45 CommentsFirst Impressions / By Scamp /

Wandering Son episode 1

Was going to write about Fractale but the 360p version makes for miserable viewing and even worse screencaps. Besides, I have a lot to say about Wandering Son and not all of it is positive. Or should I say not all of it is negative, I’m not sure which my readers were expecting more of.

Wandering Son is gentle. I call it ‘fluffy’. That doesn’t mean ‘fluff’ in the same way I would describe the likes of K-ON or Squid Girl, as in anime that hold no weight. ‘Fluffy’ is more the tone Wandering Son takes to it’s story telling. It’s almost like it’s afraid of hitting us with anything that might scare us away. Even the animation style feels like the artists are afraid of putting too much weight into the drawings, which leaves some of the character designs with these odd gaps in their heads where the artist was almost too afraid to touch the page with his digital brush in fear the design might come off to harsh. The dialogue is simplified to the extreme, using incredibly simple phrasing to convey highly complex emotions. The BGM is all tinkly piano music like it’s trying to soothe our poor hearts to a calmer land. There’s no humour. Humour might mean we’d stop taking it seriously and jolt us out of fluffy dreamland.

This is what many people call beautiful. Wandering Son fans are one of the most picky and insecure bunch I’ve ever come across. Terrified that anyone might mistake their anime for anything other than the soft series that it is, they desperately point out that this anime doesn’t play the trap card for laughs nor titillation. This is serious! They’re also desperate to point out that this is a drama and hard hitting stuff will come along. It’s not hard hitting though, is it guys? Come on. It will be as hard hitting as a styrofoam. It wants to stroke out hair and tell us it’s all OK. That we’re special and beautiful. I really don’t like this style of story-telling. It feels…damnit, what’s the word. Demeaning? Wait I know, it’s patronising. Don’t stroke me with the proverbial feather, I want the harsh sledgehammer of storytelling. It’s annoying but, far more importantly, it’s boring. I could be a harsh git here and suggest the reason anime fans like this sort of stuff is because they’re emotionally insecure and need cuddling. In fact, I will suggest that. The reason anime fans like this sort of stuff is because they’re emotionally insecure and need cuddling.

I did say there would be positives in this review though. While I made fun of the art style earlier and the characters extremely shiny heads, I rather liked it. It was animated smoothly, fits the style of show perfectly and is certainly original, which I’ll always give extra marks for. There was a bit of explosion of characters at the start, which made it difficult to keep up who’s who, especially when you weren’t sure what gender each character was. But I was able to get a grasp on some of the characters and it did a remarkably good job of getting across their character types. These certainly aren’t stereotypical archetypes on show. By the end of the episode I found I ‘got’ what made the lead two tick. One complaint I often have with simplified dialogue is it feels like a cop out for expressing complex emotions (hello Cross Game). In Wandering Son it felt more like these kids didn’t understand their own emotions.

It’s just a generally well made show that gets what it wants to be. It’s just what it wants to be is something that grates me the wrong way with a grater made out of vanilla ice cream and pillows. I’m certainly interested in watching more. I’d hate to think I’m the type of guy so stuck in his ways that he’s not open to possibly enjoying new genres. Maybe I need a cuddle too.

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  1. Posted January 13, 2011 at 11:24 pm | Permalink

    As for the animation style, I believe AIC were trying to emulate the watercolor tankobon covers from the manga:

    In any case, you don’t really seem to have a specific problem with the show. Was the atmosphere really that suffocating? I mean, how else could it have been portrayed? You blame them for not understanding their own emotions, but wouldn’t it have been a total cop-out to have a bunch of kids who are just starting middle school to have all their serious gender identity issues straight? I’m not going to descend to the “it is what it is” argument because that’s just stupid, but the way you seem to talk about the show it just seems that you wanted the episode to be worse just for the sake of it being different from what it was. And is having a particular art style really a precursor to a show being emotionally insubstantial?

    That being said, you could be right in the end :/ I’m just fanboying out cause I liked Aoi Hana :V

    • Scamp
      Posted January 13, 2011 at 11:31 pm | Permalink

      It needs to be harsher. I’m not saying they change the way the characters are structered or anything, that’s actually pretty good. It’s the way the softness envelops everything that bores me. I get that they achieved exactly what they were going for though, and I certainly enjoyed this a hell of a lot more than that snore fest Aoi Hana =P

      • Posted January 14, 2011 at 4:49 pm | Permalink

        I think the “tone” serves very well to deliver the content in a manner that neither sensationalizes or marginalizes the characters’ problems. Too many shows take these sorts of issues ad use them as slapstick humor or as an excuse to be needlessly insulting. Your notion that the desires of the viewers of the show to be emotionally cajoled and soothed over their problems is ridiculous – I didn’t watch Code Geass in order to gain confidence in my ability to subvert the authority of an empire. Maybe you’d like the show better if they started calling each other fags and gayfords. Heh, maybe I would, too :V

  2. Nanou
    Posted January 14, 2011 at 12:00 am | Permalink

    UTW is going to do Fractale with .ts by the way :]

  3. Chartfag
    Posted January 14, 2011 at 12:39 am | Permalink

    I’m one of the first to defend Hourou Musuko against people saying “herp derp traps”, but I wouldn’t say it’s “hard-hitting” or even that fluffy, though this anime might be.
    It just ambles on at a relaxing pace and you end up more attached to the characters than you realise. Actually screw it, I don’t know why I really like it to be fair – i think it’s just a very good formula you get in many contexts, but none of them have been particularly grabbing until this one (most forgettable shojo follow similar styles), which anyone who’s found adolescent life awkward or lonely at some point will immediately relate to, even sans weird obsessions. It gets to the point where a teenage boy cuddling a gigantic teddy seems natural.

    The thing i’ll praise this episode for the most was the presence of beautiful backgrounds, mostly because the manga rivals Bleach in its total absence of scenery, heh.

    • Scamp
      Posted January 14, 2011 at 10:51 am | Permalink

      I liked that teddy scene actually. The guy was finding the upgrade to middle school scary and retreated to his childhood by going back to his giant teddy. As I said, this show is fairly clever when it comes to displaying how these characters feel

  4. Posted January 14, 2011 at 12:47 am | Permalink


    Posted January 14, 2011 at 12:59 am | Permalink

    I’m off to watch this. didn’t realize it came out D:
    And the sound of an anime cuddling with me and stroking my hair sounds godly…

      Posted January 14, 2011 at 5:50 pm | Permalink

      I watched it this morning and I have to say- I did enjoy it. I guess that means I must be the target audience.

      • Posted January 15, 2011 at 8:35 am | Permalink

        i must say that i’ve been staring at your avatar for days now and i’m in love with it. ciel ftw.

  6. Posted January 14, 2011 at 1:48 am | Permalink

    Of course its gentle. Usually anime featuring trans characters depicts them in a manner which is dehumanizing and cruel. And the people watching this who can relate to the characters are likewise treated in a cruel, dehumanizing manner in real life. So, yeah, its gentle, and in this case, no, this isn’t about making anime fans feel all comforted and fuzzy, etc. Its about not making an already marginalized group of people feel even more alienated than they already do feel, about actually depicting them in a realistic manner.

    Honestly, if that’s your problem with this show, then you should just drop it now, ’cause that’s the way the show is. If you want something hard-hitting about trans people, then go watch Hedwig and the Angry Inch instead.

    • Scamp
      Posted January 14, 2011 at 10:56 am | Permalink

      [shrug] at least you’re not telling me I don’t ‘get’ the show.

      Besides, it’s hardly that realistic now. It’s too light. Obviously hard hitting isn’t realistic either, but this goes out the other side and becomes too soft in its depiction. In a way, it’s still alienating those people. It’s not presenting them normally, it’s presenting them too softly. There’s the argument that these people need the message to be presented in a soft manner. The kids in the show need to be cuddled and told they’re beautiful etc. But I’m not that and it gets boring to watch

  7. fathomlessblue
    Posted January 14, 2011 at 2:30 am | Permalink

    I kinda see where you’re coming from, the ‘fluffyness’ was slightly overbearing, although nothing to stop me watching. Still, at times it was like the visual equivalent of being suffocated by a giant marshmallow. It’s hard to explain as I actually liked the style, but also found it distracting.

    Out of all the other shows this season, Kimi ni Todoke is the closest match in pace and lightness of the animation, which is odd as I love both facets of that anime. I guess KnT appeals to my nostalgic yearnings for more innocent times, so I find the style as a positive addition to that vibe; in Wandering Son’s case I can’t really relate to the characters issues so the encompass gentleness grated a little.

    Again, I don’t really have the words to describe it. I liked the animation, but not necessarily with this anime. I think the cuddling vibe you describe feels about right; it was too much. It just dulled my empathy towards the characters and me impatient for them to man up (no pun intended) and grow some thicker skin, which is obviously the opposite intended effect the series is going.

    • Scamp
      Posted January 14, 2011 at 10:58 am | Permalink

      Well I hate Kimi ni Todoke so heh~

      Wandering Son is certainly the closest I’ve come to actually enjoying this type of show, despite the fact it goes fluffier than any other anime I’ve seen before. Or perhaps it’s because it goes fluffier….

      No, that’s not it. I like it because it’s extremely good at displaying complex emotions in characters who don’t understand these emotions themselves

  8. Posted January 14, 2011 at 3:06 am | Permalink

    Seriously Scamp. Disagreeing with others over a show? never gonna blame you for difference in tastes. But attacking fans of a series? that’s low… that’s REALLY low >.>
    I could vomit some acid here, but at the moment I can’t respect you enough to bother spending the time to =.=

    • Scamp
      Posted January 14, 2011 at 11:00 am | Permalink

      Ah come on. This is hardly the first time I’ve attacked fans of a show. Narutards, moe fans, oldfags. It’s just suddenly a big deal because the target was the hyper-sensitive Wandering Son fans. Thanks for proving my point

  9. CS
    Posted January 14, 2011 at 4:08 am | Permalink

    It was cuddly and fluffy and I want to eat it. ._.

  10. Posted January 14, 2011 at 5:03 am | Permalink

    Adachi’s weakness, you got it. It does get old.

    But this is much better, I agree!

  11. Posted January 14, 2011 at 8:20 am | Permalink

    well, yeah, the people who go through transsexual issues like this want to be cuddled. as they should be.

    i disagree in that the light and simple storytelling is trying to “patronize” the audience as you say. it’s just trying to create an atmosphere of “normality” and serenity where there is anything but those things in the hearts of the protagonists. i didn’t find anything comforting in the first episode; if anything, the juxtaposition unsettled me. then again, having read a bit of the manga, i have an idea where the story is headed.

    i don’t know what you mean by “harsher”. more people picking on them? more breakdowns and crises?

    • Scamp
      Posted January 14, 2011 at 12:16 pm | Permalink

      Not harsher in actual content. Harsher in tone. Which would obviously go against the idea they have for this anime. Doesn’t mean I have to like it though

      • Posted January 15, 2011 at 7:51 am | Permalink

        i dunno, i think if they went harsher in tone they’d have a shoujo anime in their hands ;/ and it would be written by suenobu keiko.

  12. Posted January 14, 2011 at 8:58 am | Permalink

    The interesting thing about Hourou Musuko is that, unlike series that more often get cited in discussions of “slice of life” (K-ON, Hidamari Sketch), it actually IS a slice of life, in the proper sense. There is no concrete plot to speak of, except that the kids just keep growing, and the choices they make keep building. And that in itself possesses a kind of gravity, when you take into account whose lives we’re slicing into.

  13. electronicmaji
    Posted January 14, 2011 at 9:15 am | Permalink

    Series is hardly all cuddles and fluff. Mind you more of the difficult issues were cut out of the series because of where it starts. There’s still going to be name calling. The PV already featured one scene of Nitorin being called a fag. The word used for “Sick” is also something quite strong. There’s no real translation for it, but it’s stronger than faggot, stronger than freak, it’s like being called a fucking disgusting inhumane piece of shit.

    Beautiful and fluffy artwork? Certainly. There’s a beauty to it’s simplicity. Is it going to cuddle and pet you? Certainly not once anything major has occured. Certainly not once Saorin has started to become violent and even more disturbed and angry as we’ve seen in the PVs for the next episode. Certainly not once certain other plot developments occur that involve the disgust with Nitorin by half his family. Certainly not once adult post-op transsexual meets with her other post op friends and starts tallking about the people who have been murdered because of their transexuality…

    You’re misconstruing pretty artwork with a pretty storyline. And while the concept here may be so, the things the characters go through will most likely not be.

    • Scamp
      Posted January 14, 2011 at 12:19 pm | Permalink

      No no no no no!

      Damnit, I’m not talking about the actual content when I say fluffy and gentle. It’s the tone the series takes towards it. I know serious stuff happens down the line. I’ve read the fans of the manga shout that time after time. But it won’t be presented harshly. It will be presented in the same soft tone this episode was presented in

  14. electronicmaji
    Posted January 14, 2011 at 9:16 am | Permalink

    Also of course the kids don’t understand their own emotions. They’re kids. That’s kind of the point of half the concept of the series.

    • Scamp
      Posted January 14, 2011 at 12:20 pm | Permalink

      -_- and I said that was a good thing.

      Read the post properly

  15. Posted January 14, 2011 at 9:21 am | Permalink

    “There’s no humour.”

    Really? There were a few blatant (and nicely timed) moments of comedy in this episode.

    “The BGM is all tinkly piano music”

    I’m not sure Debussy would be too happy to hear Clair de Lune described as “tinkly piano music”, so I hope you weren’t referring to that part of the soundtrack. :D

    I have to say, I really don’t understand where this perceived need to be “harsher” stems from either – was nobody upset or emotionally hurt during the course of this episode? Was nobody left feeling isolated, misunderstood or embarrassed at any point? You’re right, this isn’t School Days or Uta~Kata, but that’s kind of the idea – most people’s lives aren’t filled with fist fights, murder and darkness, even if you’re internally struggling to rationalise your gender and pubescent emotions.

    If you’re looking for in your face story-telling, then really Wandering Son was never going to be the place to look for it, and especially not in its first episode.

    • Scamp
      Posted January 14, 2011 at 12:23 pm | Permalink

      OK actually there was a nice bit of humour with the kids at school when the glasses guy tried to get a reaction out of the other kid who kept grunting all his answers. That was clever

      Again though, I’m not talking about the plot depicting harsher actions. What it’s doing there is fine. It’s the way they present emotional distress in such a gentle way that rubs me the wrong way

      • Posted January 14, 2011 at 1:01 pm | Permalink

        I also got a laugh out of the friend of Shuichi’s sister snapping a pic on her phone of him, complete with a deadpan expression, after going on about how cute he is.

        I don’t really see there’s anything “gentle” about the way any of the emotional distress is handled in this episode – if someone calls you out on who your girlfriend was at school or the like, it doesn’t send you into some kind of rage or a long monologue, especially if you’re a shy kid like Nitori – instead, you keep quiet and internalise the fact that it’s upset you.

        Similarly, there’s nothing gentle at all about Nitori fleeing the house after being caught wearing his sister’s stuff, or the sibling fight that precedes it, while the fact that they make up in short order after that happens is just what brothers and sisters tend to do.

        I think that’s why I’m struggling with your opinion on the show’s narrative – I simply can’t imagine this episode having been any different without resorting to exactly the kind of melodramatic extremes which ruin a lot of other series.

      • Taka
        Posted January 14, 2011 at 11:00 pm | Permalink

        I agree with Hanners. The show handles the dramatic aspects in a realistic manner. I felt the sister and brother made up so quickly was because this was the first time that he had physically retaliated against her despite the fact he had apparently been caught cross-dressing before. It’s the first time she realizes that it was something important to him and not just some game or a way to piss her off.

        Also, kinda a dick in this post. People like it when you hate on bad anime not good anime.

  16. CS
    Posted January 14, 2011 at 12:22 pm | Permalink

    The fact your taking your time and answering all these comments makes you a god among men. I wish you sir a good day.

    • Scamp
      Posted January 14, 2011 at 12:25 pm | Permalink

      Now you’re making me feel bad for not answering comments on some of my other posts….

      This post is rather inflammatory though, so those willing to comment deserve a reply

  17. Posted January 14, 2011 at 2:43 pm | Permalink

    “tinkly piano music”
    ….. :<

    Screw that, Scamp, you just don't like fluffy artwork. Remember, this is not Kimi ni Todoke.

  18. ocswing
    Posted January 15, 2011 at 3:19 am | Permalink

    Hmm, you might know something I don’t since I’ve not read the manga, but I’m just not sure I understand your point of view on this one. Maybe you’re just making assumptions. While I can see it being a “fluffy” show in presentation I just don’t think that it’s going to continue that way.

    The interactions here that had weight were all with people who seemingly knew about Nitori’s preferences. If what happened in this episode had been presented in a harsher light than it would’ve just played off as cheap melodrama and teen angst I think. I thought it was handled well, and had glimpses that it will get heavier in tone and presentation later in the series. Though I’m already worried about the noitimina episode limit. Freaking Kuragehime ending!

  19. Elysium
    Posted January 15, 2011 at 8:16 am | Permalink

    I honestly love the coloring here. It’s my inspiration now.

  20. Franny
    Posted January 15, 2011 at 11:32 am | Permalink

    I loved this show. The art-style is gorgeous, and I really felt a deep connection with the characters (if only because I’ve always been a bit of a tomboy, but not quite so much to have trans-gender issues). The only thing I’m hating so far is the kid’s voice actor. Talk about over-acting… that’s just my opinion anyway. ^^;

    • Franny
      Posted January 15, 2011 at 11:33 am | Permalink

      Oh and by ‘kid’ I mean the boy. xD

  21. Posted January 16, 2011 at 8:42 pm | Permalink

    I’ve said this in a couple of other places, but hell, might as well repeat it here. The lightness of the visual presentation actually enhances the drama, I think, by presenting a contrast to the story and themes. There’s this pristine, beautiful world, and it’s inhabited by these confused kids. From the viewpoint of the world itself, it’s as if everything about it is “correct” except for them. At least that’s how the first episode made me feel. It didn’t really give me a “there, there” feeling, though I could see where that would come from.

  22. Posted January 23, 2011 at 6:14 am | Permalink

    I think I am going to skip writing about Wandering Son. Trying to talk about the issue of being the issue of transsexual in general is ridiculous, and I already know if I say anything but glowing phrase, I’ll have pissed off commenter, and I’m not in the mood to deal with it.

    Yes, they seriously suffer and things need to change, but many of them are also overly sensitive to the point of giving themselves a bad name. I’ve seen a group gather about how their own true allies are the ones that know their vocab, and anyone who wants to truely help them should take the time to learn their language–which rivals the ridiculous vocab of feminism.

    And in truth, other marginalized groups suffer as much as they do. And it doesn’t do to bite the hand that feeds you…

    I probably sound intolerant. I just feel trapped in a no-win situation. I either lie, or get flamed for being mean to trans people.

    • Alex
      Posted January 24, 2011 at 9:26 am | Permalink

      Wow. You are basically saying “yeah, being transgender is really tough… but they need to get over it because I’m sick of hearing about it.” Furthermore, it’s absolutely true that anyone who calls themselves a trans ally should “know the vocab.”

      I assume all that really means is something incredibly basic like the difference between, say, “transsexual” and “transvestite.” In other words, things I was taught the first day of my transgender identities class. If a person couldn’t even be bothered to do that, they could hardly call themselves an ally.

      As for “biting the hand that feeds you”, what does that even mean? Sounds like you think that anyone who falls outside the “normative” gender categories and has the gall to mention it (and lets face it, 99% of the time you’d never know because it’s usually nobody else’s business) is some kind of self-pitying, self-entitled jerk.

      So yes, you do sound intolerant. And no, it’s not because you don’t think Wandering Son is the best anime since sliced bread. For instance, Scamp managed to criticize the show and I never once felt that he had anything against transgender people.

      Disclaimer: I am not trans, and not a trans ally, just someone who thought your comment was ridiculous. I have no opinion on this show yet and I’m sorry for going off on an irrelevant tangent ages after the original post. My only relevant thought is that you (Scamp) must’ve really disliked Aria.

      • Posted January 24, 2011 at 10:46 pm | Permalink

        That’s not how I really feel. I don’t have a problem with transgendered people in general. If I did, my relationship would be in BIG trouble.

        What I dislike is the attitude the community advertises, as it’s just plain…difficult. When I talked about vocab, I talk about going further, such as “cis” and using of differing pronouns such as “zie” (I don’t know if that’s still what they used). I once tried to keep up. It’s really hard. And now that I’m in college, I just don’t have time. They have the right to use whatever bathroom they feel comfortable in, and to treated as a equal, and I will go out and write that they deserve that write and fight for that the right, but my lifestyle doesn’t allow me for me to have the time to keep up with the vocab. People who aren’t as wired into the internet may feel that trans people should have equal rights, but no idea this vocab exists.

        And then to see a majority of trans people say, “If you don’t know the vocab, we don’t want you to help us get rights.” I’ll be blunt. It’s kinda stings. And makes me regret wanting to fight for their rights, until I remember that my morality is such that I think everyone deserves equal right.

        To make it more difficult, many members community is very sensitive and aggressive. Scamp criticized the show, and STILL got accused of being intolerant and not understanding the plight of transsexuals. Without being able to have an open forum, progress is hard.

        I’m very very conflicted. I don’t wish to go into my boyfriend’s situation, but it pains me to see him struggle with what he wants to do and who he wants to be vs. fear out of how society will respond, and I want to change. But the community has made it clear that they don’t want people like me or him. I don’t know how to feel.

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