Manga Review: Wandering Son Volume Five

Wandering Son Volume Five is a manga by Shimura Takako, and it was published in North America by Fantagraphics Books in 2013. I don’t see a rating listed anywhere on this volume, but I would personally recommend Wandering Son to manga readers who are 13 or 14 years of age and older.

Wandering Son Volume 5
Written by: Shimura Takako
Publisher: Enterbrain
English Publisher: Fantagraphics Books
Release Date: November 2, 2013

Volume Five sees all of the main characters moving on to junior high school.Yoshino, Sasa, Shuichi, Makoto, and Saori all end up in the same class. Unfortunately, since Yoshino and Saori aren’t getting along, this causes some issues. Sasa gets the worst of it, though, since she’s friends with both of them and feels like she’s caught in the middle.

This volume introduces two new characters who are also in their class: Chizuru and Momoko. Chizuru causes a stir on the first day of school when she goes to the entrance ceremony wearing a boy’s uniform. Both Yoshino and Shuichi think that Chizuru is cool. Chizuru and Momoko are friends, but as the volume progresses, Chizuru finds herself hanging out with Yoshino and the others more and more. Momoko seems to feel threatened by Chizuru’s deciding to hang out with them more and more. And it doesn’t help that Saori made a bad impression on Momoko after commenting that Chizuru is strange.

Their new teacher, Manabu Saisho, also becomes an important character in this volume. He’s brand new to teaching, and many of the students remind him of the kids he went to school with back in junior high.

The culture festival is coming up, and the drama club decides they want to put on a play where the male and female roles are reversed. Manabu gets wind of it, and decides he wants his class to do the same thing. Shuichi and Saori both submit ideas for a play, and the teacher decides he wants them to combine their ideas together.

This volume touches on various issues that are going to arise at this point in their lives. Yoshino is told by a faculty member that she must start wearing a bra, even though Yoshino doesn’t really want to. And after hearing Riku’s voice start to change, Shuichi and Makoto realize that this will happen to them sooner or later, whether they want it to or not.

The drama and worries that these characters have is very realistic for these characters, especially now that they’re in junior high. And both Yoshino and Shuichi are realizing there are changes coming that they just can’t avoid, and they find themselves wishing that they can continue doing what they have been doing all along since the beginning of the series. I find Wandering Son to be a very poignant and realistic depiction of the lives of young teenagers.

The Wandering Son manga series continues to provide a sensitive and well-done portrayal of young people who are growing up and discovering who they are, as well as the drama and complications that they face as adolescents. I’m looking forward to reading Volume Six to find out how the story will progress.

I wrote this review after reading a copy of Wandering Son Volume Five that I checked out through the King County Library System.

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  1. Anonymous · January 21, 2014

    “Yoshino is told by a faculty member that she must start wearing a bra, even though Yoshino doesn’t really want to.”

    I understand summarization as a tool as much as anyone else, but this is very grossly understated. He doesn’t REALLY want to? Takatsuki fell immediately to the floor and stayed there with a facial expression easily described as shocked or horrified, and bystanders are quoted as saying “she looks like her life is ending/it’s the end of the world” depending on the translation source. He actively spends the rest of the volume looking for alternatives. It’s not that he doesn’t really feel like it that much, he HATES the idea of developing secondary female characteristics, he HATES having to wear a bra. He is AGAINST it, firmly.

    Also even though the text refers to them by the pronouns of their assigned sex as an authorial tool to denote that they are still socially perceived that way, readers knowing that the characters are transsexual are held to a different practice because we have information that the bystanders and family do not have (we know they are trans and the characters other than Nitori, Takatsuki, and Mako do not, or are not aware of the legitimacy of their intentions still because they have no access to their internal dialogue).

    Oscar of Rose of Versailles in text is referred to as he/him most of the time because she is presented as male to many characters, but nobody in real life ever calls her a man or he because we are aware she is a woman, please extend this courtesy to the transsexual characters of this work you are reviewing, just like Oscar, Nitori is a girl despite being viewed as a boy.

    • Lesley Aeschliman · January 21, 2014

      I apologize for understating Yoshino’s reaction to the bra situation.

      I know you’ve complained about the pronouns in the past, so I check and double-checking after writing a review for Wandering Son to make absolutely sure I do not use gender pronouns for either Yoshino or Shuichi.

      • Anonymous · January 21, 2014

        Thank you very much for your prompt reply, and for your graciousness in the situation.

        Takatsuki was referred to in specific gender terms in this article as quoted by myself earlier “she must start wearing a bra”, and as I felt the need to make the correction in defense of the character’s personal representation and the actual people he represents, I thought it necessary to extend the reasoning behind this detail to all characters to which it also applies to in order to get across the broader impact of this change beyond this individual person so that they can all be regarded with this mindful approach.

        As the other character I brought in as example is a woman living as a man I felt it would be misleading to directly compare her to Takatsuki who is a boy living as a girl, and instead used his parallel Nitori who is a more direct equivalent.

        Once again I must thank you for hearing me out, may you continue to enjoy this series, even if I can’t agree with your decision to call it a series about young people growing up when it is particularly a series about gender dysphoric children growing up and dealing with the social and medical obstacles that transsexuals deal with. It is first and foremost an LGBT manga, even though the author chose a poignant slice of life model to get the message across, the vehicle does not overshadow the point.

        I know you most likely want to reach out to a broader audience of readers, but the goals, hopes, dreams and fears of Mako, Takatsuki, and Nitori are all driven by and based in the fact they are transsexual, and the story loses its coherency and urgency when that trait is downplayed.

        As in, now why would Takatsuki and Nitori care so much that Chizuru wore the boys’ uniform?

        Why does Nitori care about her voice changing?

        Why does Takatsuki refuse to wear women’s undergarments?

        All these answers lie in the fact that Nitori as a girl wants the freedom to express herself honestly like Chizuru, and since she is a girl she is terrified of developing a male voice because she would be further distorted from the body and gender she belongs too, with a male voice no one will believe her.

        Takatsuki wants to dress in the boys’ uniform and fears retaliation, it’s cool Chizuru wears it because he’s too terrified of backlash to do it himself. He doesn’t want a bra because he doesn’t want to have to acknowledge, or promote the way his body is developing because all of it is driving him further away from having a male body and being respected as a man by others.

        Now I will not ask you to change the way you present the series since it DOES make it more accessible, but I did want to at least have you consider the emotional gravity that is lost in the omission of the central plot.

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