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Wandering Son (放浪息子 Hōrō Musuko?) is a Japanese manga series written and illustrated by Takako Shimura. It began serialization in the December 2002 issue of the monthly seinen manga magazine Comic Beam. The first bound volume was released by Enterbrain in July 2003 in Japan; as of March 2010, ten volumes have been released. Wandering Son was selected as a recommended work by the awards jury of the tenth Japan Media Arts Festival in 2006.[1] The series is licensed in English by Fantagraphics Books, which is scheduled to release the first volume in North America in December 2010. An anime adaptation was announced.[2]

It was produced and was 12 episodes long. 10+11 were merged and it was shortened to 11 for TV airing.

The story depicts a young boy named Shūichi Nitori who wants to be a girl, and his friend Yoshino Takatsuki, a girl who wants to be a boy. The series deals with issues such as transsexuality, gender identity, and the beginning of puberty. Shimura was originally going to write the story about a girl in high school who wants to be a boy, but she realized that a boy who wants to become a girl before entering into puberty would have a lot of worries related to growing up, and changed the story to fit this model.[3]

Plot

At the start of Wandering Son, a young, effeminate boy in the fifth grade named Shūichi Nitori transfers into a new school where he quickly becomes friends with a tall, handsome girl in his class named Yoshino Takatsuki. Yoshino soon learns of Shūichi's desire to be a girl and tells him that she wants to be a boy. Shūichi also becomes friends with two other girls in his class, Saori Chiba and Kanako Sasa. Saori instantly takes a liking to Shūichi and continuously encourages him to cross-dress.

When Shūichi and his friends enter sixth grade, Yoshino cuts her hair to a short boyish style. Shūichi meets a boy his age from another class named Makoto Ariga who also secretly wants to be a girl. Shūichi and Yoshino meet a young transsexual woman named Yuki living with a man named Shiina. Shūichi and Yoshino become friends with Yuki and Shiina and continue meeting with them. Maho, Shūichi's elder sister by one year, becomes a model at a modeling agency where she eventually becomes friends with Maico, a teen model whom she idolizes, and two other teen models named Tamaki Satō and Anna Suehiro. Maho starts going out with a boy she likes, Riku Seya, and Shūichi confesses to Yoshino he likes her, but she cannot reciprocate his feelings. When Saori learns of this, she confesses she likes Shūichi, but he too cannot return her feelings. This results in a falling-out between Shūichi's friends as they prepare to enter junior high school.

In junior high school, they meet a tall, eccentric girl named Chizuru Sarashina, who befriends everyone, and her prickly friend Momoko Shirai, who does not get along well with the others—especially Saori. Eventually, Saori and Yoshino rejoin Shūichi's group of friends, though Saori says she still hates Yoshino and Momoko. Shūichi and Anna start dating, much to the surprise of his friends and sister. Yoshino and Saori finally manage to halfway repair their friendship, though Saori is still standoffish to others.

When Shūichi and his friends enter their second year in junior high school, they are split up into several classes. Shūichi becomes friends with Shinpei Doi, who previously teased him about wanting to be a girl. After a comment by Saori, Yoshino starts growing her hair long again, and attends school in a boy's uniform for a short time. Shūichi tries to go to school dressed as a girl one day, but he is laughed at, which greatly discourages him. Shūichi's friends worry as he begins skipping school, but he eventually starts attending school regularly again, though by this point Anna breaks up with him. Shūichi grows his hair out, while Yoshino in turn cuts hers again. Doi convinces Shūichi to begin attending class regularly again. By the time Shūichi and his friends enter their third year in junior high school, Shūichi's voice is changing and he gets his hair cut very short.

Characters

File:Hōrō Musuko characters.jpg

Protagonists

Shūichi Nitori (二鳥 修一 Nitori Shūichi?)
Shūichi, one of the two protagonists, is a young, effeminate boy who at the beginning of Wandering Son is in the fifth grade of elementary school.[4] Otherwise known by his nicknames Shū (シュウ?) and Nitorin (にとりん?), he is a boy who wants to become a girl and often cross-dresses to assume the role of the opposite sex. Shūichi is described as cute by many of the other characters, and is able to appear as a girl when cross-dressing due to his feminine-looking face and physical build. Shūichi enjoys wearing clothes which make him look cute, and while initially not in the habit of cross-dressing, his friends Yoshino Takatsuki and Saori Chiba encourage him to dress and act femininely.[5] As Shūichi grows up, he becomes increasingly concerned about the changes his body is undergoing due to puberty such as the growing of body hair,[6] his voice becoming deeper,[7] and the onset of pimples.[8] Shūichi exhibits signs of gender identity disorder and he displays an outward attraction to two girls in the series—Yoshino[9] and Anna Suehiro, whom he dates for a time in junior high,[10] until she breaks up with him.[11]
Shūichi does not show any outward interest in other activities akin to a boy his age, such as playing any sports, and is usually seen doing indoor activities. Shūichi enjoys and is skillful in baking sweet foods,[4] though he is never shown cooking other more conventional foods. After starting an exchange diary with Yoshino, Shūichi becomes interested in writing stories,[12] and even joins the drama club as a writer with Saori in junior high school after they co-write a rendition of Romeo and Juliet performed by members of their class.[13] Shūichi has a very honest personality, which generally makes it easy for him to get along well with others. He tends to have an obedient, dutiful attitude, though as he grows up and enters puberty, he sometimes experiences outbursts of emotion[14] which contrast his usual quiet nature. Shūichi can be overly sensitive at times, and is often shown crying in front of others.[12] Due to his personality, it is easier for him to associate with girls his age, and as such he has very few male friends.

Yoshino Takatsuki (高槻 よしの Takatsuki Yoshino?)
Yoshino, the other protagonist, is a tall, masculine girl who at the beginning of Wandering Son is a fifth grader in Shūichi's class.[4] Otherwise known as Takatsuki-kun (高槻くん?) by her classmates, with an honorific used mainly with boys, she is a girl who wants to become a boy and usually refrains from dressing in traditionally feminine clothes such as skirts or dresses, in spite of her mother's insistence on buying her such clothes.[4] Shortly after meeting and becoming friends with Shūichi, Yoshino cuts her hair to a very short, boyish style, giving her the appearance of a boy her age, especially when she dresses in a male school uniform.[15] Like Shūichi, Yoshino becomes increasingly concerned and resentful about her changing body due to puberty such as when she begins menstruating[16] or when her breasts begin to grow.[17] She even goes so far as to buy a garment to flatten her chest so that she does not have to wear a bra.[18] Also like Shūichi, she shows signs indicating gender identity disorder.[8]
While Yoshino would like to dress and act like a boy all the time, she usually abstains from doing anything overt which would draw attention to herself such as going to school in a male uniform once she begins junior high. However, she does on occasion dress in a male school uniform and go to neighboring cities impersonating a boy, and during one such time enjoys the fact that she is hit on by an older woman.[15] Yoshino wants to look "cool" if she can, wearing clothes which make her look less like a girl. When teased by others, Yoshino is prone to getting emotional, and is also known to get violent on occasion.[19] Yoshino takes up an interest in basketball after entering junior high school, and joins the female basketball team with Chizuru Sarashina.[20] In junior high, Yoshino grows her hair out after a comment by Saori,[21] but later cuts it back again to a short, boyish style.[22] Her family consists of her father, mother, older brother, and older sister.

Classmates

Saori Chiba (千葉 さおり Chiba Saori?)
Saori, nicknamed Saorin (さおりん?), is a girl who is a fifth grader in Shūichi's class at the beginning of Wandering Son.[4] From early on, she takes an interest in encouraging Shūichi to cross-dress, even going so far as to buy him an expensive dress for his birthday which he later returns, much to her displeasure.[23] Saori finds it difficult to associate well with most others, and as such has very few friends, though she becomes close friends with Shūichi. She tends to tell others what is on her mind, disregarding how others may take what she says. As Saori grows up, she gradually becomes more standoffish and stoic; she even has bad relations with her teachers.[24] Despite her self-centered attitude, she remains popular among the boys in her classes because of her physical attractiveness. She is a sensitive girl whose temper sometimes gets the better of her when reprimanding bullies that tease Shūichi because of his femininity and cross-dressing.[25][26] As she has feelings for him, Saori is often emotionally affected by circumstances involving Shūichi. Due in part to this influence, Saori converts to Christianity to seek forgiveness for her previous actions,[16] though she only attends mass when feeling guilty of her behavior.

Kanako Sasa (佐々 かなこ Sasa Kanako?)
Kanako Sasa, usually referred to by her surname, is a girl who is a fifth grader in Shūichi's class at the beginning of Wandering Son.[4] Her nickname is Sasa-chan, but she is also called Kanabun (カナブン?, lit. drone beetle) by her younger brother and Chizuru. While she makes her first appearance in chapter two of the manga, she is not given a name until volume two. She is a short, energetic girl who likes to think of herself as everyone's friend, and easily becomes distressed when her friends fight amongst themselves.[27] In such times, Sasa acts as a mediator between her friends, and tries not to leave anyone alone.[20][28] She has been friends with Yoshino since pre-school,[29] and later becomes close friends with Chizuru upon entering junior high school. Sasa comes off as an innocent, childish girl who does not have many worries aside from her friends' quarrels. She tends to be a handful for her mother who picks out her clothes for her, and even helps her get ready for school in the morning.[30] She mentions that if she thinks too hard about something, her brain becomes itchy.[31]

Makoto Ariga (有賀 誠 Ariga Makoto?)
Makoto is a boy who makes his first appearance when he and Shūichi are in sixth grade, though they are in different classes.[27] Known as Mako-chan, though mostly only to Shūichi, he too wishes to be a girl and shares Shūichi's interest in cross-dressing;[27] it is this that spurs Makoto to become Shūichi's only close male friend. Makoto realizes that due to his facial freckles and round glasses, he is not able to appear as cute as Shūichi when assuming the appearance of the opposite sex.[32] Makoto wonders if his primary reason for wanting to be a girl is due to an attraction to men, something Shūichi cannot relate to; he is a romantic boy who would like to be in a relationship with a cool, adult man.[20] Makoto comes off as being mature for his age, and is able to think calmly and objectively while providing advice for his friends.[30] He is a good listener, allowing him to get along well with both boys and girls his age, which often leads to him being an onlooker to what is going on in other characters' lives. He is an only child and his parents run a bakery.[30]

Chizuru Sarashina (更科 千鶴 Sarashina Chizuru?)
Chizuru, nicknamed Chii-chan, is a tall girl who first appears as a classmate of Shūichi when they both enter junior high school.[33] She is Momoko's childhood friend, and has a stylish demeanor, highlighted by her stature and long hair, which captivates both Shūichi and Yoshino when they first meet her.[33] Chizuru is described as a free spirit, someone who enjoys doing unconventional, often outrageous things which surprise those around her; she frequently acts without thinking, and as a result projects a childish personality.[7][34] Her impulsive behavior sometimes gets her in trouble with other characters, but she quickly becomes ashamed when she realizes the consequences.[13][35] She tries to be everyone's friend, though Saori strongly dislikes her impulsiveness.[36] Chizuru joins the girl's basketball team in junior high. Her family runs a soba restaurant.[33]

Momoko Shirai (白井 桃子 Shirai Momoko?)
Momoko is a childhood friend and classmate in junior high school of Chizuru;[33] she is nicknamed Momo. She constantly hangs around Chizuru and is visibly annoyed when Chizuru socializes with others, or even if someone simply sits too close to her.[32] Momoko inevitably starts fighting Saori, who does not particularly respect Chizuru, when they talk.[37]

Others

Maho Nitori (二鳥 真穂 Nitori Maho?)
Maho is Shūichi's sister. She is one year older than him, and at the beginning of Wandering Son, she is in the sixth grade of elementary school.[4] Maho shows a strong interest in clothes, and spends much of her money on new apparel. She is a big fan of a teen fashion model named Maico, and to meet her, Maho auditions for the same modeling agency as Maico.[38] After she is hired and becomes recognized as a model, Maho enjoys being asked her autograph by complete strangers.[39] While her modeling career initially starts out slowly, Maho soon gains confidence in her abilities, and becomes friends with Maico and two other models, Anna Suehiro and Tamaki Satō.[14] In contrast to her younger brother, Maho is very out-spoken and tends to be rough with Shūichi, even hitting or slapping him on occasion,[27][40] and she often forces things on Shūichi with little consideration of his opinion.[27] She does not like Shūichi's cross-dressing and gets angry and disturbed when she finds Shūichi dressed as a girl.[20][40] In junior high school, Maho becomes attracted to her classmate Riku Seya, and eventually starts dating him.[28]

Riku Seya (瀬谷 理久 Seya Riku?)
Riku Seya, usually referred to by his surname, is a classmate of Maho's who meets her when they enter junior high school. He is generally a soft-spoken boy who initially takes an interest in Shūichi, whom he believes to be a girl, when they first meet.[41] When he learns that Shūichi is a boy, Seya becomes angry at Maho for hiding this and stringing him along,[42] but he soon reconciles with her and eventually starts dating her.[28]

Anna Suehiro (末広 安那 Suehiro Anna?)
Anna is a teen model who is a good friend of Maico and goes to the same school as her;[43] she is similarly well-known and experienced in modeling.[42] She is considered outspoken and sharp-tongued by other models. Anna at first disapproves of Shūichi dressing as a girl, and even calls him a freak soon after meeting him.[42] Anna initially tells Maho she has no interest in her "weak" brother because of his femininity,[44] though later dates Shūichi for a time after he asks her out,[10] until she breaks up with him.[11] Furthermore, Anna's opinion of Shūichi's cross-dressing also changes, she saying that it actually suits him,[45] and the two even go out together on a date with Shūichi dressed as a girl.[46] She feels Shūichi is an interesting person, and once says he is like a cute little sister.[47] Anna spends a lot of money on clothes, and enjoys modifying them.[46]

Hiroyuki Yoshida (吉田 紘之 Yoshida Hiroyuki?) / Yuki (ユキ?)
Hiroyuki, usually referred to as Yuki, is a tall and attractive transsexual woman living with her boyfriend Shiina.[29] Yuki takes an early interest in Yoshino when she believes her to be a boy, though remains on good terms with her even after learning of her assigned sex,[48] and gives Shūichi and Yoshino helpful advice when they are troubled. Despite the differences between their situations, Yuki sees a lot of herself in Shūichi: when they were growing up, Shiina was the only friend who stood by the young Hiroyuki, as he was called then, while girls teased him and the boys bullied him to change. Yuki always keeps up a positive attitude, and runs a gay bar.[49] Since her transition, she has not been on good terms with her parents, who run a uniform store.[48]
Yuki is the main character of Takako Shimura's short story "Hana" (?), in the collection Boku wa, Onna no Ko (ぼくは、おんなのこ?), in which her family—which consists of her father, mother, brother, and sister-in-law—also appears; Yuki is revealed to be a fan of Keiji Sata, a Shōwa period actor.[50]

Shiina (椎名?)
Shiina, given name unknown, otherwise referred to by his nickname Shii (しー?), is another adult friend of Shūichi and Yoshino.[51] He was Yuki's classmate in elementary school, and he eventually became her boyfriend after her transition.[51] Unlike Yuki, Shiina had many friends in school.[52] He generally just watches over Shūichi and Yoshino with Yuki, but he sometimes does bold and unexpected things, such as grabbing Yoshino's crotch when he first meets her because he feared that, because Yoshino was dressed as a boy at the time, Yuki might be having an illicit affair with her.[53]

Fumiya Ninomiya (二宮 文弥 Ninomiya Fumiya?)
Fumiya is a talkative boy one year older than Saori[44] whom she meets when she starts going to church.[16] Saori is easily annoyed by him, especially when he brings her flowers from his parents' flower shop.[40][54] He takes an early interest in Saori and tries to become her boyfriend. After meeting Shūichi, Fumiya becomes jealous of Saori's interest in him, and finds Shūichi's cross-dressing gross.[35] While initially lying to Saori and Shūichi about having an interest in cross-dressing,[55] he is later seen dressed as a girl while out with Shūichi,[11] and again at the cultural festival at Shūichi's school.[56] Fumiya enjoys the added attention that comes from cross-dressing and admits that he likes being called cute.[11]

Production

The manga Wandering Son is written and illustrated by Takako Shimura.[57] It has been serialized in the monthly seinen (aimed at younger adult men) manga magazine Comic Beam since the December 2002 issue, with publication ongoing.[58] As such, Wandering Son is one of the longest works to be serialized in Comic Beam.[59] Serial chapters have been collected by Enterbrain in tankōbon volumes under the Beam Comix imprint starting on July 25, 2003;[57] as of March 2010, ten volumes have been released.[60] Wandering Son was one of several manga titles included with the launch in December 2009 of the manga distribution service of the PlayStation Store for the Japanese PlayStation Portable handheld game console.[61] The series is licensed in English by Fantagraphics Books, which is scheduled to release the first volume in North America on December 22, 2010 in hardcover format.[62][63] Gary Groth of Fantagraphics Books said in an interview he licensed Wandering Son because "it's not a typical choice for a manga title published in the U.S. and it's not typical subject matter for comics in general,"[64] saying that the subject is "perfectly legitimate ... for literature—or comics."[64] The series is also licensed by Ever Glory Publishing in Taiwan[65] and by Haksan Culture Company in Korea.[66]

In an interview in August 2003, Shimura stated that the theme of Wandering Son is similar to the second half of her previous manga series Shikii no Jūnin.[3] Shimura took the junior high school teacher Kentarō Kaneda from Shikii no Jūnin and inserted him into Wandering Son, where he teaches at Shūichi's junior high school, because she really liked his character.[67] Shimura originally planned to use a female high school student who wants to become a boy as the main character. However, she realized that a boy who wants to become a girl before entering into puberty would have many worries related to growing up, and changed the story accordingly. Shimura used her realization that the boy would go through significant changes as he grew up to deepen the development of the story and characters.[3] The Japanese title, Hōrō Musuko, is a pun on hōtō musuko (放蕩息子?), meaning "son lacking moral restraint".[68]

Shimura mainly found her characters' names by looking through name dictionaries, although she also took the names of acquaintances and slightly changed them, and even used train station names for side characters appearing only once.[68] Out of all the characters, Shimura is most pleased with Kanako Sasa. For the designs of clothes for the female characters, Shimura consulted various fashion magazines for girls in their early teens, especially Nicola.[68] Shimura commented self-deprecatingly in the afterword of volume one that, like her other series, her characters do not look very different from each other, her panels are too white, and there is much pathos.[69]

Reception

Wandering Son was selected as a recommended work by the awards jury of the tenth Japan Media Arts Festival in 2006.[1]

The second volume of Wandering Son was featured in Anime News Network's Right Turn Only column in March 2007 as the Import of the Month, where Carlo Santos lauded the series for using gender reversal as the "actual heart of the story" in contrast to "every other series" involving cross-dressing, which use "gender reversal as a goofy plot device."[70] The art was praised as "simple [with] few lines, but incredibly expressive" which Santos claimed is a "style that's the most difficult and beautiful of all." Santos criticized the "emotional realism" of the work for having the young characters' "unrealistically mature attitude" towards "issues above their grade level."[70] Matt Thorn, the English translator of the manga, wrote that fans of Anne of Green Gables or The Rose of Versailles would also enjoy Wandering Son.[71] Thorn described the art as "clean and lovely" and went on to cite Wandering Son as "sweet, thought-provoking, funny, and moving, and I think it will resonate with readers regardless of their gender identity or sexual orientation."[72]

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 "Tenth Japan Media Arts Festival manga recommendations". Japan Media Arts Plaza, Agency for Cultural Affairs. Retrieved April 6, 2009. 
  2. "Takako Shimura's Wandering Son Manga Gets Anime". Anime News Network. March 11, 2010. Retrieved March 11, 2010. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Script error
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 4.5 4.6 Script error
  5. Script error
  6. Script error
  7. 7.0 7.1 Script error
  8. 8.0 8.1 Script error
  9. Script error
  10. 10.0 10.1 Shimura, Takako (2007). "Chapter 53". Wandering Son 7. Enterbrain. ISBN 978-4-7577-3928-4. 
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 11.3 Shimura, Takako (2010). "Chapter 74". Wandering Son 10. Enterbrain. ISBN 978-4-0472-6412-0. 
  12. 12.0 12.1 Script error
  13. 13.0 13.1 Script error
  14. 14.0 14.1 Script error
  15. 15.0 15.1 Script error
  16. 16.0 16.1 16.2 Script error
  17. Script error
  18. Script error
  19. Script error
  20. 20.0 20.1 20.2 20.3 Script error
  21. Script error
  22. Shimura, Takako (2010). "Chapter 75". Wandering Son 10. Enterbrain. ISBN 978-4-0472-6412-0. 
  23. Script error
  24. Script error
  25. Script error
  26. Script error
  27. 27.0 27.1 27.2 27.3 27.4 Script error
  28. 28.0 28.1 28.2 Script error
  29. 29.0 29.1 Script error
  30. 30.0 30.1 30.2 Script error
  31. Script error
  32. 32.0 32.1 Script error
  33. 33.0 33.1 33.2 33.3 Script error
  34. Script error
  35. 35.0 35.1 Script error
  36. Script error
  37. Script error
  38. Script error
  39. Script error
  40. 40.0 40.1 40.2 Script error
  41. Script error
  42. 42.0 42.1 42.2 Script error
  43. Shimura, Takako (2009). "Chapter 71". Wandering Son 9. Enterbrain. ISBN 978-4-7577-4995-5. 
  44. 44.0 44.1 Script error
  45. Script error
  46. 46.0 46.1 Script error
  47. Script error
  48. 48.0 48.1 Script error
  49. Script error
  50. Script error
  51. 51.0 51.1 Script error
  52. Shimura, Takako (2009). "Chapter 73". Wandering Son 9. Enterbrain. ISBN 978-4-7577-4995-5. 
  53. Script error
  54. Script error
  55. Script error
  56. Shimura, Takako (2010). "Chapter 81". Wandering Son 10. Enterbrain. ISBN 978-4-0472-6412-0. 
  57. 57.0 57.1 Script error
  58. Script error
  59. Script error
  60. Script error
  61. "Japan's Sony PSP Manga Distribution Service Detailed". Anime News Network. September 24, 2009. Retrieved November 29, 2009. 
  62. "Wandering Son by Aoi Hana's Shimura Listed in Amazon". Anime News Network. March 6, 2010. Retrieved March 6, 2010. 
  63. Cohen, Jacq (March 8, 2010). "Here Comes the Son - Fantagraphics Starts a Manga Line". Fantagraphics Books. Retrieved March 11, 2010. 
  64. 64.0 64.1 Aoki, Deb (March 11, 2010). "Gary Groth Talks: Fantagraphics' New Manga, Moto Hagio at Comic-Con". About.com. Retrieved March 12, 2010. 
  65. Script error
  66. Script error
  67. Shimura, Takako (2008). "Afterword". Wandering Son 8. Enterbrain. ISBN 978-4-7577-4499-8. 
  68. 68.0 68.1 68.2 Script error
  69. Script error
  70. 70.0 70.1 Santos, Carlo (March 6, 2007). "Right Turn Only!! Kingdoms' Heart". Anime News Network. Retrieved November 29, 2009. 
  71. Thorn, Matt (March 9, 2010). "Moto Hagio collection, Takako Shimura's "Wandering Son"". Retrieved March 11, 2010. 
  72. Mautner, Chris (March 23, 2010). "A short interview with Matt Thorn". Comic Book Resources. Retrieved June 18, 2010. 

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