[Podcast] Chatty AF 21: Wandering Son Retrospective

Vrai does a deep dive on the anime and manga of Wandering Son (Hourou Musuko) with special guests Associate Editor of Anime News Network Jacob Chapman, YouTuber Cayla Coats, and manga scholar and professional translator Rachel Matt Thorn.

[Please note that Rachel began to use this name after the recording of this podcast and is therefore referred to as Matt throughout this episode.]

SPOILERS: for the entire series of Wandering Son

0:00:00 Intros
0:03:16 Personal experience with Wandering Son
0:14:01 American publication process
0:17:06 Author research into subject matter
0:20:03 Perceptions of different genders crossdressing
0:24:06 Narrative focus on trans themes vs nontrans characters
0:27:06 Differences between anime and manga
0:34:35 Western vs Japanese reactions to the series
0:37:48 Differences in trans representation between America and Japan
0:42:10 Use of pronouns in the manga
0:43:24 Nitori vs Mako
0:50:26 Saorin love
0:55:37 Director’s intention
0:59:16 Representation in anime
1:02:00 Shimanami Twilight and trans politics in Japan
1:08:25 Outro

Recorded Saturday 15th July 2017

Music: Open Those Bright Eyes by Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License


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  • Chiaki747

    Mako-chan is definitely best girl. (that was a really good conversation)

    As far as awareness goes, is it just me or are there more LGBT positive shows being published recently in general? Wandering Son did seem like the go to in the past, but I feel there’s more coming out now and we don’t have to consider it as “the manga” or “the show” for trans stories anymore (Though, it’s still hard to find a lot of authentic trans stories). With how things are going though, maybe we’ll have more really good stories in a short while.

    • “…is it just me…?” No, I think you’re right. Some of the most interesting points made in the podcast revolve around this: That things are changing relatively rapidly in Japan vis-a-vis LGBT issues, that Wandering Son might have been a different work if Shimura had started writing it a few years later, and that it’s now better thought of as a pioneering work but not at all a definitive one. (I especially liked Rachel’s comment that Shimura was basically “winging it” in the first few volumes and that–if I heard her right—Shimura started doing actual research on trans issues only toward the end of the series.)

  • Morgan

    Okay, I hate to be that person who comments before listening to the whole thing, but Wandering Son occupies a pivotal place in my teenage years(And I swear that I’ll eventually finish the podcast, I just don’t have a lot of time right now). I’m a transgender man, and growing up, there wasn’t a lot of LGBT stuff that I had access to, and there was especially nothing about trans people. But I liked reading manga a lot. So I was kind of amazed when I found Wandering Son, and I was especially amazed at Takatsuki. I somehow thought that I’d finally found someone like me. So, I ended up ordering the first volume and somehow snuck it past my parents by ordering it with some other manga. And I really liked it. I became convinced that if I got my parents to read it, they’d somehow be able to accept me. That I wasn’t just confused, that my feelings were real.

    And then the manga ended, and I learned about what happened with Takatsuki. It seemed so bizarre to me that he’d become a female model and just… grow out of it? I thought that maybe people were wrong about the ending somehow, and Takatsuki was still trans, but people whose opinions on trans rep I respected began to talk about how they’d been let down by what happened to Takatsuki too, and there were a bunch a commentators on the other side who were sooo happy that Takatsuki had “grown out of her tomboy phase”.


    (And I know that the author made comments on how people were free to interpret if Takatsuki was trans or not on their own, but I have a ton of problems with that too).

    So to me, Wandering Son became a beacon of crushing disappointment. I wondered if maybe I was just going through a “phase” too. Whenever anyone online mentioned Wandering Son or even other works by the author, I’d end up stewing in my own anger for a while. And I still hate how some people treat it as the one and only trans narrative in Japanese media. I’m better now, but I’m not going to forget those feelings.

    Sorry for the blog-post-sized comment, but I’ve been meaning to get all that off of my chest for a while. I know it’s probably silly that a manga I never finished could cause all these feelings in me, but it did. I’m not sure that anyone here will feel even remotely the same way as me, but that’s just my own, personal experience with it.

    • Peter

      They address that later in the cast. Were similarly disappointed.

  • rubi-kun

    One correction: Jill Soloway, the creator of Transparent, has recently come out as non-binary.

  • Wandering Son is the first thing I ever streamed on Crunchyroll; I was intrigued by the premise, and thought “this is never going to be on DVD, so this is my only chance to ever see it” (back in 2012 or whatever, I was still pretty locked on to physical media and TV as the primary or only means of viewing anime).

    I had always meant to read the manga, given that the anime covers so little of the story (and really just plops you right in… I found it hard to follow at first because they don’t really help clarify who’s who or what their backstory is, because they’ve got to get to the story). But, I’m sorry, I was really resistant to the hardcovers. It’s not just the high price, it’s also that I didn’t want to commit to a prestige format for an unknown commodity. Maybe Fantagraphics banked on it being an “important” manga, but that doesn’t necessarily mean I’ll love it to the degree that would make me want to collect it in that format. Hell, I love Leiji Matsumoto, but I haven’t bought the Queen Emeraldas manga for the same reason. I think the only thing I’d really want hardcover is Tezuka’s Buddha (which I missed out on the hardcovers of and had to scramble just to complete the softcovers) or Phoenix (if, god willing, Viz ever loses the license and Vertical gets a chance to do it right). With Wandering Son, I always assumed Fantagraphics would see the error of its ways and do a conventional softcover release or at least digital, but obviously that hasn’t happened. I’m still keen on a digital version, but I fear that ship has sailed.

  • Blusocket

    This was a wonderful podcast to listen to! I actually found Kayla’s Youtube channel just a few days before this was released and was thinking about how much I’d love to see her work with AniFem. It was great to hear everyone’s perspectives, in particular Rachel and Jake having only read the manga and seen the anime respectively and responding to the series differently based on those different experiences of the story. The discussion of the series’ reception in Japan was also super interesting and something I’m always excited to learn more about! Also, it probably goes without saying, but really really glad all the participants in this discussion were trans. It’s something that feels very needed at this particular point in time. Much love and thank you to everyone for all your hard work <3