Sunday, January 16, 2011

Wandering Son - Hourou Musuko

Wandering Son is a new anime series that debuted January 13, 2011. The main character of the series is Shuichi Nitori, a boy beginning his first day of middle school. Shuichi has a number of close friends and is well-liked by his classmates. Shuichi, though, has a secret that is not known except to a small group of friends - Shuichi feels that he should be a girl.

Transgender themes and stories are not unfamiliar territory for anime. What is impressive about Wandering Son in terms of anime, or any other media for that matter, is the sensitivity and honesty with which the series handles its transgender subject matter. Absent are the usual external motivations for crossdressing or the fantastical elements that make the transgender elements seem to be just part of a larger-than-life narrative. Shuichi wants to be a girl because that is part of who he is. While Wandering Son is supportive of the transgender identity of its characters, the series is also seeking to realistically present the continuing struggles of transgender people to live in this binary-gendered world. Shuichi has come out to a group of supportive friends, but his sister yells at him and calls him "sick" after discovering him wearing her clothes.

Shuichi is not the only transgender character in the series. His female friend, Yoshino Takatsuki, wants to be a boy, though Shuichi is the focus of the first episode. The two young characters are still trying to figure out who they are and their place in society. Yoshino, for example, is envious of another girl in her class who comes to school wearing a boy's uniform just because she feels like it. After running into a sobbing Shuichi, Yoshino starts to give him the boy's uniform a friend gave her but then stops and says "this isn't what you need right now."

Reaction to the first episode has been mostly positive, though I will take a little issue with Gia Manry's characterization of Shuichi's transgender identity as a "hobby" in her review of the first episode on Anime News Network. While it remains to be seen how the series will develop over its entire 11 episode run, it seems pretty clear that Shuichi's desire to be a girl is more than just a hobby.

Wandering Son is currently steaming in the US on Crunchyroll - the first episode is available now for subscribers and will be available on Thursday, January 20 for non-subscribers. The first volume of the manga will also be coming out sometime this year from Fantagraphics Books.

Wandering Son follows last season's Princess Jellyfish - a series featuring a crossdresser that is available on Funimation Video. Check out either series if you want to see some of the most positive and supportive examples of transgender representation airing in Japan or anywhere!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Looking Back on 2010/Looking Ahead to 2011

Looking back, 2010 was a mixed bag year for me, as I imagine it was for many people. Around this time last year, I posted on this blog that my only goal for the year was to spend more days as a woman than as a man; that goal was easily achieved, as I spent maybe three weeks, at most, living as a man all year. So that was a very positive thing :) Other good things that happened in 2010 include passing Comps, taking my final class as a graduate student, presenting three papers at two conferences and getting two papers accepted to a conference next year. On the down side, 2010 continued the struggle to live as the woman I am. Whether it was family or others, the year included many heated arguments and discussions with people attempting to browbeat me into accepting their view that my identity is somehow "wrong," culminating in my sister chewing me out in early November. 2011 hasn't entirely gotten off to a good start in this regard, with my mother texting me today that she hopes I made "good resolutions" for the year, which I'm trying to take positively but can't help seeing as a passive aggressive dig at my transgender identity.

Looking ahead to 2011, I have a few goals I hope to achieve.

(1) Write my dissertation. I know this is a fairly ambitious goal but to finish my degree on schedule, I need to have at least the first draft completed by the end of the year. I believe this goal is achievable if I put in the necessary work. Being productive on the dissertation will also help counteract the reputation I seem to be gaining in my department as someone who is very ambitious but doesn't follow through on things.

(2) Get above 4.0 on teacher evals. I did well on evals this Fall but I've generally hovered around the 3.6-3.8 range. This isn't bad but I'd like to generally be above 4.0. This Spring will also be my first opportunity to teach an upper-level course that falls within my interests as a scholar so I hope I can make the subject as interesting for my students as it is for me.

(2) Go on a date. This is a little more personal, rather than professional. In 2011, I'd just like to go on a date. I don't necessarily need to be in a relationship but I'd at least like to go on a date, even a bad date.

Those are all I have right now. We'll see how things go with these goals around this time next year!