for her) very girly skirts and dresses. I wish that the narrative looked closer at her motivations and character arc here, especially as she reaches out in confusion to the only trans* adult that she knows, and is treated rather badly.

Instead of a longer look at Takatsuki, we are treated to scenes in the Nitori household with Shuuichi and his older sister Maho. I did like that this volume goes outside with those two as Maho tries to meet her idol by joining the same modeling agency - and forcing Shuu-chan to do the same (while dressed as a girl, of course). The series so far has repeatedly pointed out how it can be easier for a girl to be like a boy in society, but not vice versa, and by going to the modeling agency, the reader sees how this affects family members, too. Maho loves her younger brother, but is confused about him - yet won't let other people bully him (even as she does so herself!). There's a weird but kind of funny set of scenes where Maho makes Shuu-chan go on a date with the boy Maho likes (who met Shuu-chan in volume 2 and formed a crush), and Shuuichi's new friend Makoto goes along to be a chaperone.

Speaking of Makoto, I rather liked that we now have a gay character in the group of friends, though I feel that it's a bit convenient and awkward that he, too, is interested in cross-dressing with Shuuichi. It stretched my suspension of disbelief just a bit much that there are so many similar kids in this one 6th grade class.

There are actually several elements in this volume that were difficult for me to get through, even as I enjoyed the book as a whole. The first is Makoto, but also the incident with Takatsuki and Yuki-san, and for a third, Shuuichi's first wet dream.

Frankly, these three elements felt too stereotyped and pandering to social expectations/misbeliefs than what I have been led to expect from the series. When Takatsuki goes to Yuki-san for support, Yuki goes into "man mode" and practically feels up Takatsuki's budding breasts while gushing about Takatsuki's girly body. It was extremely uncomfortable to see, and made me feel a bit sick. It also seemed out of character for how we've seen Yuki in the past, like it's treating her as a pervert/criminal for being trans*. Likewise, Shuuichi's wet-dream was odd - he was dreaming about being a girl and wakes up having ejaculated in his sleep. Is the reader to take it as a sign that he's sexually stimulated by cross-dressing, as though it's a perverted fetish? (And not an uncommon assumption, I'm given to understand.) Of course, in real life, it would probably just be a coincidence, and the author could even use it as a way for Shuu-chan to explore his burgeoning sexuality and the confusion it brings, but in the context of the manga, it felt cheap and exploitative to me.

On the whole, I'm still interested in this series and looking forward to buying future volumes from Fantagraphics, though I wish these gross bits had been excised. (I have knowledge of the plot through the children's first year of high school, by reading the chapters as they are serialised, and had completely forgotten that the two parts had happened or had been so awful until I got the hardbound English volume, so if they do continue on, it might not be very much.) ( )
1 vote keristars | Jul 23, 2012 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Shimura Takakoprimary authorall editionscalculated
Thorn, MattTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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The secret that students Shuichi and Yoshino are transgendered is exposed, and their mentor Yuki reveals the hard reality of being transgendered.

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