- Genre : Slice of Life, drama, coming of age, school
- Episodes 11
- Studio: AIC
Shuuichi is approaching that difficult period in life. The dreaded puberty where everything starts to change and it seems life is just moving along without giving any heed to what you want, whether you’re ready or not. It’s not just Shuuichi though. Yoshino, Chiba, Makoto and all the rest are going through it as well, in their own way. We all have a path to thread. It’s just that Shuuichi’s may be a little windier than the rest. But it’s going to be o.k. because Shuu is strong and has some great friends. That’s always the best start.
I had heard of Wandering Son by reputation. For the few of you that don’t know, it explores the lives and coming of age of a few transgender characters focusing on how this affects their relationships with their friends and family. I had always been both curious and a little wary of it. That’s some pretty delicate subject matter after all. It needs to be handled carefully and without a deft touch, is likely to be insufferable. It’s only after watching Sweet Blue Flowers, that shares the same creator (Takako Shimura) that I was sold on the idea. Sweet Blue Flowers was such a gentle show that truly attempted to be both genuine and respectful. I figured if Wandering Son had at least the same intentions, it was worth a look.
I quite liked the art style of Sweet Blue Flowers. It was a soft watercolour feel. And this is once again present. In fact, it may have been even more striking an effect. As far as I’m concerned, Wandering Son is a beautiful show. The only thing I missed was the dappled sunlight effect. Instead, the characters seem to radiate with an inner light which was not unpleasant but not as warm.
There isn’t much movement in this show. Not only are the lives of slightly introverted students just not that full of action, but the characters are deliberately slow. They are unsure and both their movements and speech are often halting, left incomplete, hesitant and slow. Obviously, this doesn’t really give much opportunity for impressive animation but all of it was super smooth and aligned with the character models. What I mean is that the kids moved like real kids with bones in their bodies tend to move.
Finally, I would really like to mention the sound design. Not so much the voice acting, which was good across the board, but rather the judicious and abundant use of atmospheric sounds. Wandering Son doesn’t have much of a musical soundtrack. The pieces that are chosen are discreet and often there is no music at all. Instead, the world is alive with the sounds of unseen birds and cars, the distant murmurs of characters we will never meet, the general din of dozens of footsteps in school hallways or distant bicycles of city roads and the hushed cries of insects in the night. For me, sound design that knows how to properly incorporate atmospheric sounds instead of drowning everything out with music is one of the most powerful elements to get me to suspend my disbelief. This might be why I felt like this story was realistic despite having a personal frame of reference.
When I finished the show, I wandered the house in a bit of a quiet daze for a while. I decided to cook lunch. I made caramelized onion pizza. It was really tasty. Then not quite knowing what to do with myself, I went to Twitter and I wrote: I just finished Wandering Son and I have feelings and possibly even thoughts. All of them are jumbled and some are a little sharp but others are all fluffy. That’s not a bad sign… Honestly, that’s still how I feel.
From my biased point of view, Wandering Son didn’t seem to be particularly interested in sharing any sort of political message or advocacy. Rather it really focuses on the individual stories of a group of kids growing up together and dealing with all that implies.
And really all I took away from it is that trans kids are..kids. Like super normal kids that explore and experiment in an attempt to figure out who they are and find a place where they can be comfortable in their own skin. Literally like everyone else. The cast of Wandering Son isn’t particularly remarkable in any way, aside from maybe Chiba who is unrepentantly mean which is not something I’m used to seeing in a character. Chiba is also very caring and deeply compassionate. and kind of awesome. Just a bit mean. It’s a cool mix.
But the one clear message that Wandering Son did try to impart is that although all these kids are essentially going through the same things, it’s a lot harder for some of them, and one in particular. For absolutely no reason. Let me explain that a bit. When I say it’s harder for no reason I don’t actually mean that exactly. For no tangible reason? See at some point we all collectively agreed that if one of your chromosomes stayed stuck together at conception, then that’s supposed to dictate all sorts of things for the rest of your life. Things as fundamental as how you should react and the extent to which you are allowed to feel things, as insidious as how other people will view you by default and as maddeningly mundane as what you should wear.
And guys, I know you want to wear dresses. It’s o.k. I mean as soon as we give positions of people authority like judges, kings or surgeons then the uniforms are robes and gowns… Heck, even Jedis wear them! I don’t blame you! A nicely designed loose dress is super comfortable, very flattering and has a great range of movement. Everyone should be allowed to wear them. It’s not actually about the clothes, it’s just that the most important inciting incident of the series uses it as a metaphor.
And it made me kind of mad. It made me angry that we, as a species, decided to make life harder for a select few people just because. No health or religious imperative (they wear robes too). It doesn’t give us an advantage when it comes to survival f the species or anything. It’s a purely societal construct that is outdated if it ever made any sense at all, but gosh darn we’re gonna stick to it no matter how much damage it does.
The last few paragraphs are all me. There’s absolutely none of this in the series. It’s calmer and more open-minded and just generally wiser a show than I am. It doesn’t preach. But the point I’m trying to make is that it made me think and it made me want to voice something. Not every anime does that. And I think there’s value in it.
If I tried to separate personal impact (not something easily done), I would say the show is lovely and very well made. It’s purely character-driven so if you don’t get attached to somewhat average if lovely kids easily, it might not be for you. The pace is also deliberately slow. I can see how someone could be bored by Wandering Son. I also got a comment on Twitter that people seemed too accepting. It’s true that the drama is fairly light but I count that as a plus rather than a minus.
And you know what else, I think Wandering Son is a gentle show that truly attempted to be both genuine and respectful. If Takako Shimura comes up with anything else, I will watch it.
Favourite character: Chizuru Sarashina, lots of great characters but c’mon, Chi’s the best!
What this anime taught me: It reminded me that girls usually look hot in menswear…
- Every time anyone takes a picture – take a sip
- Every time Chi’s the center of attention – raise your glass
- Every time Nitori’s sister takes it out on him – take a sip
- Every time Chiba is rude – take a small sip
- Every time Momoko gets mad – take a sip
- Every time Mako is the best – cheer
- Every time Anna smiles – smile too
- Every time anyone gets new clothes – take a sip
- Every time we see Yuki – yay!
- Every time anyone serves tea – get a snack
- Every time Maho meets up with her boyfriend – take a sip
- Every time someone falls for Shu – I see it!
- Every time anyone’s hair grows – take a sip
You can see all the very pretty screencaps over on Pinterest if you are interested. If the Board is no longer on the main page, it should be in “Anime Screenshots”