presented in traditional right-to-left format; original Japanese title: 放浪息子 (Hourou Musuko)
In this volume of the acclaimed series about transgendered kids exploring their unfolding identities, we’ve reached a big event; the junior high school entrance ceremony.
The boys wear black uniforms with stand-up collars based on mid-19th century European military uniforms and the girls wear navy blazers, tan skirts, and red ribbon neckties. Enter our heroes; Nitori-kun is forced to wear a boy’s uniform while Takatsuki-san has to wear a girl's! Yet one girl — Sarashia Chizuru — draws stares, whispers, and pointed fingers, because this long-haired beauty is wearing a boy’s uniform. Both Nitori-kun and Takatsuki-san are awed by the girl's courage, but Takatsuki-san is particularly vexed by their own faintheartedness. They envy more than a few other students who experience such liberty in wearing either uniform and ponder what it ultimately means about themselves.
Envy and jealousy are prominent themes in Volume 5: Chiba-san is jealous of Takatsuki-san, for whom Nitori-kun still carries a torch. Maho envies Anna-chan's professionalism as a model. And Chii-chan’s loyal sidekick, Shiri Momoko, is intensely jealous of anyone in whom Chii-chan shows the slightest interest. And so our protagonists set off on the journey to adolescence....
"...[L]ike the best coming-of-age stories — comics or otherwise — Wandering Son is meticulously accurate in its details, but universal in its emotions. Gay or not, readers shouldn’t find it too difficult to identify with kids who feel like their bodies and their friends are equally culpable in the worst kind of betrayal, preventing them from realizing the potential they see in themselves." – Noel Murray, The A.V. Club
"With skill, restraint and a deep sensitivity to the roiling emotions involved, Shimura relates the tale of fifth-grade boy Shuichi, who wants to be a girl, and his classmate Yoshino, a girl who wants to be a boy. This is the first volume of the Japanese saga to be published in English, and translator Thorn does great work parsing the complex gender honorifics of the Japanese language. We only just begin to get to know our two leads, but Shimura's approach allows us to feel their confusion, their heartache and — when a perceptive mutual friend orchestrates a plan that starts them down the road to self-acceptance — their quiet, nervous joy." – Glen Weldon, NPR - Monkey See
"While most manga about cross-dressing involve lots of shrieking and embarrassment, Wandering Son takes a quieter, more introspective approach.... It's a very sweet manga with realistic characters — no dead parents or crazy teachers, just ordinary, loving families and supportive friends. This manga is a beautifully produced, hardcover book, and... it's worth every penny." – Brigid Alverson, MTV Geek
"...[Wandering Son] is absolutely fantastic and deserves every one of the awards it will doubtless win. ...[I]t’s an honest look at what Shu and Yoshino are going through. There’s no magic pool, no funny crossdressing, no easy solution to the dilemma that these two face. What I also like about the series is that its secondary characters are often just as interesting as the main pair: they’re all in fifth grade, after all, when everyone is struggling with their identities and the consequences thereof. Shu and Yoshino just get the worst of it." – Ted Anderson, The Hub (YALSA)
"Gender-bending is nothing new in manga, but it's rare to see the transgender sexual identity issues depicted in a realistic way... With her spare, elegant art and slice-of-life storytelling, Shimura resists the urge to use sensationalism, to tell her sweet and sensitive, albeit unusual, coming-of-age tale.... Just as Shimura treats her two tween characters with respect, so does Fantagraphics' hardcover edition of this story. By presenting Shimura's simple, yet elegant artwork in a larger page format and reproducing her lovely color pages on thick, creamy paper, Fantagraphics has showcased this story in a very special way. The translation is also worth noting, for finding a happy medium between conversational English and maintaining the Japanese setting of this story. Wandering Son is a refreshing example of a graphic novel that gives readers a glimpse of a life rarely seen and a story rarely told. Worth a read, and worth sharing." – Deb Aoki, About.com — Manga
"The creator [of Wandering Son], Shimura Takako, is a well-established manga artist recognized for her LBGT focus, certainly not your usual manga fare. In the series’ debut-in-English, Shimura treats both protagonists’ journeys of self-discovery with gentle honesty; her characters are wide-eyed and adorable, uncertain and searching." Terry Hong, BookDragon (Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Program)
"I’ve read many gentle, nostalgic manga about school and growing up, and in many ways Wandering Son is not so different from the best of them... On another level, the very fact that it can be so quiet and casual and natural, and say all the things that it says, makes it a deeply impressive work. What Wandering Son says, above all, is that the kids are alright. Maybe they don’t believe it themselves right now. But they’ll make it through." – Shaenon Garrity, The Comics Journal