With the Light: Raising an Autistic Child Vol. #01 - Mania.com

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  • Art Rating: B+
  • Packaging Rating: B+
  • Text/Translatin Rating: B
  • Age Rating: 13 & Up
  • Released By: Yen Press
  • MSRP: 14.99
  • Pages: 528
  • ISBN: 978-0-7595-2356-2
  • Size: A5
  • Orientation: Right to Left
  • Series: With the Light

With the Light: Raising an Autistic Child Vol. #01

By Sakura Eries     November 26, 2007
Release Date: September 30, 2007

With the Light: Raising an Autistic Child Vol.#01
© Yen Press

Creative Talent
Writer/Artist:Keiko Tobe
Translated by:Satsuski Yamashita
Adapted by:

What They Say
Born during the sunrise - an auspicious beginning - the Azumas' newborn son is named Hikaru, which means "light." But during one play date, his mother notices that her son is slightly different from the other children. In this alternately heartwarming and bittersweet tale, a young mother tries to cope with both the overwhelming discovery of her child's autism and the trials of raising him while keeping her family together.

The Review
This is a sizable book. Published in the larger A5 format with 528 pages on heavier weight paper, you certainly get value for your money. I'm surprised that Yen Press did not split it into shorter volumes; this 1.5 inch thick book could have easily been released as two or even three shorter volumes. However, a problem with the thicker format is the potential for strain on the spine, especially because the pages have to be pulled apart to see the text on a few pages. With repeated use, the book might split at the spine.

The front cover features a simple blue-and-white design. The background is split between plain white for the upper portion and a clear daytime sky for the lower portion. At the top right hand corner is a black-and-white drawing of Sachiko holding Hikaru as a toddler in her arms. Sachiko has an adoring, maternal look on her face while Hikaru is preoccupied with the marbles in his hands. Just below and to the left of the illustration is the title in large sky-blue capital letters. The subtitle "Raising an Autistic Child" in black text follows with the volume number just below it. The author's name in black letters is at the center bottom of the cover.

The back cover has the same split white and sky-blue background as the front. ISBN and pricing information is placed at the top right hand corner of the book. The title logo is aligned towards the left just above the sky-blue portion of the cover. Located at the lower portion of the cover is a story synopsis and a description of the book's awards and recognitions.

Extras include table of contents; an explanation of cultural notes; seven pages of translation notes; inserts detailing tips for parents of autistic children; two short essays written by the mothers of autistic children; and ads for other books about autism published by the Hachette Book Group.

Tobe has a clean shojo art style. Several characters of varying ages are introduced throughout the volume, and Tobe does a good job of differentiating characters. However, while character designs for the supporting cast are appropriately drawn for their respective ages, Sachiko is depicted throughout the entire volume like a teenager, with big sparkly eyes and wavy hair. Although Hikaru grows older, Sachiko doesn't seem to age and looks the same at the beginning of the story as she does nine years and another child later.

This is a very emotional story, and Tobe conveys those emotions through a combination of characters' expressions, pacing, and background tones. While the story is mainly told through the eyes of Sachiko, there are a few places that depicts the world through Hikaru's eyes, and the distorted images and screentones used for those panels do a lot to help the reader understand Hikaru's hypersensitivity and why reacts the way he does.

Yen Press keeps the original Japanese sound effects with translations either placed beside them in small text or at the panel margins. Translations of text on paper are placed line by line beneath the original Japanese. Signs are translated with notes at the panel margins.

Except for a couple of grammatical glitches, the dialogue translation is satisfactory. However, Yen Press could have done a tidier job touching up on the dialogue balloons; there are smudges behind individual letters throughout the book and a noticeable splotch in the translation notes. Yen Press chose to keep the Japanese honorifics, which surprised me. For seasoned manga readers, it's par for the course. However, this title will likely be marketed towards non-manga readers interested in autism, and I had expected the Japanese honorifics to be translated to English equivalents to make it an easier read for manga neophytes. However, Yen Press does do a fairly thorough job with addressing cultural references in their translation notes.

Sachiko and Masato Azuma are thrilled when their first child, a son, is born. Sachiko names him Hikaru, which means Japanese for "to be bright," and eagerly anticipates her role as his mother. However, parenting proves more difficult than Sachiko anticipated. Hikaru is reluctant to be held, cries a lot, and, to Sachiko's dismay, doesn't seem to acknowledge or return her affection. After his 18-month assessment, a doctor suggests that he might have autism. Sachiko has never heard of autism and is referred to the specialists at her local City Welfare Facility. When she learns that autism is an incurable disorder, she goes into denial, insisting that he couldn't possibly have that disorder. However, she is forced to face reality when Hikaru causes a scene at her father-in-law's memorial service.

Depressed and desperate, Sachiko accepts the assistance offered by the City Welfare Facility. With the support of the specialists and the mothers of other children with autism, she begins to understand the disorder and learn how to communicate with Hikaru. Unfortunately, it's a slow process, and Masato and Masato's mother don't understand why Hikaru can't act like a normal child. They blame Sachiko for his misbehavior, and Sachiko's and Masato's marriage nearly strains to the point of divorce. It takes a drastic downturn in Masato's health to force Masato and his mother to reassess the situation and realize that Hikaru's condition is an inherent part of him.

When the family finally rallies to help Hikaru, Sachiko's burden becomes much lighter. However, Hikaru is still largely an enigma to them, and Sachiko runs into all sorts of barriers trying to find a place for Hikaru within the "normal" world. Getting along with the families of "normal" children, enrolling him in elementary school, even taking him to a doctor, all pose challenges. However, there are small victories as well, and as Hikaru slowly learns to communicate, Sachiko grows to love and appreciate him for the person that he is.

As mentioned on the back cover of the book, this manga was adapted into an award-winning television drama, and it is indeed a drama. It's not a dry nonfiction handbook, nor is it a biography, though Hikaru's character is based upon an actual child. With the Light is the fictional account of a boy with autism as told from his mother's point of view. The story is quite engaging as Sachiko goes through her emotional ups and downs and Hikaru's personality develops, albeit quite differently than most manga characters’. However, the manga serves to increase awareness about the disorder and also provide tips and encouragement for families of children with autism. As someone who has heard about autism but never really understood it, I found that it provided quite a bit of information about what autism is and what it isn't, and how difficult and isolating the situation can be for parents who do not get support from their families and communities.

The drama in the story primarily stems from the conflict and confusion universal to families dealing with autism. However, Tobe occasionally pushes the story into the realm of overly dramatic with a lot of unnecessary additional circumstances. The melodrama of the story hit ridiculous when Hikaru runs away from Sachiko just as she goes into labor with her second child in the middle of flood while her husband is in Sweden.

The book contains numerous Japanese cultural references that are familiar to the average manga reader but may perplex non-manga readers. The cultural notes do address most of these references, but one part of the story that was not clarified was the difference between kindergarten and day care. When the specialists at the welfare facility decide Hikaru's ready for a school setting, Sachiko is unable to find a kindergarten willing to accommodate his special needs. When she tells one of the other mothers about her troubles, Sachiko is advised to enroll Hikaru in day care instead. Sachiko follows her friend's advice and is able to enroll Hikaru into a day care with little difficulty. However, it is not clear why day care would be so much more accommodating compared to kindergarten, especially since the day care's activities as depicted by the manga seem comparable to that of a kindergarten.

As part of my evaluation, I asked a special education teacher friend who works with students with autism for her opinion of the book. She commented that while the information isn't presented as systematically as a guidebook or text book, she found that the portrayal of the emotional impact and the isolation that autism has on families was quite good. She was surprised by the subtitle "Raising an Autistic Child" though; apparently, the term "child with autism" is preferred to "autistic child."

This manga is not rated, but I consider it appropriate for all ages.


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