Growing up feeling different than you're supposed to be is never easy, especially when you're a boy who feels he should have been a girl.
What They Say:
Shuichi Nitori is a boy who wants to be a girl and Yoshino Takatsuki is a girl who wants to be a boy. They meet in grammar school and learn one another's secrets. They become able to confide in each other as they grow up.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on the seinen manga by Takako Shimura which began back in 2002 and is still running, with eleven volumes release in graphic novel form as of now, Wandering Son is an eleven episode series by AIC Classic that definitely has a look and feel that is wholly appropriate for this slice of life drama series. The series focus is one that many have felt would be somewhat controversial if not outright unwanted, but it's the kind of story that needs to be told and given more exposure because of how many kids go through similar issues and feelings. The timing of this release is appropriate as well as Fantagraphics is bringing the manga over later this year, so those who get hooked on the show have the hope of seeing much of the manga.
The series focuses on an middle school student named Shuichi Nitori who is in just about every way your average kid. He's got friends, he gets by in his classes without doing badly but not standing out in any particular way. What sets this effeminate looking boy apart from other students is what's inside his head and the way he feels about himself. Along with a couple of other students who all have secrets that they think about, his is that he feels like he far prefers to be a girl than a boy as it feels much more natural to him. Along with him, there's a girl named Yoshino who feels similar but in the opposite direction as she's much more comfortable in boys clothes.
The two learned of each other's secrets in elementary school which made them feel very comfortable in being able to confide in each other about it. There's an interesting series of events shown in mild flashbacks and the like through the episode as we see them when they were a bit younger and going through these emotions and changes, but little is said about how others viewed them or interacted with them about it. Yoshino's much more secretive about what she does in comparison to Shuichi, but they both experiment in different ways wit hit. Shuichi tends to change his clothes only when he's at home, but there's a touching sequence where he's outside in a school uniform with a wig that makes him even more effeminate, to the point where he pulls it off quite well. Yoshino has some understanding family members herself as she's been given a boys uniform to wear and even though she doesn't wear it to school, she's emboldened by another female student who wears one proudly even though she's not doing it for the same reasons that Yoshino and Shuichi do it. It's just a fashion statement for her.
Being a slice of life show, it isn't one that exactly has a whole lot happening. What we see here are the basic threads that are about to be woven together as we see what kinds of experiences Yoshino and Shuichi go through as they hide their secrets from everyone. There's a moment of discovery that happens for Shuichi as he's found doing it again at home and you can feel the emotions strongly from it, both on his part and that of those that discover him as his sister is furious and the friend of hers is just standing there shocked. Yoshino has a wonderful moment earlier in the show where she's told how lucky she is to have a friend like Shuichi who understands her feelings that she can confide it. Yet both of them are still fearful overall for good reasons.
There are two things that will define this series. The first is the character drama itself in whether it can take what we get here and expand upon it while drawing the viewer in more. The story idea is certainly going to be controversial for some but it's one that I find interesting to watch and see play out in an open and honest way. It's not a cookie cutter show by any stretch. The other thing that will define it are the gorgeous visuals. AIC Classic has really captured a beautiful look here that makes this feel older than it is in a way but also incredibly fresh. It reminds me of the style used for My Neighbor's The Yamada's in a way but with a very distinct look of its own. The soft nature of the character designs gives it a dreamy feeling that helps to soften what may be problematic for some viewers at first. But the backgrounds are lush and beautiful as well with some very sharp and vivid moments, particularly with the night time cherry blossom tree sequence which is worth the price of admission alone.
With the opening episode, we're largely introduced to the basics of things and the frustrations that the characters have to go through. This opening episode brings a lot of things to the table as it tells the tale of two characters of a similar nature who are coping with it and experiencing it in different ways. Many kids go through these feelings as do adults but it's an area that doesn't get much discussion and can lead to a lot of confusion for young people who don't know how to deal with it, similar to kids who discover the truth of their sexuality. This is just another flavor of it in the end and one that needs not be shied away from. AIC Classic is setting this up to be a truly amazing and beautiful show based on what we see here. It's calm and quiet but also surprisingly dense and detailed. There are few shows after the first episode that merit and instant re-watch, but Wandering Son is one of them.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English Subtitles
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70" LCoS 1080P HDTV, Dell 10.1 Netbook via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.