presented in traditional right-to-left format; original Japanese title: 放浪息子 (Hourou Musuko)
Selected for the ALA GLBT Round Table's 2014 Rainbow List of recommended books for young readers
Wandering Son has garnered extensive praise (from the GLBT community,
from manga fans, and from comics fans in general) for its uniquely funny,
warm, and sensitive treatment of the travails of two Japanese tweens who find
themselves coping with the knotty issue of gender identification as they slowly
realize that maybe they aren't who they were meant to be.
In this latest volume, love is in the air. It's in the trees and on the streets. It's
hanging on the walls and piled in great heaps on the floor. Or is it really love?
These sixth and seventh graders don't really know. But something is definitely
amiss. They can't sleep, and when they do sleep they have strange dreams.
They get angry and cry for no reason. They blush and grin like idiots for no
reason. And it isn't even spring. But the standard rules apply: If A is in love
with B, B is certain to be in love with C, and C is likely to be in love with D,
or possibly A.
And now it seems a good third of the alphabet is in love with our shy
protagonist, Nitori-kun. But the flip-side of love is jealousy, and hate. The
simple friendships of childhood develop into the complex, tense relationships
of adolescence. Friends become strangers, or worse. But while everyone seems
to have caught the bug — even characters whose names you can't remember
— Volume 4 revolves solidly around the triangle of Nitori-kun, Takatsuki-san,
and Chiba-san. Yet centrifugal force seems to push the three away from
each other, and there is a certain grimness as they say goodbye to elementary
school, and put on the (highly gendered) uniforms of junior high school…
"...[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