Wandering Son: Volume 2 by Shimura Takako

9/10 Another beautiful offering of emotional upheaval at school.

Taking the story further from the first novel in this series, Shuichi and Yoshino embark on a school trip that sees Shuichi being bullied while he has to try and come to terms with being an inner transgendered person. He isn't on his own in this feeling though as he has Yoshino to comfort him and the help of another friend they have met along the way; Yuki, who we discover is also like Shuichi, transgendered and male. Shuichi's coming to terms with his own feelings can be harsh as not all people see him for who he really is - they expect him to act like a man when all he wants is to be himself.

Shimura Takako takes the reader through all the problems associated with growing up, plus a few new ones for the two protagonists in this manga. They deliberate over their middle school years, and going through hell due to the hormonal changes in the body. The artist gives a clear indication that the characters won't be having a great time of growing up as they will only suffer growing pains and finding that they do not fit into the gender stereotypes common in adolescence. It's what other classmates think of them that makes them worry over what they believe as the norm for everyone, but not all children have the same issues as others as we find out during the course of the manga.

Shuichi is a powerful character in this series as he feels he is a woman trapped in a man's body, and does not enjoy going through the process of adolescence, growing taller, gaining body hair and the deepening of his voice. He is at first embarrassed about his cross dressing, but when his friends at school encourage him to express himself, he finds he isn't a freak, but someone who is different from the rest of the school kids there. He isn't interested in contact sports at school, but likes to cook sweet things, so he invites the mocking of his peers, and has to ignore the jibes he gets for being different.

Yoshino is the opposite of Shuichi, she is a girl who wants to be a boy, and acts in a masculine way dressing as such and getting a lot of unwelcome attention from the boys and girls at her school. She is similar to Shuichi as she loathes going through the onset of puberty, hating her body for betraying her wishes. She has to cope with menstruation, and her body forming feminine curves; she even buys an outfit that hides her now growing breasts, not wanting to go through the embarrassment of getting fitted for a bra.

This story moves at a much slower pace than the other one, but it does speed up closer to the end. The two protagonists still want to lead their lives as they want to, cross dressing. Yuki helps them along with their habits, and involves them finding out her true identity through another person. Yuki was a character from the previous volume, yet it will be hard for anyone to have remembered her as she was not featured that much. Though most of the volume shows how they develop their friendship with Yuki, the rest is much better as Shuichi is broken from his friends on the class trip where he is sat next to a bully who will stop at nothing to make his general life a misery while on the trip. Calling him names like "faggot" and making him feel worse about himself, even though others stand up to him and question his behaviour to a fellow pupil, the threats and taunting continue much to his annoyance.

Shimura gives us yet another beautiful offering of emotional upheaval at school that we can take in on an emotional level, but I don't think such a book can really be enjoyed as it contains such sensitive issues many may find alarming.

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