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Wandering Son, Volume 8 by Shimura Takako
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Wandering Son, Volume 8

by Shimura Takako

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Volume 8 is basically the turning point in the series and I'm really happy to see we made it this far with the English editions. My favorite scene that utterly blew me away when I read it in Japanese comes at the end, resulting in a kind of cliffhanger. So I think in a way, Volume 8 is the most important book in the series. Obviously the disparities between reactions to Takatsuki and Nitori at school also demonstrate a serious social problem in Japanese culture.

I also really love Volume 8 as the characters have finally matured enough to offer us a glimpse into their futures. Maybe not exactly what they'll end up doing with their lives (there are always twists and turns in High School, College, etc), but what they'll be like as adults. Out of anger at the unfairness of her life, Chiba already speaks as if she is an adult, which probably indicates she'll regress in maturity later on (despite being Trans, I can relate to her character most). Maho's tsundere is finally beginning to crack and you catch a glimpse of the more easy-going Maho toward the end of this volume. Sarashina is outspoken but always leaps before she thinks. You can't help but imagine her just like that as an adult as well. Anna is probably my favorite character. Her interactions with Takatsuki and Chiba during the double-date prove she's cool-headed and kind-hearted in any situation. Whenever I saw the NGE phrase "Girlfriend of Steel" I always immediately thought of Anna. Takatsuki might be the exception here, because she herself is so tormented. It doesn't feel like her character is maturing so much as building better defense mechanisms. Takatsuki is the kind of person you'd want to reassure and bolster her self-esteem. To be so torn at that age... I think there's a good chance she'll tip over into depression and/or suicide later in life (just a wild supposition). Shu is the heroine and the character who suffers the most throughout the story. She suffers under the bootheel of her sister's desperate conformity and ego-centrism. She suffers her friends mercurial attitudes about her. She suffers a Japanese society that looks down on you for being different. She suffers from lack of resources for her transition. Yet, we're already seeing her self-talk centre around building self-confidence and following her heart. In Volume 8 she shows little hesitancy with Anna and acts a lot more open with her friends than she once did. Shu is on the cusp of a kind of personality gestalt into something beautiful. ( )
  senbei | Jul 3, 2015 |
Wandering Son by Takako Shimura is a manga series that is incredibly important to me on a very personal level. The series' exploration of personal identity, especially in regards to gender and sexual identity, is beautifully done with great sensitivity. It's a rare comic in which gender expression and other issues relating to gender are treated realistically and not as a joke. Wandering Son is an authentically meaningful series. Fantagraphics Books has been releasing the manga in English in a lovely hardcover edition; I only wish that the individual volumes were able to be released more frequently. Wandering Son, Volume 8 was first published in Japan in 2008 while the English translation was published in 2015. Wandering Son concluded in 2013 with its fifteenth volume, meaning that the eighth volume marks the beginning of the second half of the series. I am so incredibly grateful that Wandering Son is being translated and look forward to reading the remaining volumes.

Spring has come, which means a new school year is about to begin. Shuichi, Takatsuki, and their classmates are entering the eighth grade, but with a new year comes new class assignments. The students, whose often precarious friendships and relationships were at least temporarily stable, once more find themselves confronted with new and changing group dynamics. Some friends are separated while others are reunited. And of course, not-quite-friends and past bullies are included in the mix as well, creating some challenging and awkward situations for everyone involved. Springtime has come for some of the young people in a more figurative sort of way as well. Anna and Shuichi continue to date each other and enjoy being together despite Shuichi's lingering affections for Takatsuki. Everyone has mostly come to terms with this development in their relationship, but more than one person has commented that Takatsuki and Shuichi would make an ideal couple.

I've come to really like Anna as a character. When she was first introduced in the series, she came across as aloof and perhaps even a bit mean-spirited, but as Wandering Son has progressed, more about Anna has been revealed. It's not exactly that she's bad-natured, she just doesn't have a high tolerance for people who don't approach their lives and work seriously. Anna can be surprisingly mature for her age—something that may probably be true for many of the younger characters in Wandering Son—but I still find her personality and character to be a believable. She is extraordinarily accepting and kind in her own fashion, seeming to lack the jealous tendencies that cause so many problems for her peers. But what I love most about Anna in Wandering Son, Volume 8 is her acceptance and support of Shuichi through their relationship as a couple. She is perfectly content to go on dates as two girls if that's what Shuichi wants and she never denigrates Shuichi's interests or feelings.

For the most part, Wandering Son tends to be a fairly quiet series, which is not to say there isn't drama. And I certainly don't intend to downplay the very real and intense emotions experienced by the characters as they struggle through their adolescence and personal turmoils. Those are central to Wandering Son. However, the eighth volume is the first volume that really ends with a dramatic turn of events that could be described as a cliffhanger. Throughout Wandering Son, Shuichi and Takatsuki have become more comfortable and increasingly bolder with how they express themselves in the clothes they wear, largely because they've received encouragement from their classmates and friends. But up until this volume, that outward expression has mostly been limited to their private lives; now they've begun to push the boundaries in how they dress at school, which has an explicit dress codes and uniforms based on gender. I am very glad to see the two of them developing a firmer understanding and acceptance of who they are, but I also worry for them because, as Wandering Son honestly portrays, the world can sometime be a very cruel place.

Experiments in Manga ( )
  PhoenixTerran | Jun 12, 2015 |
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Nitori-kun, a boy who wants to be a girl, explores kissing with girlfriend Anna-chan; and Yoshino-san, a girl who wants to be a boy, finds the courage to go to school wearing a boy's uniform. Meanwhile, one of their male classmates, Doi-kun, who has caused our protagonists misery in the past, becomes intrigued with their grown-up friend Yuki-san, a transwoman. But Nitori-kun finds himself strangely drawn to Doi-kun"--Amazon.com… (more)

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