The fifth grade. The threshold to puberty, and the beginning of the end of childhood innocence. Shuichi Nitori and his new friend Yoshino Takatsuki have happy homes, loving families, and are well-liked by their classmates. But they share a secret that further complicates a time of life that is awkward for anyone: Shuichi is a boy who wants to be a girl, and Yoshino is a girl who wants to be a boy. Written and drawn by one of today’s most critically acclaimed creators of manga, Shimura portrays Shuishi and Yoshino’s very private journey with affection, sensitivity, gentle humor, and unmistakable flair and grace. Book One introduces our two protagonists and the friends and family whose lives intersect with their own. Yoshino is rudely reminded of her sex by immature boys whose budding interest in girls takes clumsily cruel forms. Shuichi’s secret is discovered by Saori, a perceptive and eccentric classmate. And it is Saori who suggests that the fifth graders put on a production of The Rose of Versailles for the farewell ceremony for the sixth graders — with boys playing the roles of women, and girls playing the roles of men.
Shimura Takako’s Wandering Son crafts, with the utmost care, a story of the struggles and adversities faced by cross dressing youths at the brink of blossoming into preteens. A girl who wants to become a boy and a boy who wants to become a girl, this simple concept creates the common thread that ties together Shuichi Nitori and Yoshino Takatsuki. Nitori and Takatsuki become friends while embarking on the journey of beginning their lives as 5th graders, and all the challenges that come along with it.
Despite what the manga-ka claims in the afterword, of the character’s being hard to distinguish from each other, as a reader I rather thought they were all unique in their own ways. Given the delicate subject matter of the main characters involved I felt that Shimura Takako crafted a wonderful introductory volume into the lives of these young individuals as they struggle with their identities, school life, and most of all approaching the brink of puberty.
This beautifully crafted hardcover volume is adored with a few color pages and some great afterwords from Shimure Takako. I feel that in the volumes to come as readers we shall see the characters develop and grow more and blossom into young youths before our eyes. The artwork itself is simplistic but very enchanting at times as it gives way for the characters growth to shine through.