Review: Wandering Son

Hourou Musuko

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)

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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!)

1. Kuragehime

2. Shiki

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

12. Moyashimon

13. Antique Bakery

14. Fractale

Wandering Son Episode 11 [Final]

Wandering son’s progress

Summary: Nitori gets ready for the play and hangs out with his friends.

Mimi: Ahhh such a beautiful ending! Even I felt like applauding when Nitori stepped onto the stage. He really has changed a lot since the first episode, as he is more comfortable and open about his identity. I thought that most of this episode would be all about the second gender-bender play, but instead, it takes more time to flesh out Nitori and his friends. Nitori, Takatsuki, and Saori hang out together like in the old days, and they participate in the school’s festivities. Interestingly, everyone notices that Nitori’s voice is beginning to change. He is bothered by this to some degree, but he gives us a sign that he’s going to be alright, and that it doesn’t change who he is.

Nitori has a short conversation with Makoto and Anna, which wraps up their relationships quite well. Makoto confesses that he’s been jealous of Nitori’s cuteness all along, though Nitori kindly replies that he is cute too (urg, why did Doi have to ruin the moment?). Annnd Anna simply has an apology to make for dumping him and saying hurtful stuff. She’s in for a world of surprise when Nitori says that he is still in love with her, but there is no changing the way he is. I’m really impressed by his ability to speak his mind so honestly and without much hesitation. He even admits to Doi that he still hates him, but he needs him to work on the play script! Although he is still shy, this is a big turnaround from the way he used to be.

I’m really going to miss Wandering Son; it is another one of those ‘special’ Noitamina series that I imagine will be cherished for a long time. Well…at least by people who really liked it, Alex and myself included~ ^_^ I have a lot to say for the review, so I’m going to end this post shorter. Just know that this is a lovely ending, it couldn’t be more perfect, and that life goes on for Nitori~

Wandering Son Episode 10

10+11 ~Better half~

Summary: Nitori…deals with the consequences.

Mimi: This episode certainly meets our realistic expectations of what would happen: Nitori gets picked on, Anna breaks up with him, his sister is too embarrassed to go to school, and his mother just shakes her head out of concern. This leaves Nitori feeling down and uncertain about himself, as he spends most of his time in the nurse’s office. It’s easy to feel sorry for him because he’s so innocent, but he still has the courage to face his peers and get involved in the new gender-bender play. Speaking of which, I’m surprised that they’re doing another play, though this time it’s based off of Nitori’s original idea. I think that this will make for a suitable ending.

Anyroad, I’m really impressed by the execution of this episode. Although the drama is still toned down quite a bit, I like how this series handles the tension so gently and shows how everyone is affected by Nitori’s decisions. Nitori really ended up becoming a surprising character–who would ever think that he’d be bold enough to dress like a girl to school? Not only that, he gets angry and completely tells Doi off for being such a bully to him. The best part of this episode, however, is to see Nitori growing up. Now, he’s a little bit taller than his sister, and his hair is longer. I love the new look!  I’d be real curious to see what he’d be like as a teenager, though that really goes for all of the characters.

Wandering Son Episode 9

Cool Girlfriend ~Green eye~

Summary: Nitori contemplates about wearing a girl’s uniform to school.

Mimi: Great episode! Nitori finally decides to take the next big step, which isn’t very easy. First of all, Doi becomes more involved with him by going to his house and requesting that he dress up like girl. To Nitori’s surprise, he encourages him to dress that way to school. Throughout most of the episode, Nitori is struggling to make the decision, even going to Chizuru for advice. Deep down, he desires to be just like Takatsuki–comfortable, confident, and dressed however he wants, but there’s the risk of getting picked on. More than anything, he doesn’t seem to understand why it’s weirder for a guy to cross-dress than a girl, and he sees himself as just following Takatsuki’s example. We really gain insight into Nitori’s mind more than we ever did before, so this episode feels special in more ways than one.

Takatsuki continues to change herself by taking baby-steps; by now, she can easily be mistaken to be a guy at first sight. Everyone thinks that she is cooler than ever before, so this whole cross-dressing business isn’t as big of a deal, except that her teachers find it odd and question her all the time. Now I just have to mention that scene on the bus. I mean, Nitori falling right into Takatsuki is soooo ~squeal~ *0*!! Well, only a little bit. They react pretty normally to the situation, so they really are done having special feelings for each other. T_T At least Takatsuki is acting as his bodyguard now, which is so cute and fitting for her. Alright, so.. with that cliffhanger at the end of this episode, I’m really dying for the next one. Can’t wait to see what’ll happen. Nitori is a lot stronger now, so I’m not too worried about him. I think…

Wandering Son Episode 8

Spring ~Brand new me~

Summary: Nitori, Anna, Chiba, and Takatsuki hang out together.

Mimi: A whole new semester begins, and everyone has changed just a little bit. For one thing, Takatsuki has grown her hair longer and is wearing a tie, and she seems to be on friendlier terms with Chiba. Furthermore, Chiba is no longer upset, but things aren’t feeling quite the same around Nitori anymore. In fact, it appears that Chiba and Takatsuki are just trying to accept the way things are and move on with their lives. Chiba even comments that Anna and Nitori are a good match. The tension is definitely starting to wear off with a peaceful conclusion drawing ever so closer.

I’m loving the character development and the way things are going, but I can’t say that I’m strongly rooting for Anna and Nitori. Anna’s feelings are questionable, and Nitori is just too young to be taken seriously. Even Matoko expresses serious doubts about their relationship, and I’m thinking along the same lines. At this point, they’re still just friends, and Nitori has a lot things to figure out for himself. I think his attachment to Anna is very cute though. One other really interesting thing happens in this episode, and that is Nitori’s encounter with an old classmate who used to be pretty mean to him. Apparently, he’s a lot nicer now, but I wonder if this series will take one more stab at drama or not.

Hourou Musuko Episode 7

Growing Pains

Alex: Oh, at least I didn’t spoil myself too much. Anyway, SPOILERS AHEAD.

Brilliant. Just brilliant. What a wait it’s been to find a romance which covers the whole “main couple doesn’t have to date” subject with such style. His sudden declaration for Anna may have been a little “too” sudden, but that doesn’t stop it from being good, hell, I could probably imagine how he felt, what with Anna being there to help him through the start of puberty and that lot. It really helps you to explore the different sides of love.

And Chiba. Wow. She turned into such a powerful character, what with how you could actually see and feel her heart being broken. Those kinda characters ARE horrible to pull off, completely horrible, but they can be oh so p0werful. This is what I wanted from Wandering Son: Crushingly powerful character development.

Wandering Son Episode 6

Dream of a Butterfly

Alex: Sigh. Firstly; I have this tiny little rant to go for.I was looking on MyAnimeList.net for character names and stuff, since watching so much anime in a day makes you get the names mixed up. And what do I find in the open but a huge spoiler for Nitori? Ughhhhh.

Anyway, culture festival time. It wasn’t a huge episode, and it was never going to be, but it was just a break from the romance methinks and a chance to let the characters fly. I mean, I make no secret of the fact that I don’t like Nitori’s friend much, he should stop angsting. It was just..painful.

Not much to say about this episode, to be honest. Nice, clean and charming as always.