Wandering Son: Volume 1 by Shimura Takako

Wandering Son: Volume 1 book cover
Rating 9.5/10
Readers will like how this writer deals with the issue of feeling trapped in a body they don\'t like.

Growing up isn't easy, and this is pretty much what this novel is about. Shuichi Nitori and Yoshino Takatsuki are both the best of friends and are generally happy teenagers who have reached the fifth grade at high school. Even their classmates like them, and that is strange enough, but something is hidden deep inside they do not like to discuss around others. Shuichi and Yoshino want different things out of life, and are uncomfortable with who they were born as; Shuichi is a boy who wants to be female, and Yoshino is a girl who would rather be a boy. They have kept their secret for a long time, but when a fellow classmate discovers it, they are shocked at first until Saori says that the two of them should perform in The Rose of Versailles with the other fifth graders, which of course is a play where girls play male characters and guys play female characters. When the two of them do this, they have to go quite far away, and at least no one they know other than their class will know who they are in drag.

Shimura's style is simplified and contains some humorous elements that are welcome due to the serious subject matter of the story. The pages have sequential art that takes up part of the manga, while the speech bubbles can in some cases take up half the screen. This is normal in manga as the characters have more chance of expressing themselves in a more boisterous way than their Western cousins. In some panels there is a void of space where nothing happens in it, and that leads the reader to take a pause and think about what the characters might do in a given situation. Everything that is in the pages is thought out really well and left to the imagination.

Readers will like how this writer deals with the issue of feeling trapped in a body they don't like. The two characters of Shuichi and Yoshino are shown what can happen if they understand each other and also get others to understand their nature. No one should go through life hurt and feeling as though they are wrong for wanting to live the life they always wanted to.

Matt Thorn has edited and translated this novel, and has done a great job of making the transition from Japanese to English. Being a comics scholar as well, this has been an exercise in translating a sensitive subject for all concerned. This novel has been recognized in the following ways:

2012 Eisner Award Nominee: Best U.S. Edition of International Material – Asia
One of ALA/YALSA's Top Ten Great Graphic Novels for Teens 2012
Named to the ALA GLBT Round Table's 2012 Rainbow List of recommended books for young readers
One of MTV Geek's Best Manga Series of 2011
Named "Best New Seinen/Josei: Slice of Life" on About.com Manga's 2011 Best New Manga
Named one of The Best Comics of 2011 by NPR - Monkey See

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