Wandering Son, Volume 8

Wandering Son, Volume 8Creator: Takako Shimura
U.S. publisher: Fantagraphics Books
ISBN: 9781606998311
Released: May 2015
Original release: 2008

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.

Wandering Son, Volume 8, page 101I’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.


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Comments

  1. AshLynx says:

    I am so behind on reading this (though I do keep up on collecting this, I will not have this go out of print and get screwed over later!), which is a shame as I, too, am transgender (female to male) so this manga hits home a lot closer than others.

    • Ash Brown says:

      It hits very close to home for me, too, for pretty much the same reason, so I find that I become very emotionally invested in the well-being of the series’ characters. Wandering Son can sometimes be painful to read because of that, but I think it’s very well done. I really wish that I had had a story like it growing up.

      (Also, good call on collecting the manga now even if you’re behind in reading it!)

      • AshLynx says:

        It’s, uh, not the only series I’m behind on reading but still collect. The worst offender is Vinland Saga, which I have read like, one chapter of (but I own up to vol 5, so at least it’s not my fault sales are poor, and will buy 6 and 7 when they come out). That’s some sort of record, I’ve usually read at least a few volumes of anything that I collect, then plan to marathon read later. I’ve at least read 3 volumes of Wandering Son. Also, Higurashi, I’ve read a few random arcs, and I’ve seen the anime, so I somehow have it all but have barely read any of it. I’ve read maybe 7 volumes of Kamisama Kiss too. And I’ve only read 4 volumes of Ooku and 3 of What Did You Eat Yesterday, although I’ll buy anything with Yoshinaga’s name on it. And all those poor Osamu Tezuka manga! Captain Ken and Triton, and the next Kickstarters too I’m sure.
        And that’s not even starting my anime and RPG backlog… I have serious problems it would seem, but my room is amazingly awesome. And after Otakon in 6 weeks, it’ll probably be worse/more awesome.

        • Ash Brown says:

          Oh, we are totally in the same boat! My backlogs are huuuuuuge. But since manga goes out-of-print so quickly when compared to most other books, I find my impulse to buy and collect is much more difficult to reign in. Plus, when I have time, I like to marathon read, too. But yeah, I end up with a terribly awesome/awesomely terrible room as a result. XD

          • AshLynx says:

            I did just read all of Slam Dunk within 3 days, which was easy because shonen like that read easily. It was the longest series on my backlog, so it felt like I made real progress. But sometimes when I want to read, the cat wants to relax on me, purr, and treat me like her personal bed. Which is fine because I do indeed belong to her. And I simply love spending time with my cat more than anything else.
            I need to read and watch a bunch of things before Otakon though, know if I want more volumes or what. Do you go to Otakon?

            • Ash Brown says:

              I fondly remember binge reading Berserk over the course of a few days several years ago; I don’t think I’ll ever find the time to do something like that again. XD

              I’ve never been to Otakon. Right now, TCAF is my event of choice. I hope you have a great time!

  2. Keen, lovely review as usual.

    I was surprised to hear you mention that Shu has lingering feelings for Takatsuki. What makes you say that? It felt to me as if Shu is on edge around Takatuski because he’s afraid of further damaging their friendship. When he’s talking to Yuki about his feelings he seems pretty dismissive “she turned me down.”

    • Ash Brown says:

      Thank you for the kind words!

      With the blushing and downcast eyes, I didn’t read Shu’s reaction in that particular scene as dismissive at all, but simply as an honest admission of something that was a bit painful or hard to talk about. To me, Shu always looked a little sad or wistful whenever the subject of the two of them being an item would come up. And certainly, it appears as though both Shu and Takatsuki continue to have a tremendous amount of affection for each other.

      • Gotcha. I guess I had kind of read it as embarrassment, the way an adult who doesn’t really understand your feelings or situation will inappropriately mention how good you and an ex looked together. Especially with Yuki mentioning how they seemed like they’d be perfect for each other. Even meant well, it could feel like an unwanted expectation or peer pressure, causing them to doubt themselves. Err… well… Maybe that’s reading a bit too far into things. xD

        • Ash Brown says:

          Oh, I think that’s a completely valid interpretation! Shu having a dismissive attitude I just couldn’t see in this context, but I think embarrassment is definitely something that is involved. :)

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