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Somber Reviews - Wandering Son
Anime: Hōrō Musuko (Wandering Son)
Hōrō Musuko, also known by English speaking fans as Wandering Son was a manga series written and illustrated by Takako Shimura back in 2002. With a total of fifteen volumes, the series is short, but sweet. However, I'm not here to talk about the manga, I'm here to talk to you about the anime.
The twelve episode anime adaptation was produced by AIC Classic, and directed by Ei Aoki. The series aired in japan between January and March 2011. In 2012, the anime was given an honorable mention prize for technical achievement in broadcast animation. This took place at the 65th Motion Picture and Television Engineering Society of Japan, and that is no small achievement.
It should be noted that this anime is one that plays around heavily with the concepts of puberty, gender normality, gender identity, and transsexualism. The series has been praised for its use of gender role as the main story plot point, however, the anime also receives flak about the emotional reactions of the characters. Some critics argue that they act too mature, or lack realism for their young age.
The story is one that carries very overt themes about gender identity, and as such, there's a lot of heavy topics weaved in and out of the series. Ironically, it continues to keep an upbeat air to it, in spite of the very serious topics. This makes the anime easy to watch, and identify with.
As far as the actual story, the anime follows several characters. Shuichi Nitori, a young male, who strongly desires to become female. Yoshino Takatsuki, a female who desires to be male. There are plenty of other characters too, with a whole range of gender identities, including a character that has completed the gender reassignment process.
It's a school life anime, with quite a bit of slice-of-life mixed in, with themes of identity so heavily wound into the storyline, you can be sure that it will be the primary focus.
This is where the anime truly shines. It has a strong story to be sure, but the characters are all very noteworthy. Even the supporting cast are very well thought out, and provide their own separate motivations, that may, or may not work in favor of everyone else.
This makes a dynamic set of characters that don't simply see things in one very clear ideology...instead, they teeter back and forth, often pulling their friends, and enemies along for the ride. There's an undeniable, unwavering connection between them. As such, it can be expected that emotions, as well as tempers, run high at any given time.
Still, there's a strange sense of gentleness between them that softens each and every situation, just enough, to make the anime a comfortable medium between drama and comedy.
You may like this anime if:
- You take interest in GLBT anime.
- You enjoy short series with strong story elements.
- You've enjoyed other works by Takako Shimura.
- You like school life, and slice-of-life anime.
Wandering Son Trailer (English subbed)
If I had to describe this anime in one would it would be "Risky".
I will relent to the idea that this anime is not everyone's cup of tea. I will even agree, that it's themes are so overt, that it may turn some viewers away...however, it should be noted that this anime is nothing short of a masterpiece.
It dares to defy the ideals in anime, by taking what we usually joke about, and turning it on it's head. Wandering Son takes itself seriously, and does it well. It has a lot of heart, and in my opinion it should be applauded for trying to stand up in the crowd of an otherwise fan-service drenched plot point.
Other anime of this genera normally poke fun at the alternative lifestyle, they don't make true to life.
Yes, this anime is different. Yes, it does ask viewers to respect the themes it presents...however, it's really a good anime all around, even without the themes, which are depicted so well, there's plenty to find here.
The art style is soft, and the characters are drawn with that in mind. Even adult characters seem to have a very youthful appearance to them. The backgrounds are beautiful, and the soundtrack only adds more to the atmosphere. These are all elements that make for a great anime, hands down.
Caveats for this series are more from a mortality standpoint, rather than the over all issue with the series itself.
It faces flack, and many people are deterred from it, purely because of what the series implies. The fact of the matter is, Wandering Son doesn't try to hide from its nature. It shouts it from the roof tops. From the opening theme, to the ending theme, it makes sure to overtly make a statement.
While I would say that many in the GLBT community would commend it for doing a good job of accurately portraying several issues found among GLBT youth, I also argue that perhaps it does it too much. The anime is only 12 episodes long, not nearly long enough to really dive deeply into these topics...
Although, in some respects, I suppose it doesn't need to.
There is no English dub, so unless you speak Japanese, you will have to read subtitles, and that's something not all anime fans are willing to do.
Cast Your Vote
What do you think about Wandering Son?
I highly recommend this series.
For what the anime tries to do, it does it very, very well, and the bias part of my mind wants to rate it a 10 just because of that...but, realistically speaking, while it's good, it just doesn't deserve such a rating just because I'm so enamored with it. The fact is, looking at it from an objective eye, paints a slightly less appealing picture.
As with all of my reviews, based on a score of 1-10, with 1 being the lowest possible score, and ten being the highest, I will give this series an 8.5.
The fact that Wandering Son would only appeal to a very select few, and would never be highly valued outside of the GLBT community, is what lowers the score. It's because I'm a also part of the community that it caters to, that I feel I have to judge it harshly. I feel that I have to look at it from the perspective of anime fandom as a whole, and Wandering Son simply has such a small demographic of viewers it will appeal to...even if those fans do end up being exuberant about the series.
I honestly believe it could to appeal to so many more people, if given the chance. The sad thing is that it probably never will. Still, if you should dare to give it a try, and you might become one of those die-hard fans yourself.