Nothing can be more vicious the school kids and the social cliques that form out of it, especially when you already feel very separate from everyone else.
What They Say:
Yoshino and Kaori have started their new lives in middle school. Things continue to be awkward as they go through their day to day. They join the various teams at the start of the semester; Yoshino to basketball and Kaori to volleyball.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
While the show can open strongly on a subject that's not of the norm, carrying through on it and making it engaging throughout is far more of a challenge. This is something that was definitely true of the last real straightforward controversial show that came over here with Koi Kaze, one that I think succeeded very well with what it set out to do. Wandering Son faces similar challenges just in how the audience will handle things since it's not played for the bouncy boobie laughs so many other shows play in.
With the new school year getting underway, the kids are all getting to know each other. There's little things that come up, cute ways they find friends of similar interest and state of mind and the groupings that occur somewhat naturally. There's an amusing nod towards the girl wearing the boys uniform from the previous episode in how it caused a bit of a scuffle. Attitudes and tempers can flare quickly though as we see early on with how some overreact to the words of others. This tends to occur more with the girls though but there's things that crop up with the boys as well, especially when they're all changing for gym class and one of them notes, internally at least, that the small room can stink up pretty quickly when it's all boys. As much as these kids are all growing up now that they're in middle school, they are still kids in the end and a lot of those little quirks of being a teenager are still pretty close to the surface.
A lot of the episode focuses on the small struggles the core characters are feeling with things, the not fitting in while trying to force themselves into the various groups that exist. It's largely done with quiet moments, though there are times where things flare and one student almost strikes another, but largely it comes down to the quiet things. The conversations between the kids where they push small amounts of shame on each other at times about things, admonishing each other about feelings and the like that helps to repress them even more. There's a flashback with this that's really well done about how one plays the victim in order to make the other feel worse only to have it all turn into a tightly controlled explosion of emotions. Some of these kids can get so wound up with how they're being dealt with that they'll break at some point. Seeing that happen is a real rarity in anime unless it's like a last episode of a show as opposed to the second episode.
Wandering Son is definitely one of those series that has a very distinct and different feel to it compared to the majority of what's out there. With its animation style alone, that sets it apart, but it has a very leisurely sense of pacing that's infused with some very strong moments of emotion and feeling that lets it stand out all the more strongly. While the transgender material is relatively slim here overall, the emotions behind it and the way the main characters are dealing with how they feel is in full force simply because it is a part of them and that means it's part of their daily lives. The feeling of being apart from everyone at a time when new friends are being made and groups being formed only heightens the feelings of alienation. The combination of the music, visuals and voice acting allows it all to hit home very easily. If anything, the English part of the ending credits lyrics sum up much of how you're supposed to feel about this show.
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.