Shimura Takako's sensitive and charming series about two middle schoolers wrestling with their gender identities continues, with more role-reversal play fun this time around.
The success of their performance of The Rose of Versailles in the fifth grade—in which the boys played the women and the girls played the men—inspires our protagonists to put on another gender-bending play for the junior-high school festival. This time they do a riff on Romeo and Juliet, with generous helpings of fantasy and mystery. Nitori-kun and Chiba-san write the script together, but Chiba-san has an agenda: She wants to play Romeo, with Nitori-kun in the role of Juliet. But Nitori-kun wants Takatsuki-san to play Romeo...
With her usual prickliness, Chiba-san forces Nitori-kun to confront a question he's been avoiding. Are his feelings for Takatsuki-san those of a boy for a girl, a girl for a girl, or a girl for a boy? But you know what they say of the best laid plans of mice and men: The cast is to be decided by fate, with names drawn randomly.
Meanwhile, Maho plans a trip to the beach with her boyfriend, but her parents send Nitori-kun along as an unwilling chaperone. Faced with unwanted changes to their growing bodies, Takatsuki-san discovers the wonders of "breast binders," and Nitori-kun explores the limits of his ability to "pass."
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Praise for the Series:
One of ALA/YALSA's Top Ten Great Graphic Novels for Teens 2012
Named to the ALA GLBT Round Table's 2012 Rainbow List of recommended books for young readers
One of MTV Geek's Best Manga Series of 2011
Named "Best New Seinen/Josei: Slice of Life" on About.com Manga's 2011 Best New Manga
Named one of The Best Comics of 2011 by NPR - Monkey See
"...[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