cover image Wandering Son

Wandering Son

Shimura Takako, trans. from the Japanese by Matt Thorn. Fantagraphics, $19.99 (192p) ISBN 978-1-60699-416-0

This manga about gender dissonance by Shimura, well-known for her treatment of lesbian and transgender issues, tells the story of a friendship between Shuichi, a young boy who wishes he were a girl, and Yoshino, a young girl who wishes she were a boy. The standard manga tone%E2%80%94chatty, cute, in which characters are affectionately introduced and their quirks described with many an exclamation point%E2%80%94goes far in portraying deeply rooted gender issues in the midst of the normal social shifts among a group of fifth graders. Shuichi's impulses toward a female identity feel confusing and shameful to him, and it's the girls in his life%E2%80%94first Yoshino, and then Saori%E2%80%94who point out his difference and encourage it. In one of the first episodes, Shuichi tries on a dress that Yoshino has cast off, and finds that he feels good in it. Later, during rehearsals of a play, the students switch gender roles, so that Shuichi is playing the character of Rosalie. Both children are teased mercilessly by their classmates, whose sexual development, while perhaps more socially normative, is just as confusing to them. A prologue by Thorn explaining Japanese honorifics is key to a story about two young people figuring out who they are in relation to the society and people around them. (July)