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[Wandering Son] Gender Dysphoria and Growing Up

aunsophaunsoph Registered User regular
edited April 2011 in Debate and/or Discourse
HourouMusukoLogo.jpg

Disclaimer: I'm making this post in hopes of bringing some attention to this overlooked show. This is my first discussion thread, so I can't guarantee I'll do the series justice.



What is Wandering Son?

Wandering Son, (Hourou Musuko in the original.) is the story of a young boy named Shuichi Nitori, who wants to be a girl, and his friend Yoshino Takatsuki, a girl who wants to be a boy. The series deals with issues such as transsexuality, gender identity, and the beginning of puberty. It started out as a manga series, written and illustrated by Takako Shimura and is still running. The anime consists of 11 episodes, with a 12th episode planned as an exclusive feature of its DVD/Blu-Ray release.

Embedded below is a trailer for the anime, which will serve as a showcase of the beautiful style and animation. We'll discuss what makes this show so wonderful after the preview.

Wandering Son Trailer



Why is it special?

Well, for starters the subject matter is powerful and interesting enough on its own, especially seeing as how it's one very rarely addressed by the entertainment industry. The closest the anime genre itself even gets is with a multitude of gay characters and cross-dressers, but plays these mostly for cheap laughs. In contrast, the characters in Wandering Son are not mere caricatures, and while the two protagonists are nearly defined by the struggle with their gender identity, this is not all there is to them, nor are they preachy mouthpieces for the author's agenda. Suffice to say that the best compliment I can give it is: You don't need to be gay, a transvestite or a transsexual to identify with these kids.

Being a slice of life story, there's little to no plot, and yet it doesn't lack focus. It boasts a sizable cast of characters, and it manages for the most part to flesh them out incredibly well without setting an episode aside for each one. Instead, their interactions just naturally culminate into very believable character development, making them instantly likable and easy to relate to. This is particularly impressive when you take into account how much ground the series covers in less than a dozen episodes.

It also doesn't hurt that the show's production value is stupendous. With an art style and filtering meant to evoke the manga author's watercolor covers, pastel color palette, white vignette and delicate line art, Wandering Son is a visual treat. The animators also did a good job with actually expressing character emotions, without resorting to the usual anime bag of tricks, such as big sweatdrops, funny faces or chibis; it's not a big deal, but it's definitely appreciated.

The soundtrack on the other hand, sadly, doesn't fare too well. The instrumental pieces are appropriate, but utterly forgettable. And when the first episode employs Debussy's "Clair de Lune" in one scene, it ends up emphasizing just how mediocre the original pieces are in comparison. And let's not get into the abomination that is the opening theme... the less said about it, the better.

It's not uncommon for reviewers to criticize the maturity of the cast, which is composed mostly of children; bringing up how they act too much like adults despite their young age. While I can agree to some extent, I don't think it detracts from the story, and will raise a counterpoint that for all their supposed maturity, the cast still behaves very much like confused, insecure and clumsy teenagers.

In the end, it all boils down to this: Wandering Son is an underrated and overlooked gem.



Who are the characters?

One thing that some viewers might have trouble with when giving this show a shot, is memorizing the cast's faces and names. This is due to both the androgynous character designs and the avalanche of introductions in the first episode, which starts in media res; effectively 5 volumes into the manga's timeline.

So in an effort to remedy some of the potential confusion beforehand, let's go through a brief summary of the main characters. From left to right, these are...
HourouMusukoCast.jpg

Saori Chiba. Standoffish and stoic, she tends to convey what is on her mind, disregarding how others may take her words. While it's not unusual for her temper to get the better of her, she's nevertheless a sensitive and caring girl. Saori is often emotionally affected by circumstances involving Shuichi, due to her feelings for the boy. She's a Christian, though she only attends mass when feeling guilty about her behavior.

Makoto Ariga. Mature for his age and able to think calmly and objectively while providing advice for his friends, Makoto gets along well with boys and girls his age, and is Shuichi's only close male friend. Makoto frequently plays the part of an onlooker to the events occurring in the other characters' lives.

Shuichi Nitori. One of two protagonists, is a young, effeminate boy who often cross-dresses to assume the role of the opposite sex. He is described as cute by many of the other characters and, due to
his feminine face and slender build, is easily able to pass as a girl. He tends to have an obedient, dutiful attitude, with occasional outbursts contrasting with his usual quiet nature. Due to his personality, it is easier for him to associate with girls his age, and he has few male friends.

Kanako Sasa. An energetic, outgoing girl, she's well-liked by her classmates and thinks of herself as everyone's friend. Kanako becomes easily distressed when her close friends quarrel among themselves, often assuming the role of a mediator between them.

Yoshino Takatsuki. The other protagonist, is a tall, masculine girl who prefers to dress and act like a boy. While she usually refrains from dressing in traditionally feminine clothes, such as skirts or dresses, she abstains from anything which would draw too much attention to herself. However, she does on occasion dress in a male school uniform and go to neighboring cities where she impersonates a boy. When teased by others, Yoshino is prone to getting emotional and known to get violent depending on the situation.

Chizuru Sarashina. Described as a free spirit, someone who enjoys doing unconventional, sometimes outrageous things, Chizuru frequently acts without thinking, and as a result projects a childish personality. Her reckless behavior sometimes gets her in trouble with other characters, although she quickly becomes ashamed when realizing the consequences. Saori in particular strongly dislikes her impulsiveness.

Momoko Shirai. She is a classmate and a clingy childhood friend of Chizuru. Momoko constantly hangs around her and is visibly annoyed by others socializing with her friend, which due to the latter's outgoing nature, is a constant occurrence.

Not included in that picture, but relevant to the storyline, (At the very least more relevant than Momoko.) we have a handful of characters that also play important roles. I'd rather cut down on the list though, for drawing too much attention to the other characters is likely a tad spoilerish.



Where can I access it?

Wandering Son can be watched legally through the anime streaming service Crunchy Roll for free. (A premium account is required to watch it in HD.)

The manga series is to be published in English by Fantagraphics Books, but the release date for the first hardcover volume has yet to be announced.

aunsoph on

Posts

  • aunsophaunsoph Registered User regular
    edited April 2011
    The last episode went up on Crunchy Roll for free members yesterday.

    All in all, a pretty good ending to a great series... even though they tried their best to ruin the last scene with the atrocious opening theme. :x

  • FeralFeral Who needs a medical license when you've got style? Registered User regular
    edited April 2011
    The thread title drew me in. This looks interesting.

    every person who doesn't like an acquired taste always seems to think everyone who likes it is faking it. it should be an official fallacy.
    the "no true scotch, man" fallacy.
  • AriviaArivia Registered User
    edited April 2011
    Feral wrote: »
    The thread title drew me in. This looks interesting.

    I think I'll safely skip the anime version.

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  • LoveIsUnityLoveIsUnity Registered User regular
    edited April 2011
    I'm definitely interested after reading the OP. Seems like it's right up my alley.

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  • juice for jesusjuice for jesus Registered User
    edited April 2011
    This show is really, really excellent, and I need to catch those last eps now that they are free on Crunchyroll.

    Chizuru is the bestest.

    Lanlaorn wrote: »
    That's just insulting, I think DBZ is bad but I'm not going to insinuate that it only appeals to people who are equal parts retards and psychopaths.
  • vagrant_windsvagrant_winds is pumped-up. Registered User regular
    edited April 2011
    This anime was fantastic.

    // FF14: Phyress Traydor, Spoony Bard @ Sargatanas //
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  • redxredx East Bumblefuck, PARegistered User regular
    edited April 2011
    With the lack of an anime thread, I kinda missed the fact that there was a Wandering Son anime. I started reading the manga a couple years ago, on a recommendation from one of the formers here, and really liked it. I started in on the anime a couple weeks ago, and really like it.

    There's maybe a bit too much of the fuzzy soft focus for my taste, giving it a slightly ham-fisted overly-sentimental vibe. Which sort of works in the manga, because it isn't being forced on you for 26 minutes at a time. Seems a little too much in the anime, and I wish they'd toned it down a bit. I'm not that far into the anime, but I really am enjoying it though.

    All I've got is a snuggle hammer.
  • ChenChen Registered User regular
    edited April 2011
    aunsoph wrote: »
    the atrocious opening theme. :x
    You take that back!

    Oh, and Anna is the bestest. Then Chi. Then Maho. Then Sasa. Then Momo. Such an excellent cast.

    Ending was surprisingly good considering the amount of episodes they had to work with. One thing that's left in the dark was
    Spoiler:

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  • juice for jesusjuice for jesus Registered User
    edited April 2011
    The ending was
    Spoiler:

    Lanlaorn wrote: »
    That's just insulting, I think DBZ is bad but I'm not going to insinuate that it only appeals to people who are equal parts retards and psychopaths.
  • KlykaKlyka DO you have any SPARE BATTERIES?Registered User regular
    edited April 2011
    I enjoyed this series, it was always very calm and relaxing to watch.
    It was however extremely weird to see that basically EVERYONE in this series had some kind of "special" sexual orientation and that they all talked as if they were all 40.

    SC2 EU ID Klyka.110
    lTDyp.jpg
  • KelorKelor Registered User regular
    edited April 2011
    I felt that they all seemed to deal with it pretty maturely, but from what I understand younger Japanese are more easy going about this sort of thing? I think it's mainly for the purposes of moving the story forward though rather than an accurate depiction of what kids are like over there.

    That said, I enjoyed the show a lot. Picked it up around halfway through and it was a interesting but relaxing show to watch.
    Spoiler:

    Apparently the 11th episode is a compilation of episodes 12 and 13. So there is some more there we haven't seen.

  • ChenChen Registered User regular
    edited April 2011
    Kelor wrote: »
    Apparently the 11th episode is a compilation of episodes 12 and 13. So there is some more there we haven't seen.
    I read episode 10 was a compilation of 10 and 11 too, which explains the flashbacks, but the final episode was also compiled from two episodes? Someone knowledgable enlighten us.

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  • Lenore03Lenore03 Registered User regular
    edited April 2011
    I feel like it focused too much on the main characters. One of the most refreshing moments happened in a latter episode where we see Chi working at her families business. I wish there was more glimpses of the side characters.

  • KelorKelor Registered User regular
    edited April 2011
    Chen wrote: »
    Kelor wrote: »
    Apparently the 11th episode is a compilation of episodes 12 and 13. So there is some more there we haven't seen.
    I read episode 10 was a compilation of 10 and 11 too, which explains the flashbacks, but the final episode was also compiled from two episodes? Someone knowledgable enlighten us.

    After some digging you're right.

    Episode 10 was a compilation of episodes 10 and 11. The final episode shown was actually episode 12.

    When the DVDs release they will contain ten and eleven in full.

  • aunsophaunsoph Registered User regular
    edited April 2011
    Klyka wrote: »
    It was however extremely weird to see that basically EVERYONE in this series had some kind of "special" sexual orientation and that they all talked as if they were all 40.

    Honestly, the only character I thought talked above their grade level was Saori. And I'm perfectly fine with that, because she does strike me as extremely intelligent, to the point that her over-analysis of everything and everyone gets in the way of her social life. Despite being rather eloquent, she's still incredibly awkward in any social environment and rather immature emotionally, so in my opinion that balances it out well.

    As for sexual orientations:
    Spoiler:
    Lenore03 wrote: »
    I feel like it focused too much on the main characters. One of the most refreshing moments happened in a latter episode where we see Chi working at her families business. I wish there was more glimpses of the side characters.

    Well, to be fair, we did have an episode focused on Saori and one focused on Makoto. And while I didn't particularly think the rest of the cast was at all neglected, I can see where you're coming from. In the end, we can probably chalk that up to the studio only having 11 episodes and an entangled web of character relationships to work with. The manga does explore the peripheral characters more, to the point of neglecting the main duo at times. Hell even Momo gets some fleshing out. (Ugh. Momo.)

  • ChenChen Registered User regular
    edited April 2011
    You're just jealous of Momo.

    Chizuru x Momo is the OTP.

    l8kt.png
  • ArchsorcererArchsorcerer Registered User regular
    Sorry for reviving the thread but the manga has finally ended.
    Spoiler:

    The ending has a lot of surprises. :)

    XBL - ArchSilversmith

    "We have years of struggle ahead, mostly within ourselves." - Made in USA
  • redxredx East Bumblefuck, PARegistered User regular
    ooohhh.... I'll need to catch up.

    All I've got is a snuggle hammer.
  • Professor FuzzlesProfessor Fuzzles Registered User regular
    Ooh thanks for bumping this I now have something to watch.

  • KanaKana Registered User regular
    Huh I didn't know we had a thread for this show

    The manga's a lot better on quite a few issues, and of course it goes a lot farther along in the story, all the way up to high school graduation.

    I think the manga's also better at not making them sound quite so adult, especially the main kid. While Nitori is pretty sure on his gender from the very beginning, he's* pretty fuzzy about sex and stuff, which considering he's in grade school in the beginning shouldn't really be a surprise. The anime in general stays away from a lot of the more explicit conversations about sexuality.

    *kinda puzzled over which pronoun to use there, as iirc he himself usually uses male pronouns for himself except for when he's "being a girl", especially in the show's timeframe.

    Anyway the author also is wrapping up Aoi Hana, another slice of life story about a young lesbian, which also has an anime adaptation (really not actually very good, you should read the manga). It's a little harder to get a handle on though as Japan's got very different cultural expectations (traditions? Stereotypes?) regarding lesbianism and a lot of the protagonist's struggles are coming up against that culturally-specific stuff.

    History is an account, mostly false, of events, mostly unimportant, which are brought about by rulers, mostly knaves, and soldiers, mostly fools.
    redx
  • ArchsorcererArchsorcerer Registered User regular
    edited July 2013
    For some reason I think there is going to be a spinoff.
    Spoiler:

    Archsorcerer on
    XBL - ArchSilversmith

    "We have years of struggle ahead, mostly within ourselves." - Made in USA
  • KamarKamar Registered User regular
    edited July 2013
    My embarrassing shipper side is sorta disappointed.
    Spoiler:

    Kamar on
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