Wandering Son, Vol. 8

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

It’s always interesting to see which expectations this series plays into and which ones it subverts. Nitori and Anna are still dating throughout this volume, and it’s really, really cute. I adore them as a couple. And when Nitori confesses about wanting to wear girl’s clothing, Anna is not only seemingly fine with it but by the end of the volume is getting them matching accessories. But the question is, is this where the series is actually going to go? Because I think a lot of folks are expecting that Nitori and Takatsuki will end up together, because they’re the leads, and because that’s the sort of things that happen in romance titles like this. Except Wandering Son isn’t really a romance title.


Speaking of Takatsuki, after last volume’s explosions with Chiba, it’s interesting to see that they’ve patched things up to a degree, though this does lead to the most awkward foursome ever when they come across Nitori and Anna on a date and everyone ends up at a karaoke booth. Takatsuki is trying to fittle victories this time around. Sarashina is the sort who can wear a boys’ uniform to school and not fear consequences. Takatsuki has to make do with things like wearing a tie rather than the school ribbon. And then there’s the hair, which is starting to grow out and “become more feminine”. Takatsuki’s gender identity has always felt more ambiguous and conflicted than Nitori’s, and that’s evident here, as we’re dealing with a child who’s still trying to decide between two states.

I was surprised to see the addition of Doi, who seems to be starting to move on from his ‘bully’ stage, but it was a nice moment, as it led to a) some very funny business for when he actually meets Yuki, and b) the revelation to him that yes, trans people an be incredibly attractive and are not the stereotypical drag queens with stubble that Japanese entertainment enjoys showing them as (see One Piece as an example of this). Doi and Nitori’s scenes together are filled with awkwardness, but it’s also his desire to see Nitori dressed as a girl, compounded on top of Nitori’s budding relationship with Anna and some well-meant advice from Sarashina, that leads to the cliffhanger ending of this volume.

Last time I wrote a review of this title, I talked about how it was harder for Takatsuki to do this, and now we’re seeing the inverse of that. Takatsuki can, in a pinch, get away with dressing in a boy’s uniform at school and get off with nothing more than mild scoldings. When Nitori goes to school dressed in a girl’s uniform, there’s immediate punishment – Nitori’s parents are called. We don’t see what happens next – we’ll have to wait for the as-yet unscheduled Vol. 9 for that – but I can’t imagine it’s going to be anything good. The first 3/4 of this volume were perhaps the lightest this series has gotten. The next one is, I suspect, going to be deeply unpleasant and yet utterly fascinating. Still highly recommended.

Wandering Son, Vol. 7

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

Childhood and growing up is all about making big mistakes and then trying to deal with them, or make up for them, or (most often) realize that you can’t really make up for some things. This volume of Wandering Son definitely feels like that’s what’s happening with Takatsuki, who lets a secret blurt out in an impetuous moment and then has to deal with the fallout. Meanwhile, Nitori seems to have moved on from Takatsuki himself, as he’s started to date – and no big surprise who it is. This may be a heartwarming cutting edge coming of age manga, but if a girl says she hates a guy in Book 4, she’s going to be dating him in Book 7.


We’ve focused mainly on Nitori and his desires, but Takatsuki is the other half of this story, and her gender issues have not gone away. It’s harder for her to accomplish what she wants, though. There are little victories, such as leaving her ribbon off at school or binding her chest to hide her growing breasts. But there’s also Chiba, who proclaims her dislike of Takatsuki but can’t stop dealing with her. Takatsuki is not helping things either. Her revelation that Nitori is dating Anna is pure spite, and she knows how Chiba feels, so should not be surprised at the devastation that follows. It ends up forcing the two of them to deal with each other more directly, though. I wonder if Takatsuki will follow Chiba’s suggestion towards the end of the volume.

Meanwhile, as noted, Nitori and Anna have started going out. They’re very cute together, though Nitori’s gender issues have not yet really come between them, and it’s critical to note that he goes out with her and confesses to her as a male. He’s really come a long way, though, and I feel happy for him. All is not sunshine and rainbows, of course; puberty brings its own problems, in this case acne, and the fact that some cleansers simply work differently for different types of faces. And there’s Seya, forced together with Nitori on a skiing trip, who’s still having issues with how cute Nitori is and dealing with the reaction to that.

And I keep coming back to Chiba. She actually stays home for a considerable period after the Anna revelation, and is considering dropping out entirely. All of Nitori and Takatsuki’s friends seem to grate on her these days, and I am reminded what a difficult thing it is to get everyone in a young peer group to get along, or even communicate with each other properly. Things are looking up as she goes with the class on the ski trip, but even there she can’t really stop trying to influence people to change the way she wants them to change, something I think she has regretted before and will regret again. She’s a giant mess, and still my favorite character in the series.

Wandering Son is a nostalgic look back at what it was like to go through childhood, and if that sounds painful and discomfiting, it’s probably meant to be. But there’s a lot of warmth and affection here as well, and we long to see the cast struggle, make more mistakes, and continue to move forward. Highly recommended.

Wandering Son, Vol. 6

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

Wandering Son has ended in Japan at 15 volumes, so we are now sure that we’re entering the middle third of this story. And things sort of simmer along here. There are no major crises this time around, as we slowly develop some of the things that started in the prior volume. Chiba and Mitori continue to rewrite Romeo and Juliet to suit their tastes and desires, though in the end neither one really get what they want. Nitori makes a confession to Takatsuki, but finds the answer far more ambiguous than he’d really like. And remember when I said Chiba was now stoic rather than emotional? Yeah, nevermind.


Chiba continues to be the character that most interest me, which meant this volume was particularly suited towards me, as she stomps through it like Godzilla (Ariga even notes at one point that she walks angrily), taking offense at everything and particularly the fact that people’s feelings may not match up with her own. She gets a boy who likes her here, but the feeling does not seem to be mutual, and she’s more determined than ever to get closer to Nitori, even as he tries to get closer to Takatsuki. Both succeed about the same amount, which is to say not at all.

Speaking of Takatsuki, she’s still going through her own issues. The bra thing is really bothering her, and someone talking about wearing a chest wrapping may provide a solution. In the meantime, though, she clearly cherishes her relationship with Nitori, but gets uncomfortable when it’s made explicit that he likes her, something that I suspect will bounce back on her in a bad way in the future. They are really cute, though, going on picnics together and dates where they can each dress as they want to. It’s very cute, and very safe. Nitori is getting bolder as well, trying on his sister’s bra and panties despite his feelings of guilt – it reads as uncomfortably as it sounds, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

As for the rest of the cast, Ariga gets the most development here, as he ends up being cast as Juliet opposite Chiba’s Romeo. He seems to be the one who understands her the most, and tries occasionally to calm her raging emotions, though his success rate is low. It’s not helped by his own poor self-image, which drives Chiba nuts as she demands he have more confidence in himself. We only see bits and pieces of the play, but it’s good to see that after a bad start, he grows more confident in the role as he goes along.

Other things to note: I liked Sasa being asked about love, and noting that she hasn’t really loved anyone like that, both because I felt it realistic and also because it does sort of close her out of her immediate peer group, all of whom are dealing with crushes of one sort or another (I loved her reaction to Ariga noting he’d felt this way “a few times”). Sarashina hasn’t really advanced much beyond ‘being loud’ and ‘saying the wrong thing at the wrong time’, but I’m sure we’ll get more in the coming volumes. She does get the best gag, though, as Maho’s fellow models wear semi-obvious disguises and go to her culture festival, and Sarashina notes Anna is “the mean one”, to Maiko’s amusement.

Wandering Son continues to be a heartwarming series that is not afraid to focus on the awkward moments of teenage life and put them under a microscope. If you aren’t reading this series, you’re really missing out.