Manga Chapter of the Week: Wandering Son Chapter 121 (Love)

Takako Shimura’s Wandering Son is a fantastically tasteful and insightful work whose main character is a boy who wants to become a girl (Shuuichi Nitori). Wandering Son and Takako Shimura’s other works (most notably Aoi Hana) stand out in a landscape of anime and manga featuring LGBT characters for making said characters something more than a running gags or sexual fantasies. And also for being great manga that explore personal growth on a long-term basis.* For example, Wandering Son started out with the main characters in fourth grade, followed the characters through middle school and high school, and, as of this chapter, moved on to the beginning of the Nitori’s career. Typical of Takako Shimura, this stitch was accomplished with both the finesse of a tailor and the speed of a sewing machine.

Lately, the story’s been subtly building to a sort of conclusion, using a novel Nitori’s writing to reminisce and have him revisit various memories and people from his past that influenced his current self. This means there was lots of narration, and lots of fade-out cutaways as various characters I had come to love got their last words in before the story moves along. In one variety of the little manga-details trickery I always seem to love, the hue of the cutaway differed based on whether the person talking had regrets or not.

WS-121-1

Left: No Regrets, Right: Regrets

Those were “last words” in a limited sense, though, ’cause this is by no means where the story ends. After dropping a [not-really-a] bombshell about the first time Nitori and his girlfriend Anna had sex, the chapter cut right to him being 18 and applying for a job at a gay bar. This development obviously speaks a lot to his character and what the manga is going to cover going forward, and I’m a real fan of the speed at which it was advanced. The manga was getting close to the point where it couldn’t do much more with Nitori in school without seeming repetitive. So now I blink, and the manga’s already 10 miles down the road. Superb stuff.

*I find there’s rarely much point to a series breaking the mold unless it also does a bang-up job with the execution and technical details.

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