Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Manga Review: Wandering Son volume 2

First off, I recommend anyone reading this volume to read the "Transgendered in Japan" essay by Wandering Son's translator, Matt Thorn, before reading the rest of the volume. You'll have a better appreciation of the context for some scenes in this volume's final arc if you have the knowledge imparted by one of the topics touched on by the essay first.

And it's a great essay all-around, explaining what it takes to legally change one's gender in Japan, societal views of trans people (framed within the context of how the lgbt community as a whole is perceived in Japan), and the roles/portrayals trans people get in the media. There's some interesting, if unsurprising, discussion of how views/portrayals of trans women and gay men are interrelated. Thorn also discusses manga portrayals, a couple wonderful lgbt celebrities (a trans comedienne who publicly called out Governor Ishihara for some homophobic remarks and a lesbian fashion model who blogs about lgbt issues), and the inaccuracies of Western views of Japanese views about lgbt people. Really a fantastic essay.

Anyway, onto the main review~

Nitori, Takatsuki, Chiba, and Sasa start the sixth grade, but Chiba gets placed in a different class. Nitori's new teacher assigns the kids to write an essay about their dream. Nitori's dream is to grow up to be a beautiful woman, but that can't exactly be turned in. Maho, bless her blunt sincerity, suggests BSing the essay, but Nitori doesn't write down any dream at all.

Nitori and Takatsuki start an exchange diary, and worry about including Chiba and Sasa (meaning they'd have to out themselves to Sasa), but Chiba and Sasa start their own exchange diary, so phew. Nitori and Takatsuki expect Sasa to be supportive but, understandably, coming out to her (especially when they don't feel ready) would still be stressful.

And Yukiiiiii. I love that Shimura Takako includes older role models for her protagonists in this series and Aoi Hana. Yuki, who seems suspect at first, when we don't really know her, turns out to be one of the best things to happen to Nitori and Takatsuki. I also like how the story shows that Nitori and Takatsuki's friendship with Yuki is good for her too. She didn't know anyone else who was transsexual growing up, so it's cathartic for her to see them as friends and make things easier for them.

Finally, the field trip arc. A boy classmate targets Nitori for bullying, causing Chiba to (understandably) lose her temper. And, of course, the teacher only notices what she did. Still, Chiba tells Nitori that they're "bosom buddies" (I love the Anne of Green Gables references in this volume; it was one of my favorite books as a kid because I loved Anne), Nitori and Takatsuki run into Yuki and her boyfriend Shii-chan on vacation, and Nitori works up the courage to tell off the bully. (Yay Nitori!!)

Besides the essay, extras includes a Pronunciation Guide and an Honorifics Guide. The translation is still excellent. Just one quibble- I don't mind "Sayonara" being left untranslated at one point, but it's a bit weird that Nitori's teacher saying "H-hai" to Yuki isn't translated as "Y-yes."

There is also an Afterword in comic form by Shimura Takako. No matter how self-deprecatingly she presents herself, I will still turn to jelly if I ever meet her.

Story: A
Art: A-
Overall: A


yumi said...

There is an animé from this manga, it's called " Hourou Musuko".
I saw it a few time ago, it was very interesting ( only Chiba annoying me).

Did you see ths animé ?

( sorry, i'm my englisn is not very well)

Steven said...

I greatly enjoyed Matt Thorn's essay as well, it was certainly interesting and made me very curious about Transgender Day in Japan. Though I do plan to, at some point, see what it entails for myself. I'm going to start transitioning soon and, after some discussion with my therapist, when I get the gender-corrective surgery I plan to go to Thailand for it and then take a short trip to Japan after.

This series continues to be very relatable for me. Nitori and Takatsuki's struggles with their identities, school, family, and friends often strike a chord with my own life. Most especially what you mentioned, coming out to their friends. Even when you know they'll be supportive and understanding it's still difficult to say.

It is great that Yuki and Shii are there as friends for them but wow, Shii's rather forceful way of finding out Nitori and Takatsuki's physical genders on the elevator was a rather shocking. I was not expecting something like that to happen. And, given the way Yuki planned her and Shii's trip, I suspect she purposefully tried to "just happen to run into" Nitori and Takatsuki while they were on their field trip.

Katherine Hanson said...

@yumi- I have seen it. I thought it was a great adaptation of the manga, and posted a review of it here:

@Steven- Good luck with your transition! And I hope you enjoy your trip to Japan afterwards. ^^ It's a blast to visit. I'm curious about how Transgender Day is celebrated also.

"Even when you know they'll be supportive and understanding it's still difficult to say." Yeah. I really liked how Shimura handled that issue also. Coming out gets easier the more you do it (at least in my experience, coming out as gay), but especially when you're not used to doing it, it's hard to say it out loud even when you expect the person in question to be supportive. By making that clear, Shimura may have made some people who think "Why didn't _______ come out sooner? They should have known I'd be supportive" or "Why isn't ______ coming out? They should know I would still be supportive" think "Ohh." Tangent: I watched the first season of Amy Sherman-Palladino's Bunheads with a friend (since I liked Gilmore Girls when it aired), and I mostly liked the show even though I had two qualms with it- its diversity issues and its insensitive approach to coming out. One of the leads, Sasha, has a crappy home life because her parents' marriage is failing because her dad is gay and closeted and her mom (and everyone else in the town) knows it. The other characters' attitude about it is "Everybody knows and nobody cares, why doesn't he just come out already? We're all enlightened here." But the ironic thing is, as people who have never been queer in any way, they have no idea what it's like to come out and have no idea what Sasha's dad's experiences are, so they're actually being presumptuous and insensitive about an experience they can't fully understand, which isn't so enlightened. The point of this winding tangent is that some well-meaning people really don't get coming out when they think they do, but Shimura (who may or may not be queer, I have no idea; although honestly, queer women/girls are so prominent in her work that I would be surprised if she wasn't, although I would think she was brilliant regardless) is not one of them.

I agree re: Shii. You would think he would know better (especially after what he'd just accused Yuki of), but at least the series makes it clear that he did something inappropriate and he doesn't do anything else that's questionable. Oh yeah, she totally did. But in that case, I was amused instead of weirded out because she was being helicopter parent-y (consciously or not, probably motivated by her bad memories of her class trip from when she was around their age) instead of stalker-y. (Evinced by how, after she checks in on them, she just wants to eat and sightsee with Shii.)

Steven said...

@Katherine- Thanks. It'll be a long process but being able to actually be "me" will be worth the time/money/medications.

Yuki also apparently felt the need to hit on the teacher. Perhaps the reason for "H-hai" not being translated was to convey just how shocked by being hit on by Yuki the teacher was?

The other thing I had forgotten to bring up was the reference to The Lady of Shalott. Nitori had initially made a reference to being like Anne when she nearly died in a boat then switched it to the Lady of Shalott but didn't get the thought finished before being interrupted. After having re-read that it struck me as a rather depressing thought, bordering suicidal, since the Lady of Shalott died in her boat as she floated down the river towards Camelot. I'm not sure how familiar you are with Tennyson's poem, but it is a rather apt comparison metaphorically. Some days it really does feel like looking at shadows of the world through a mirror.

Katherine Hanson said...

@Steven- It could be that reason. It would be interesting to know for sure what Thorn's rationale for it was.

And thank you for sharing that close reading! Commentary like that is part of why I'm glad I publicly blog my impressions of (primarily) manga and anime. I have read Tennyson's The Lady of Shalott, but I hadn't thought of that scene from that perspective before. Given the series' low-key nature, it makes sense that Shimura would intimate Nitori having feelings like that in that way.

And this might be presumptuous of me- but of you want me to address you by a different name at any point, just let me know. (Same policy applies to anyone who comments here.)

And a link to Tennyson's The Lady of Shalott, for anyone interested:

Steven said...

@Katherine- I don't think you're being presumptuous at all. I hadn't really been sure about how I'd go about letting people know that I've changed my name and am still me when they have no physical presence to put with the name. If that makes any sense. Still, that'll be a little while yet I think, names are hard (and I want to have been on the hormone treatments for a bit before hand).

Also, if you have the time (if you haven't done so before) listen to Loreena McKennitt's rendition of The Lady of Shalott. It's quite lovely though it is eleven and a half minutes long even with a few stanzas cut out.

Katherine Hanson said...

@Steven- I see. No worries! :-) That explanation makes sense.

I hadn't listened to Loreena McKennitt's music before. Thank you for the rec! Her rendition of The Lady of Shallott was pretty to listen to.