- Alt. Name
- Hourou Musuko
- Release Date
- Winter 2011
- No. of Episodes
- AIC Classic
Wandering Son is a 2011 Coming of age drama series from the longtime Japanese animation studio, Anime International Company (AIC) Classic. Though the studio hasn’t created anything other than a three-episode Original Net Animation within the middle of 2010s and viewing any anime ranking website, this series tends to be among the top. Can a series that the studio has more or less taken a long hiatus still show that it’s a favorable animation studio? Considering that the studio was created in the eighties and now no longer creating anything seems to have become not only a red flag but a potential hindrance towards its massive backlog of anime creations – not to mention video games.
Being in the fifth grade is not only challenging, but it’s also quickly a stressful time in anyone’s life. While Shuichi Nitori is very effeminate, so much that he’s widely considered to be the prettiest girl in the entire school, but to their dismay, she is biologically a male. Thankfully he has a childhood friend who can lend more than an ear to their woes and all that comes with the discomfort of gender identity: the lanky tomboy Yoshino Takatsuki, who though biologically female, does not identify as a girl. These two friends share not only a secret, but they find solace in one another.
However, with puberty, peer pressure, and relationships building up in the background, these two preteens will truly understand that life isn’t as easy as we hope it’d be. With so many unfamiliar experiences coming to a new school, they attempt to make new friendships and struggle to maintain old ones. Faced with nearly impossible odds, they must deal with the harshest of realities that come with not only growing up but discovering who they are and who they want to become.
Throughout the multiple viewings of Wandering Son, the viewer will enjoy the many positives within the story. For instance, the pacing is realistically paced for a coming of age tale that doesn’t veer too far off the realm of reality. This series focuses on the early stages that come with being different and adequately equates them into a narrative for any age. Alongside this, it doesn’t show much of the process like some made for television movies that like to oversimplify its storyline; it spoon-feeds its info at times but doesn’t baby its audience. What was truly remarkable about the story is that it had positive characters and negative ones, which was interesting. Some series that haven’t talked about such challenging topics failed to do the bare minimum on human sexuality and gender identity.
Unfortunately, nothing is perfect, and this series is no different, though the complaints are few and far between. At least initially, the most challenging portion of the narrative is that the two main characters look too similar. So similar that it was hard to tell if the story was actually about two different children. Another blatantly obvious problem was that it mainly focused on one of the two characters for a majority of the series. Though the one they chose to focus on has a beautiful transformation, it could potentially leave the audience feeling like they had been bait-and-switched. Though these negatives may be small, studios need to consider that other competitors worldwide need to convince the audience that a story is worth investing in. When the viewer can’t distinguish between the other, it seems moderately problematic.
When any series tries to create something magical, no matter what the genre or the topic may be, they should always strive for creative originality. Thus Wandering Son made something unique and rememberable; the watercolor art style magnifies the cheery parts of the series while also highlighting the perceived negative moments in one’s life that may one day turn to be something life-changing. The minimalist character features work exceptionally well with this story about gender identity and what it truly is to be male and female. While the characters are sometimes the best looking aspect of this series, it is genuinely debatable that this art’s true beauty rests within the floral scenery.
Perhaps all the admiration that this series receives can give a little over half of this series praise towards the series production. Considering that this series has no opening animation, the series didn’t need to waste any time with a potentially tacky opener that’ll leave the audience with a terrible taste in their mouths. However, when it comes to the ending theme, the studio took a minimalist approach by having the main character walking against a white background. Though this may seem boring to some, this ending theme is relatively peaceful and can cleanse the viewer’s pallet from the potential hard-hitting episode they just experienced.
When it comes to characters, Wandering Son seems to have fallen between two camps, the first being an outstanding ensemble and being a group of characters that the viewer can potentially hate. Shuichi Nitori is one of two protagonists; he’s in the fifth grade of elementary school. Though Shuichi goes by the nicknames Shu and Nitorin, Shuichi enjoys dressing more feminine than his peers. He is a quiet kid who likes spending time with his friends and family, though out of everyone, he’s the most silent of any group.
The other protagonist, Yoshino Takatsuki, is a tall, masculine child known as Takatsuki-Kun. This honorific is mainly used for boys, which is terrific for Yoshino since she wishes to be a boy. Though she tries not to dress in feminine clothing, she feels more comfortable in the boys’ uniform.
Saori, whose nicknamed Saorin, is a fifth-grader in Shuichi’s class. Saori is the most difficult of the classmates to enjoy, but that makes her character so great. She finds it rather difficult to associate with her peers thus has very few friends in return. She’s self-centered and doesn’t enjoy the idea of her peers going along with dressing up as the opposite gender. Overall the viewer will more than likely find her rather annoying, but she adds a realness to the story.
Kanako Sasa, whose usually known as her surname, is also in Shuchi’s class. She is relatively short and is an energetic girl who thinks of herself as everyone’s friend and becomes troubled when people fight, often resulting in her being the mediator.
Now there are many other characters within this series, but they either aren’t of importance or leave a lasting effect. However, the one character that will be equally loved as much as she is hated is Maho Nitori, Shuichi’s sister. She is one year older than her brother, and much like the stereotypical teenage girl, she has a strong interest in clothing. The one area that the viewers will most likely dislike about her is that she’s so hardheaded when dealing with her younger brother, but that makes her more human and a proper sibling. She dislikes his weird habit of cross-dressing and continuously gets angry and even disturbed when she finds him dressed as a girl.
Throughout this transcendent coming of age tale about two transgender children trying to find themselves is rarely seen, let alone talked about. This series is remarkably poignant but of genuine empathy. The story mixed with the beautiful animation and production makes this series an exciting and potentially classic anime series that everyone should watch. What indeed adds more to this experience is the vast array of characters throughout this twelve episode series. They have a realism that viewers will love and hate all simultaneously.
Please don’t pass by this series thinking it’s not worth the watch, when in reality, this may be the series that leaves the most significant impact on one’s life. Wandering Son was ahead of its time, and with so much power behind the series, it almost leaves the viewer wanting more. But unlike most series, this story is better left at twelve episodes, and no anime studio can catch lightning in a bottle twice. The word classic is described as an “outstanding example of a particular style; something of lasting worth or with a timeless quality.” Though only time will tell if this series will forever be great, I’d be shocked if any series can create something better than what this series has done.
Cody Senpai is the creator of BakaNow, an anime review website that specializes in spoiler-free reviews for everyone. He is an avid anime watcher who has traveled to Japan numerous times to not only experience the culture and history but also to build friendships with people through a common interest. He is an avid animation fanatic from birth and even went on to major in communication to help share the importance of the stories we love to watch and listen to. Cody lives in Denver, Colorado and loves to do anything adventurous.