Manga Review: Wandering Son Volume Six

Wandering Son Volume Six 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 6
Written by: Shimura Takako
Publisher: Enterbrain
English Publisher: Fantagraphics Books
Release Date: January 18, 2014

Wandering Son tells the story of two characters: Shuichi Nitori and Yoshino Takatsuki. On the back of the first volume of the series, Fantagraphics describes Shuichi as a boy who wants to be a girl and Yoshino as 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; in my view, most of their friends viewed this more as fun and games. However, it’s obvious that it’s not just a game for both Shuichi and Yoshino. Shuichi’s older sister, Maho, knows about Shuichi dressing up as a girl, and she’s against it. Shuichi tries to hide this from Maho.

As the series progresses and sees the characters going through puberty, most of the characters are simply dealing with regular issues encountered during adolescence. However, for Shuichi, Yoshino, and their friend, Makoto Ariga, they are also dealing with their gender identities.

Back in Volume Five, Shuichi, Yoshino, and the others were getting ready for the upcoming cultural festival. Shuichi and Saori Chiba both wrote a play for their class to perform, and their teacher wants them to combine their ideas. Shuichi’s story is about Shuichi’s wish to become a girl and Yoshino to become a boy. Saori’s was a version of Romeo and Juliet with the roles reversed, which she wrote envisioning Shuichi playing the role of Juliet. Saori has a crush on Saori, but Shuichi doesn’t seem to return those feelings. It appears that Shuichi is interested in Yoshino. It turns out a boy that goes to church with Saori has feelings for her, but she obviously doesn’t return them because of her crush on Shuichi.

When it comes time to assign parts for the play, it’s decided that they’ll draw pieces of paper. Saori gets her wish when she draws the role of Romeo; however, Makoto ends up drawing the role of Juliet. Of course. Saori is unhappy about this turn of events. In fact, she ends up acting rather selfish, and ends up getting into arguments with Makoto.

While they’re preparing for the play, Yoshino learns about “breast binders,” and realizes that this would help with the whole bra conundrum that arose back in Volume Five; after being told that one was needed, Yoshino collapsed on the gym floor out of shock. I can imagine that the idea of “breast binders” was a much welcomed solution for Yoshino.

While Shuichi and Yoshino are out on a shopping trip, they see a bra on a mannequin, and Shuichi seems interested in it. Later, Shuichi finds a match bra and panty set of Maho’s and tries it on. Shuichi washes them and returns them, hoping that Maho doesn’t notice. Unfortunately, Maho realizes what happened and she throws them away because she feels they’re tainted.

Volume Six ends with the class’ performance of Romeo and Juliet.

I’m impressed after reading each volume of Wandering Son. I appreciate how Takako handles the subjects of gender identity, adolescence, and teenage drama with a lot of sensitivity to the subject matter. The story is also written in such a way where these elements are incorporated, but the reader doesn’t feel like they’re being “hit over the head” with these topics. The story being told is also enjoyable. The characters are also endearing, and they make the reader want to care about them and continue to follow their story.

Wandering Son has been included on the American Library Association’s Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Round Table Rainbow list for three years in a row, and it was the first manga to ever be included on the list. In addition, the series was selected the American Library Association’s Young Adult Library Services Association division as one of the top 10 graphic novels for teens in 2012. By reading as much of Wandering Son as I have, I can see why the series has been included on both of these lists.

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

Additional posts about Wandering Son:

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