Wandering Son Volume One is a manga by Shimura Takako, and it was published in North America by Fantagraphics Books in 2011. I don’t see a rating listed anywhere on this volume, but I would personally recommend Wandering Son to manga readers who are 13 or 14 years of age and older.
The central focus of Wandering Son is on two fifth grade students: a boy named Shuichi Nitori and a girl named Yoshino Takatsuki. Shuichi is a feminine-looking boy and Yoshino is a tomboy who doesn’t like to wear dresses. Shuichi has just started at a new school, and Yoshino is the first friend he makes in his class.
Over the course of this volume, Shuichi comes to realize that he really wants to be a girl, so he can wear dresses and other girl accessories. While Yoshino has known that she would rather be a boy, she hasn’t exactly been very open about this with her peers. However, she opens up about it to Shuichi, and the two of them share their secrets with each other.
Shuichi has to deal with a female classmate named Saori Chiba, a wannabe Christian who is a little self-centered. She likes trying to have Shuichi dress up as a girl for her own enjoyment without realizing Shuichi’s secret. Yoshino, meanwhile, has to endure teasing from one of her male classmates.
My 14-year-old daughter and I both read this manga volume, and we were both impressed by what we read. My daughter told me that she appreciated the fact that this series is touching on topics that a lot of manga series she had read prior to this one wouldn’t even touch, such as transsexualism, gender identity and the beginnings of puberty. I really have to agree with her sentiment, but I would also add that I also appreciate how Takako handles these subject matters in such a realistic manner.
Takako has created some endearing characters that readers come to care about as they read the first volume of Wandering Son. Readers can feel for these characters as they’re heading toward adolescence and all the confusion that surrounds that time in a person’s life.
If there is a “weak spot” to Wandering Son, I would have to say that it would be in the art. Takako tends to rely on very minimalistic backgrounds for the panels, and sometimes characters aren’t drawn with a lot of detail. However, this minimalistic art style isn’t enough to distract the reader from the story that’s being presented.
When Fantagraphics published this volume, they made sure to include a Japanese pronunciation guide, as well as a guide to the Japanese honorifics that are used in Wandering Son. I appreciated having these items included, and I thought that both of them were rather helpful to me as a reader.
Overall, Wandering Son is a well-executed manga series that tackles some LGBT issues. After reading this volume, I can see why the Young Adult Library Services Association nominated this series for its 2012 Great Graphic Novels for Teens list.