Manga is a tricky type of comic. There’s a higher barrier to entry due to the flipped pages, cultural cues that may not be easily understood or explained, and there’s a lot of chaff available on the market. It’s hard to know where to start.

Sequential State features manga I think are worth the effort for non-manga readers with a mix of information, a tiny bit of explanation, and some thoughts on why a book or series is good. Feel free to ask questions here or on twitter.

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Shimura Takako is a celebrated mangaka who is primarily known for her manga that feature LGBT topics. Adaptations of two of her comics, Aoi Hana and Wandering Son, have been made into television shows. While Aoi Hana was originally picked up for a digital release by JManga and then Digital Manga, Wandering Son was licensed for print release by Fantagraphics (tumblr: fantagraphics), and the first volume was published in 2011. 

Wandering Son is a slice of life story that features a pair of elementary school children Shuichi Nitori, “a boy who wants to be a girl,” and Yoshino Takatsuki, “a girl who wants to be a boy.”  The series follows the two as they go through the hardships of growing up feeling out of place.  There is a big group of students that they spend time with and grow to be friends with, and we as readers spend a lot of time in these characters heads.

Takako seems very interested in showing us the small moments, the details of these children’s lives, and how those small moments can have a huge emotional toll. When Shuichi’s older sister sees Shuichi wearing a dress or finds Shuichi’s wig. When Yoshino has to deal with menstruation. The teasing and bullying about being to girly or too manly. All of these small things build tensions that end in sometimes dramatic explosions.

Another big reason to read this comic is the strength of the illustration. Takako’s comics are beautiful, she has a knack for shading and motion that feel somewhat unique to her comics. Her linework has a delicate, gossamer feel. Wandering Son also has some of the best body language and expression drawing I’ve seen in a comic to date. I’ve picked a few pages above that I think show some of that off.

Clearly the themes and ideas that explored in Wandering Son have touched some critical nerves. Wandering Son has been recognized by the ALA’s Rainbow List for Children & Teens, YALSA’s 2012 Great Graphic Novels for Teens, and volume 1 of the series was nominated for an Eisner in 2012. There are currently 7 volumes in print.

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