Anime Spotlight: Wandering Son

Wandering Son is an anime series based on the manga series written and illustrated by Takako Shimura. The series was produced by AIC Classic, and aired on Japanese television from January 13-March 31, 2011. As of this writing, none of the North American anime distributors has a license for the series. However the Wandering Son anime is available for streaming on Crunchyroll.

The two main characters of Wandering Son are Shuichi Nitori and Yoshino Takatsuki. While Shuichi physically looks like a boy and Yoshio looks like a girl, they identify with the opposite gender and like to dress as the other gender. Both of these characters made this discovery back in elementary school. The series begins with these characters at the start of middle school, and the stories feature struggles with puberty, gender identity, and transsexualism.

Even though the anime starts in the middle of the story, attempts were made to include relevant flashbacks or references to events that happened during the elementary school portion of the story. I think it wouldn’t be too difficult for someone who had not previously read any of the Wandering Son manga to be able to jump into the story if they watch the anime. I can’t say that with 100% certainty, though, since I had the advantage of reading the earlier volumes of the manga that dealt with the characters in elementary school.

Like the manga, I think the anime tackled the issues of puberty, gender identity, and transsexualism in a realistic, yet sensitive, manner. It also takes a frank and relatable look at both the lives of young people and LGBT issues. I also think that the progression of the characters makes them feel genuine to the viewer; however, I think a lot of the credit for that would have to go to Takako Shimura, the mangaka who created the Wandering Son manga.

When I recently watched the entirety of the Wandering Son anime, I had only read the first eight volumes of the series, since this is all that’s currently available legally in North America. It turns out that I had already seen most of this material in what I’ve read. So for me, at least, I only got a very small handful of spoilers from watching the anime. But after seeing this anime, I wish there was a way for Fantagraphics to release the rest of the manga series in North America.

When it comes to the animation, I thought it was interesting and worked well with the story that’s being told in the series. As I watched the series, I kept thinking it looked like a watercolor painting that had come to life. I also think that the animators really captured the look and feel of the Wandering Son manga.

I really like how Wandering Son turned out, even if there isn’t truly a definitive ending. The anime was being produced while the manga was still ongoing, so this was to be expected. It’s too bad that there hasn’t been a follow-up series to finish up what was left in the manga. It’s also disappointing that none of the North American anime distributors has licensed the Wandering Son anime, because it’s a series that I would like to add to my anime home video library.

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