17 Jan / Wandering Son (vol. 6) by Shimura Takako, translated by Matt Thorn
Our daughter, now a senior at one of the most progressive of progressive schools where she’s been a ‘lifer,’ was recently trying to explain the specifics of what ‘gender-fluid’ means using a classmate’s evolving, changing behavior as descriptive examples. We old folks were still a bit baffled, but I think I understood enough to recognize a definitive example right here in the first pages of the latest volume of this delightful gender-bender series. In case this is all new to you, be sure to click here to catch up: for your own good, don’t jump ahead!
Nitori Shuichi – the boy who wants to be a girl – confesses with blushing difficulty to Takatsuki Yoshino – the girl who wants to be a boy: “I [boy Shuichi] want you [girl Yoshino]… to … to look at me as a girl! You see? Because … I look at you as a boy.” As they stammer along with matching flushed cheeks, the two lifelong best friends manage to repair their awkwardly estranged relationship that loomed over the last three volumes. That re-established (sigh-inducing) equilibrium, however, is especially difficult for their classmate Chiba Saori, who once encouraged and enabled their gender-bending experiments, but now looks on in anger and frustration as her desperate attachment to Shuichi grows and her envy toward Yoshino becomes blinding.
Meanwhile, the whole class is preparing to put on a surprising version – adapted by Shuichi and Saori (with ulterior motives) – of that centuries-old (originally) cross-dressing classic, Romeo and Juliet, for the upcoming culture festival. Special guests, including gender-defying adult friends (and sort-of mentors) Yuki-san and Shii-chan, have even been invited. The perfect casting would, of course, be Shuichi as Juliet and Yoshino as Romeo, but that’s not exactly how it plays out …
Gender-exploration is not limited to the starstruck duo, of course, as Saori’s wannabe boyfriend decides he’s “definitely cuter” than Shuichi in headband and towel-wrap, and adorably defiant Ariga Makoto can’t resist his mother’s bathing suit (“It’s that darned A-line! It’s too cute!”). In the flurry of everyday lives, adolescence waits for no one: Yoshino is determined to find a flattening bra while Shuichi worries about body hair and voice changes, not to mention what he’s going to tell his older sister about the “so cute” lingerie set he finds in her drawer.
With wide-eyed innocence, uncomfortable angst, and unexpected shocks, creator Shimura Takako provides her young protagonists ample room to explore and experiment. Given so many choices, can growing up get any more challenging? Read on …!
Readers: Middle Grade, Young Adult
Published: 2014 (United States)