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.