Wandering Son, Vol. 1 by Shimura Takako

Though I’ve read and enjoyed many graphic novels, manga is not something I’ve read before.  I read this as part of both the YALSA Best of the Best Reading Challenge (#5, 1/5 of the way there!), as well as something for the Out of Our Comfort Zones podcast series I do with another contributor for The Hub.  I’ll put up a link when it’s done, but for now here are my initial responses to this book.

It pains me to admit this, but I had a really hard time with the manga format.  It shouldn’t be that hard for me to just read in another direction, should it? But I had to deliberately think on every single page, “Which box do I read next?” and sometimes I read the bottom panel in both directions and then figured it out. Or read all the boxes and then let it sift into my brain all at once.  Which is clearly not the smoothest way to read a story or the way the author expects her story to be told.  I also had a tremendous difficulty keeping people’s names straight.  Fortunately I consistently knew who the two main characters were, but to be honest I really had no idea who any of the other characters were.  Based on the fascinating afterword about the translation and the use of Japanese honorifics, I can only assume that many references to gender went flying over my head since I was never really sure which was the boy’s and which was the girl’s name.

Despite all that, I thought it was a lovely story.  A young adolescent boy and girl are friends and they each wish they were the other sex.  This volume seemed to focus more on the boy wanting to be a girl and getting to wear some girls’ clothing.  It seemed very sensitive and nice, but again I’m sorry to say that I think I may have totally missed some of the drama that was experienced.  And I couldn’t tell if their classmates were teasing them or not.

It’s rare for me to struggle so with a story and I really feel like it’s a big failure on my part. I noticed the library had volume 2 in, so I think I’ll try that and see if I do a little better with more practice.

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