Wandering Son, Vol. 4

By Shimura Takako. Released in Japan by Enterbrain, serialization ongoing in the magazine Comic Beam. Released in North America by Fantagraphics.

In my last review, I noted that all the characters were just starting to reach that age where love would come into the picture, and wondered what would happen when it arrived. Well, that moment is here, and the answer is simple: a trainwreck of feelings and emotions. There’s actually not as much regarding Nitori and Takatsuki’s gender identity disorder here, but there doesn’t need to be. Takako-san has set up all the characters’ wants and needs in the first three volumes, and now can send them careening everywhere confident that we’ll follow along.

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This is not to say that everyone is embracing these new-found feelings. Nitori and Anna’s feelings for each other, for example, almost read like they’re out of Bob’s Big Book Of Manga Cliches. Anna is clearly attracted to Nitori, but is still a bit weirded out by Notori’s gender issues, so this tends to come out as abuse. Honestly, I wasn’t expecting Anna to be as utterly tsundere as she is here, given this is a very realistic, subtle work. And Nitori is also attracted to Anna, but she’s sending all the wrong signals, so he just ends up frustrated. And then there’s Takatsuki to consider…

Sometimes friends fall out, particularly in the elementary school/middle school years. The tragedy of what happens with Saori is that she can see it – hell, she excoriates herself for it, quoting from Anne of Green Gables again – but still can’t help what her heart feels, and this causes her to lash out at Takatsuki. Meanwhile, Takatsuki’s relationship with Nitori is all over the school – there’s a rumor they were seen kissing, and it won’t quite die down. It’s getting to the point where Nitori and Takatsuki are starting to dream of each other… erotic dreams. Takako-san’s subtleties excel here, as you clearly know that we’re seeing wet dreams without there being anything racy or suggestive.

In the end, almost everyone ends up unhappy or unfulfilled here, which is not a surprise given the age of the protagonists. Saori seems to have shut down (the unwanted attention she’s getting from a male friend at church isn’t helping), and the others are simply trying to keep it together. The other friend in their little group, Sasa, barely appears, but it’s noted a couple of times they want to try to stay on an even keel for her – she seems to be the heart of the group. There is, however, one romance that does work out, and fittingly, it’s for a slightly older couple. Maho is finally able to get over her own shyness and panic, and she and Seya become a couple. (His own feelings for Nitori-as-a-girl are still an issue, of course.)

So another solid volume that really makes me love these characters even more. My favorite part of the entire book was probably a chapter where Nitori, frustrated by his sister, Anna, and everything going on at school, decides to run away. Not being able to afford to go anywhere, though, as the day progresses Nitori just ends up at a zoo. In the end, the day passes and on Nitori’s return, no one realizes he’s even been gone. Nitori’s imagination and emotions are further along than his maturity level, and it’s causing him great pain. Will middle school help to guide him? Can’t wait to find out.

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Comments

  1. Don’t know if this gets into spoiler teratory or not but at four volumes in has anyone in the cast of Wndering Son takein either Nitori and Takatsuki aside and explain that ehre only 13 or 14 (I havent read it so they may be older now) and told them amybe there a little too young to make such a life changeing choice?

    • Sean Gaffney says:

      Just as an FYI, many trans people are aware that they are trans by ages as young as 3 or 4.

      You might find useful reading here if you’re interested in greater detail on the subject: http://www.transyouthequality.org/index.html

    • Uh, they’re not exactly taking hormones or signed up for surgery at this point, so I don’t think there is much need for your concern. Besides, many trans children begin living as their identified gender earlier on than the age our Wandering Son characters are at. There’s no solid evidence that doing so is unhealthy in the long-run.

      Also, the Nitori runs away chapter was my favorite too, though it made me a little sad when he came back and no one had realized he was gone. Oh, the trials and tribulations of being a quiet kid.


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