Adapting to Society with Wandering Son [May ’20 OWLS Blog Tour]

Don’t we all adapt to society, if it doesn’t adapt to us instead?

Hello friendos. Back after a break from OWLS and I dunno if it made any difference, but I guess there’s no point mulling over it anymore. As usual, this is Aria (that’s my pseudonym) and we – OWLS – promote acceptance of individuals, regardless of gender, race, religion, sexual orientation or disability. This month is about adapting:

Right now, we all have lost something or gained something in return during this dark time. Our lives have been completely altered due to coronavirus. For this month, we will be talking about anime series and other pop culture media where we have characters having to adjust to changes in their environment. Whether it’s adjusting to a new school or heading towards an isekai fantasy world, we will be discussing characters that had to make changes within themselves in order to adapt to the circumstances they are in. This will also give us an opportunity to express our own personal lives as we try to adjust to a “new normal.”

I’ve been watching Wandering Son (Hourou Musuko) for #AniTwitWatches. It’s about transgender people, namely male-to-female Shuichi (Nitori) and female-to-male (Yoshino) Takatsuki, so saying they want to change is a given, but how others react to what they do and how they act to what those others do is the awkward stuff.

Important note: This is probably insensitive, but I will refer to Nitori as a boy and Takatsuki as a girl. This was a big headscratcher for me – how to use pronouns in a respectful way – and so I didn’t become inconsistent or get confused, I had to take the insensitive route (using “they” for both would make things worse). My sincerest apologies to anyone who wants them referred another way, but I don’t know the manga ending to say anything authoritative for a sensitive version and don’t want to risk spoiling myself.

Most of the focus of the series lies on Nitori and his ability to convincingly dress like a girl. Although this is encouraged by Doi and Mako(to), his classmates, and the support of fellow trans person (Hiro)yuki, Doi’s reactions after Nitori musters up the courage to come to school as a girl are particularly hard to read. Meanwhile Mako berates himself for not being “as cute” as Nitori is near the end of the anime, threatening to create a rift between the two. Nitori is told multiple times he is cute, even by people he thinks are cute such as Anna, but has to adjust when he presents as female due to the blowback and eventually puberty. Adapting to circumstances means reacting to those around you as well as yourself, both the good and the bad.

Meanwhile, Takatsuki, inspired by a (non-trans) girl called Sarashina who inexplicably shows up in a male uniform on the first day of school one year in order to provoke people regarding uniform rules, gains praise for male presentation. This is one of my main observations of the anime – the double standard makes male-to-female transitions harder, but they’re the more common perspective in media awareness of trans people because of the higher amount of drama and change involved. It’s not just school rules or a single person who encourages people to be open about this stuff – society as a whole and the way humanity declared, over thousands of years, a “correct” way to be a certain gender creates conflict with people who cross or nullify the boundaries of gender or sexuality itself (essentially the entire LGBTIQ+ group). It’s just people coming to terms with themselves, whether gradually or suddenly, that allows them to be the way they are, LGBTIQ+ or not.

As stated in my #AniTwitWatches notes, Wandering Son cuts quite close to home. Not only did I know someone who was trans, the fact I’ve been stuck in an employment rut for a good while now (the feelings of hopelessness on this front are only exacerbated by competition in this COVID-19 situation) makes me wonder if a male version of myself would be successfully employed or what that version of me would even look like. A long think about my gender identity always tells me that’s a big what-if, but some of my more non-binary tendencies – if you believe Wikipedia, even “Aria” is a gender-neutral name, although that wasn’t intended – do make me wonder at times…

As for how I’m faring under quarantine, most of my life hasn’t changed because I don’t commit to much anyway. The biggest hits were volunteering and going to the library…so I ended up using the spare time from that to play some gacha games and invest in my fandoms instead…It’s all at the cost of not exercising much, but I’m no athlete anyway.

For other OWLS posts, Pinkie is on the 16th and Takuto is on the 23rd. (Also thanks to K who gave tips to improve this post. You’re not stupid at all.)

10 thoughts on “Adapting to Society with Wandering Son [May ’20 OWLS Blog Tour]

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  1. I referred to Nitori as “he” because the anime called him a wandering “son.” I figured that was definitive. Ah well! I’ve known several transgendered people and was close friends with one. They seemed less militant about the issue than some nontransgendered people.

    The problem, of course, is the lack of a gender-neutral singular personal pronoun in the English language. “It” (Germanic in origin) is the only gender-neutral singular but historically NOBODY wants to be addressed as “it.” “They/them” flows against centuries of usage and are a habit many people will resist breaking. That convention is not being taught in our local schools. Yet using a person’s name repeatedly leads to very stilted and formal communication.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Enjoyed your writing Aria, as usual 🙂 I’m glad you got something out of the show as well. I know you mentioned you didn’t want to dive into spoilers (that mean you are going to read the manga?), but I wanted to correct this statement: “female-to-male (Yoshino) Takatsuki”

    Takatsuki isn’t actually trans, something that gets addressed very quickly from where the anime leaves off (which is why I don’t feel bad about stating that here for you). I just wanted to let you know since I can see you were trying to talk about the show as respectfully and accurately as possible. I won’t go into more on that however.

    Sorry if that came off as rude, I am not intending it to. Anyway, good stuff 🙂 I look forward to what you’ll have to say for The Perfect Outsider, among other things.


  3. Nice post!
    I find myself referring people by their preferred gender or the one the identify as. So if someone wants to be male I’d adress them as male. I do notice however that when talking about a trans person in the third person I tend to slip into their biological gender for clarities sake.

    Close to the world myself though I think you are what you feel like and not what you are biological are.. at least as a person for me to talk about. If someone says they are a girl they are a girl to me and all. If I can give someone the happiness by addressing them as the gender they feel like, I would happily do so.

    I do really like you stick to the OWLS message though, I see a couple who don’t really put that in so I commend you for the brave choice to talk about such a topic. I honestly had my doubts about the thing as a whole for a bit but your post gave me some faith back! So thank you for that 😉
    Being quite connected in the world of LGBTI + myself it feels nice that some people have the proverbial balls to stick to their guns and feelings and make posts like these rather than chicken out afraid that they would hurt somebody. You really handled it well I think.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thanks. I’ve forgotten to put in the OWLS mission statement in a few times, but you never know when a newcomer to OWLS will come along…

      I was originially going to do a different anime for this topic, so this post could’ve easily not existed, and I didn’t have much confidence in it myself until I asked K to check it over.

      I think a possible reason for why Wandering Son skirts around the idea of “preferred pronouns” is because in Japanese, you can omit pronouns in more cases than English and get away with it. There are some cases where the translator guesses someone’s gender and gets it wrong, which is why it was important to be explicit about why I’d written this post the way I did.

      Liked by 2 people

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