Mimi: What are little girls made of? What are little boys made of? Two very special children are on a quest to find those answers, as they begin to cross gender lines, experience puberty, and form new friendships. An effeminate boy named Nitori wants to be a girl, and his girl friend named Takatsuki wants to be a boy, but a difficult road lies ahead of them. The soft artwork compliments the delicate issues and calm mood of the series, which together provide a charming, heart-warming experience.
This series is a rare treat, considering that most anime featuring cross-dressers and the like are just joking around (take Prince Baka as the most recent example). Nitori really manifests symptoms of gender identity disorder, as he is discontent with his biological sex, and he deeply desires to be the other. Being so young and innocent, he doesn’t understand why his desire is not socially acceptable. It confuses him even more when girls are perceived to be ‘cool’ for wearing a boy’s uniform to school. To make matters worse, puberty is dawning upon him and Takatsuki, and they don’t take kindly to the changes happening to their bodies. All of these issues are presented in a sensitive, caring way to grab you out of emotional interest. It feels quite refreshing to see them grow in confidence and change their appearance as they get older.
Nitori and Takatsuki aren’t the only interesting characters; many of their friends in and outside of school have great supporting roles. Each one is likeable, purposeful to the story, and memorable by the end. Out of all of them, my favorite is Chii-chan, a tall, playful, and free-spirited girl who wears a boy’s uniform on the first day of school. She often refers to herself in third person and comes off a little bit weird, but I adore her whenever she tries to cheer Nitori up, gets excited, or does something outrageous. The other friends are much more involved in the drama surrounding Nitori, such as love and jealousy. When a character-driven series is done right, you can be convinced of their feelings and earnestly care for them, which is the beauty of Wandering Son.
As for some very light criticism, I disliked the opening song “Itsudatte” by Daisuke. His voice really irritated me, so I skipped it in every episode. At least the beautiful ED song made up for it! And secondly, the characters seem a little too mature for their age. I was surprised by how these elementary school-aged children behaved and thought about certain issues, so they didn’t feel realistic all of the time. But despite that, there is no denying that the character’s personalities are the richest part of the series.
Wandering Son immediately earned my respect for taking such a serious approach to gender identity issues and the strong emotions that accompany them. With gorgeous artwork, endearing characters, and subtle yet powerful drama to back it up, there lies a heart in the story that can resonate with many people.
Alex: I have to disagree with Mimi on the subject of maturity at a young age, actually. I know somebody who’s transgender, and they told me how things went for them. Firstly, they wanted to wear male things instead of female things. They didn’t play with dolls or anything, they only wanted video games and the like. Secondly, the huge change came the year before puberty: They wanted to be male. Being a female didn’t suit them. They did male things like wrestling and football, and were finding themself restricted by the boundries placed upon them from family and school. Finally, when they hit puberty, they fully became aware that this wasn’t right. Whilst normal people feel uncomfortable, this person didn’t feel anything. Just that there were feelings inside of him which didn’t belong.
When I take the fact that this person who I’d consider an “average” transgender person was pretty much identical to Takatsuki in their feelings and development, i’d actually disagree very strongly that this is too mature for people that age, and make the point that maturity doesn’t come with age, it comes with your feelings and experience. Yeah, i’m smooth.
Mimi: I’m not denying that young children with GID have those experiences. They do. But you have to keep in mind that these are still fictional characters that are being portrayed in a certain light (i.e. very calm manner, which I find a little unusual). I can’t say that they would, on average, behave and think identical to the model student, Takatsuki. Age does factor into emotional maturity to some degree. Plus, I was also referring to the supportive characters, such as the incredibly mature Saori.
Alex: Woot, our first discussion on a review~ Can I retire now?
Yeah okay, I think you’ll either agree that it’s a perfect capture or an imperfect capture, and it’ll change from person to person. And stuff. But Wandering Son is just…so artistic. It’s amazing to look at and its amazing to think about.
Mimi’s Score: 9 Meeps out of 10 (Great)
Alex’s Score: 9.5 Meeps out of 10 (Great)
Recommendations: Aoi Hana (homosexuality/yuri) and Koi Kaze (incest). These series are also mature, have soft art, and deal with issues concerning sexuality. Check them out if you like Wandering Son and vice versa!
Mimi’s Updated Noitamina Series Ranking: (this is getting harder to do!)
3. House of Five Leaves
4. Tokyo Magnitude 8.0
5. Wandering Son
6. Higashi no Eden
7. Nodame Cantabile
8. Honey and Clover II
9. Honey and Clover
10. The Tatami Galaxy
11. Paradise Kiss
13. Antique Bakery