Wandering Son (vol. 2) by Shimura Takako, translated by Matt Thorn
The ongoing gender-bender adventures of Nitori Shuichi – a boy who wants to be a girl – and his best friend Takatsuki Yoshino – a girl who wants to be a boy – open with the beginning of the 6th-grade school year. What commenced as mostly cross-dressing fun in volume 1 develops into deeper self-awareness as the maturing children become more daring in the assertion of their burgeoning identities.
Out together one day – with Shuichi dressed in a sailor dress and wig, and Yoshino in a dark schoolboy uniform – the adorable pair meet a gorgeous, out-going, engaging woman, Yuki-san … who also happens to be transgendered. Initially unaware of their true identities, Yuki befriends Shuichi and Yoshino and invites the surprised pair into her home and into her life. Her boyfriend quickly figures out the young friends’ secret … but he’s got a few secrets of his own to reveal!
Meanwhile at school and at home, Shuichi’s got love troubles he never, ever expected when his older sister Maho’s classmate rings the doorbell. Maho all too soon figures out her brother’s sisterly qualities … but is quickly subsumed with her entry in a modeling contest.
Shuichi and Yoshino’s decision to keep an “exchange diary” in which they share their most innermost thoughts and experiences with only each other at first alienates their two close friends Chiba and Sasa-chan, although thankfully not for long. When the 6th grade goes on an overnight class trip, and a classmate calls Shuichi a horribly derogatory name (I can’t even bear to type it here), it’s Chiba who immediately and very dramatically comes to his defense.
As volume 2 closes, the idyllic childhood Shuichi and Yoshino have shared thus far, surrounded by exceptionally supportive family and friends, is showing signs of being breached by thoughtless outsiders. Volume 3, scheduled for a late May 2012 release (hurry, hurry!), will undoubtedly take a more serious tone. In the insightful, not-to-be-skipped final essay, “Transgendered in Japan,” translator (and manga scholar) Matt Thorn writes, “Shuichi and Yoshino are coming of age, not in an idealized fantasy world, but in a contemporary Japan that poses unique challenges to children such as these.” Indeed, to quote a popular film, ‘reality bites,’ but in creator Shimura Takako’s sensitive world, Shuichi and Yoshino have better than a fighting chance at becoming strong, confident adults.
Readers: Middle Grade, Young Adult
Published: 2012 (United States)