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August 10, 2012

Bento Bako Bonus: Wandering Son volume 3

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Written by: Kristin
Tags: , , , ,

Title: Wandering Son
Author: Shimura Takako
Publisher: Fantagraphics
Volume: Volume 3, $19.99 (HC)
Vintage: 2005 by Enterbrain, May 2012 by Fantagraphics
Genre: Drama, slice-of-life, LGBT issues

[Volume 2 review.]

Everyone’s back home from the school trip, and a new trial is about to start for Nitori. His sister, Maho, wants to be a model, and she drags Nitori along for support to her audition/interview. When her turn finally comes around, she insists that she and Nitori be accepted as a pair, because he’s “amazingly cute” when dressed up as a girl. Remarkably, they’re both accepted, and while Maho is ecstatic because it means she may get to meet her idol Maiko, Nitori is incredibly nervous. The next day at school, Nitori visits the school nurse, only to find that Chiba has been coming in every day lately. Meanwhile Maho, finding that her crush, Seya, seems disinterested in the fact that she’s become a model, decides to introduce Seya to the “girl” of his dreams. She dresses Nitori up as a girl and introduces him as her friend, Takatsuki Yoshino. As usual, Nitori writes about his feelings and the events of his day in the diary he shares with Yoshino, but when he pulls it out to give it to her before school, it’s stolen by Oka Takanori, who tosses it to Doi Shinpei. The two boys read the diary out loud in front of their class, causing a very angry Yoshino to take it back and tear it apart. Nitori tells Chiba what happened, and she in turn confesses why she hasn’t been going to class. Yoshino, angry and embarrassed both for herself and for Nitori, returns to school resolving to behave like a girl should. She also decides to distance herself from Nitori, which upsets Chiba, and causes a rift between the tight group of friends. In the midst of bullying, Nitori is approached by another classmate named Ariga Makoto, who professes to share Nitori’s desire to be a girl. Makoto is a little curt and and outspoken, but the two boys quickly bond. When Maho sets Nitori up on a date with Seya, Makoto insists on going as a chaperone, and to support an obviously uncomfortable Nitori. Meanwhile, Yoshino takes her troubles to the one person she thinks will understand her, and goes to visit Yuki. Yuki does her best to comfort Nitori in her own way, and even shares a story about when her mother first discovered her trying on girls’ clothing. With new resolve, Yoshino returns to her friends to ask their forgiveness for her actions. Back at the modeling agency, Nitori is at a total loss. The other girls love dressing him up and go on and on about how cute he is…while completely ignoring Maho. One of the models, Suehiro Anna, chastises them for not taking their work seriously. When Maho grows tired of everything and stands up for her brother, the other girls turn on her, until a surprise guests arrives that quells all the arguing.

If you’re not reading Wandering Son, you really should be. Each volume is an absolute delight. It’s honest, but it’s also innocent, presenting some very serious issues in a surprisingly gentle way. Which somehow makes the heartbreaking moments, like when Nitori is bullied, that much more hard to read. Given the ages of the characters in the story (the main kids are in the 12-14 age range), story points are continuously awkward in all the right ways. Nitori and Yoshino don’t know how to deal with the people around them. When their classmates read part of their shared diary, Yoshino immediately distances herself from Nitori, thinking to protect him somehow, and then tries to become “normal.” Her struggle for identity seems more strongly presented than Nitori’s, though I can’t really pinpoint why or how. Maybe it’s because Nitori is so timid, while Yoshino tends to be more explosive. Not as explosive as Chiba, obviously, but she tends to go with her gut feelings rather than take time to think things through. Nitori is more hesitant and cautious, even though most of his feelings are written plainly on his face. Chiba is fantastic once again, sticking up for her friends against their bullies. She can be kind of weird, but she loves her friends and won’t stand for anyone hurting them, which is admirable. Even though it often gets her into trouble, and sometimes makes things worse instead of better. Maho I’m still having a hard time with. She doesn’t seem bothered by her brother’s habits, other than it frustrates her that people think he’s prettier than she is. It’s likely that she doesn’t really understand what her brother’s interest in girls’ clothing really means (particularly since that’s the only part she’s aware of). This was another really wonderful volume, and it introduced a new character into Nitori’s circle of friends who I can’t wait to see more of.

Kris
kristin@comicattack.net
@girlg33k_kris

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