Shuichi, a young boy who is beginning to accept that he dreams of being a girl, and Yoshino, his friend who longs to change from a girl to a boy, are now in sixth grade. Their last year of elementary school seems likely to be as challenging—in both good and bad ways—as their fifth grade year was, but this time they know they can rely on one another.
Wandering Son, vol. 2
by Shimura Takako
Fantagraphics, October 2011, ISBN 978-1-60699-456-6
228 pages, $19.99
Readers who fell for the first volume of Takako’s quietly gripping tale of trangenderism (reviewed here by me this past summer) will be thrilled with where she takes the story in volume two, even though it is clear that she is still only at the beginning of her series. Shuichi and Yoshino are beginning to become young teens, dealing with issues of puberty that only reinforce that they are not in the bodies they desire. But they draw strength from knowing each other’s secret and, as they begin to make friends who also know, those friends are an additional source of comfort.
Takako’s art is still as gentle and comforting as it was in volume one, but this volume does up the ante some in terms of content. Nothing is inappropriate or done simply for shock value, but there is some use of the term “faggot” and discussions of the physical changes of puberty. But it is those touches of realism that make the story as believable as it is. Teens, even young ones, will understand the emotions swirling in the characters’ heads, from Shuichi’s overly dramatic sister to Yoshino’s frustration at getting her period to Shuichi’s embarrassment and terror at being bullied on a school trip.
Translator Matt Thorn again offers a short, but extremely thought-provoking essay at the end of the book. In volume one, he discussed the difficulties of translating and explaining honorifics to a Western audience (something that is particularly tricky in a book about transgendered characters). In this volume he explains the way Japanese society views gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered people and how the Western world often misinterprets this view. It’s an intriguing bit of scholarship which helps not only bring to life the world that Takako has created, but also leaves readers anxious about and worried for Yoshino and Shuichi. Whatever happens with them over the course of the series—which is currently at 12 volumes in Japan—this reader will definitely be there. This is not a series to miss.
This review is based on a complimentary copy supplied by the publisher. All images copyright © Fantagraphics.