Wandering Son Vol. 1 by Shimura Takako


[Edit: Originally published July 23, 2016]

This was quite possibly the sweetest thing I have ever read and I am ridiculously disappointed that I can’t find the next two volumes of the manga for under 100 dollars. 

Wandering Son is about two transgender children and their self discovery and how it progresses through a year at school. There’s a young trans girl, Nitori Shuchi, and a trans boy, Takatsuki Yoshino. It was very sweet and it portrayed the gender discovery process very well.

There’s a school play that the class both kids are in puts on at the end of the year for the graduating students. The play is gender swapped, meaning the girls are playing the boy roles and the girls are playing the boy rolls. For Shuchi and Yoshino this plays a large role in them experimenting with their gender. Yoshino gets her hair cut and finds she really likes looking like a boy. Shuchi, who’s been conflicted about wearing dresses, finds something that he’s comfortable with. Neither of them are out to their parents and they find comfort in each other about what they’re going through. 

There’s an introduction in the beginning of the book that talks about gender in Japan. Japan and the Japanese language deals with gender differently than English does. The introduction is definitely important to read in order to understand the translation choices that have been made regarding gendered language for Shuchi and Yoshino. 

You may have noticed I referred to them with gendered pronouns that reflect their gender assigned at birth in an earlier paragraph. I did this because both Suchi and Yoshino are in that pre-transitional not out state where they’re only out to each other and no one else and that’s how they’re gendered, for the most part, in the manga. This may change in later volumes, but I’ve only read volume one.

You can find the book here.

Related Reviews: The Heart of Thomas and Symptoms of Being Human

The Heart of Thomas by Moto Hagio

JULY 20, 2016The Heart of Thomas by Moto Hagio


[Edit: Originally published July 20, 2016]

The Heart of Thomas begins with a young boy, Thomas, the titular character, committing suicide by throwing himself off a bridge. He’s doing so after being rejected by the boy he’s in love with.

Cut to the prestigious boarding school that Thomas was attending. His death was an accident, it had snowed and he fell through a gap in the rail. This is the story that everyone believes until, Juli, the boy who’d scorned Thomas’s interest in him, receives the suicide note that Thomas left him. 

The story that follows is the story of Juli coming to terms with his guilt along with coming to terms with himself. Something happened to Juli, you’re not sure what, but it’s hinted at through scars and a fearful refusal to enter a particular room. You learn later that this is because he was assaulted the previous year by a group of students. It seems implied that the abuse was partially sexual in nature, but this is a Shojo Manga from the 1970s and nothing is super explicitly stated. Frankly I missed it the first time around, and I had to go back and look for it after there was mention of sexual assault in the introduction. 

While Juli is struggling with his trauma a new force enters, a boy named Erich who is practically the spitting image of the dead Thomas. There is an immediate rift between Erich and Juli, though Juli is a little obsessed with the boy because the appearance is so similar that he sometimes struggles to separate the two. Erich also spends a large portion of the story very angry that he keeps getting conflated to Thomas. 

The story is heavy. It’s not a light hearted romance. In fact there is no attempt at romance that goes well, though Thomas’s death is the only death related to romance things. The real heart of the story is dealing with trauma with Juli and coping with codependence and sense of self with Erich. Erich and Juli are not the end game though that would be a reasonable assumption as you watch their relationship progress. 

The Heart of Thomas deals with harder topics and has characters who make bad choices, it’s dramatic yet doesn’t tilt too far into the world of unbelievable. It’s a very well written and compelling story. More complex than I think you’ll find in most other Shojo manga.

You can find it here.

Related Reviews: Wandering Son Vol 1



Julio’s Day by Gilbert Hernandez


[Edit: Originally published July 16, 2016]

Julio’s day is a comic I found rather sobering in relation to the other books I’ve been reading recently. It’s not dark, but it’s real. It tells the story of one man, Julio and his family over several generations spanning from Julio’s birth in 1900 to his death in 2000.

In the very beginning before the story starts there is a key of faces for Julio and each of the family members as they age so you can tell who is who. It can be a hair tricky with the art style to figure that out, but the key is very helpful and I referred to it several times throughout my reading. 

The story primarily follows Julio, but there are tangents that follow his sister Sofia, and then her daughter Renata and her son Julio Tomas, and then his son, Julio Juan.

Julio Juan is gay (there is a very nsfw sequence surrounding this), and towards the end it’s implied that Julio is as well but has been closeted and was in love with his best friend Tommy all his life (Julio is quite elderly at this point.) 

Both World Wars, the Korean war, and the Vietnam war, are touched on within the story. With various family members and other townsfolk and friends joining up and what happens with that. 

Other recurring things include a poisonous blue worm that causes problems throughout generations, starting when Julio’s father gets infected after eating a taco that was infested. If you have issues with parasites you might have a problem here. The portrayal of the illness the worms cause is also pretty graphic with bleeding and bloating. 

It is also heavily implied that Julio’s uncle Juan is a child molester and that he did things to both Julio and his sister Sofia, though Julio doesn’t remember. Children go missing and then Juan is always the one who finds them. Sofia has been vocal about her dislike of uncle Juan from the very beginning, though it’s never explicitly stated it is heavily, heavily implied. 

It’s a heartfelt and touching story, all of the characters feel incredibly real. It’s an excellent read if you can handle the darker parts.

You can find the book here.