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First Impressions: Wandering Son

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For the longest time I had been eagerly anticipating Wandering Son -- I was practically in hysterics when I found out it was getting an anime adaptation. Eagerly, I waited weeks and weeks for this adaptation to come out, and when the first episode hit, you bet your ass I was right there watching.

Wandering Son (Hourou Musuko in Japanese) is a story about a pair of kids who aren't quite comfortable in their own skin -- the boy is exceptionally cute-looking, to the point of being girlish, while the female is the rough-and-tumble "I only wear a t-shirt and jeans" sort of girl. These two eventually start cross-dressing, which leads to a whole mess of situations.

But what was in the manga in not what I got when I started watching this.

Instead, I was presented with something quite different. Read on for why this show will either turn out to be extremely gripping or one of the biggest flops of the Winter season.

Right off the bat, Wandering Son throws you into the middle of the story, quite literally. A year's worth of plot has already progressed from where the manga started, and the backstory drips out juicy morsels here and there. Instead of fifth grade, we're thrown into the first year of middle school, where our main characters Shu Nitori and Yoshino Takatsuki are attending the same middle school with a wide cast of characters already entangled in some drama.

The first episode sets up a number of the relationships -- that Shu and Yoshino had romantic feelings blossom between them, only to be thwarted by Yoshino's indecisive heart, their supporting friends who know about their cross-dressing ways and even the cross-dressing adults they've made friends with. It's a dizzying array of characters to try and retain all within the first episode, although the presentation is better than, say, Baccano!.

The drama that pervades the first two episodes is ultimately based around Shu and Yoshino. In between elementary and middle school, Yoshino and one of her friends got in a fight because they both had feelings for Shu -- the drama is complicated, and the anime chose not to go into it, other than providing some of the most salient moments. This chilliness transfers over to the first days of school, as everyone is together in a new class, along with a few new students who quickly latch onto the main cast of characters.

By the end of the second episode, things begin to heal, and the main plot of the show brings itself into the foreground: Shu has fallen hard for Yoshino, and he truly wants to be with her.

With the plot set already, I'm worried Wandering Son will have far less wandering than the original manga. Yes, Shu will likely wander through the myriad hazards of the battlefield of love, but the initial draw to the manga for me and many others was Shu's initial wanderings through his own gender. I got through four or five volumes in the original Japanese, and the moments that pulled at my heart so greatly already happened.

We do see flashbacks to Shu at the modeling agency, and a bit of him trying on a dress, but we aren't pulled into those moments. It exists as a memory, something we hear secondhand. Instead, the show treats us as a new classmate, hearing these stories for the first time through the entire cast. The first two episodes kicked off with seated interviews of various classmates, putting us in mid-conversation with the main and supporting characters. It creates an interesting visual appeal, one that is the most arresting of any show I've seen in a while.

By now, you've noticed the masterful imagery in the screenshots scattered throughout this post. It's a style that matches Takako Shimura's art, especially the colored pages and the covers of the manga. The character designs come off as light and airy, and strike me as supremely memorable. What you don't immediately appreciate are the camera angles. Take a look at the shot below:

Immediately, I was transported back to watching Tokyo Story by Yasujiro Ozu. The extremely low camera angle put me, the viewer, into such a diminutive seat and heightened the tension of what was essentially a squabble between two twelve-year-olds over a boy they liked. The drama felt so adult and mature -- something that permeates the rest of the show, too. Ei Aoki has something really meaningful going on in these shots, and I can only imagine the payoff down the line will be big.

Without a doubt, Wandering Son is going to have an impact on those who watch it. The show's slow-moving pace, though, may bore those who have no familiarity with the events preceding episode one, and the decision to place the start a ways into the story may fundamentally change how people attach to what goes on. My only hope is that it's for the best.

You can watch the show for free on Crunchyroll.


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Brad Rice
Brad RiceFounder   gamer profile

Brad helped found in 2006, and currently serves as an Associate He's covered all aspects of the industry, but has a particular preference for the business-end of things, more + disclosures


 



Filed under... #anime #First Impressions #Japanator Original #top stories #Winter 11 Season

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