I Wandered into Wandering Son

[ReinWeiss] Hourou Musuko - Wandering Son - 01.mkv_snapshot_19.43_[2011.01.17_07.25.36]

If I spent the past two years expanding my tastes in anime (while I attempted to watch as many Gundam shows as I could), I plan to spend most of my anime viewing this year on my backlogged robot shows (there are so many). I didn’t plan to watch Wandering Son anymore this season because it seemed too way out there for my tastes, until Mobile Suit Victory Gundam sucked so hard that I struggle so much to finish off the last 4 episodes.

I needed something very different to get my mind off V Gundam because the last thing I want to do is write another hateful post. No matter how fun I try to have making those posts, they are still contrary to my disposition and involve more masochism than I care to think further about.

Okay, what’s great about Wandering Son? It makes me have to approach the subject matter on its own terms. It’s not making it easy for me, not letting me impose upon it my stock ideas (however progressive I think they are). It’s challenging me. This works so well in this pilot episode, because my attention is held by the fine illustrations. This show is very, very pretty.

What’s not so great about Wandering Son?

[ReinWeiss] Hourou Musuko - Wandering Son - 01.mkv_snapshot_06.19_[2011.01.17_07.30.14]

I am lost after the deluge of characters. There are so many, and a lot of them seem so significant. If I am going to enjoy this as much as I want to, I’m going to need one of those character relationship charts (like they make for some shows in magazine articles). I’d appreciate it if anyone can link me to a translated one for this show.

I think the rather gorgeous rendering of the setting, and the environment adds to the feeling of innocence that’s very strong in the work (I haven’t seen this kind of pretty environments in TV anime since Kimi ni Todoke). This is very important given the sensitive time the characters will be portrayed in – not in terms of an era, but rather the adolescence within which they experience many, many firsts.

[ReinWeiss] Hourou Musuko - Wandering Son - 01.mkv_snapshot_17.22_[2011.01.17_07.22.20][ReinWeiss] Hourou Musuko - Wandering Son - 01.mkv_snapshot_19.27_[2011.01.17_07.25.12]

It is also in adolescence we get to do so many ephemeral yet compelling things. It is no mystery for my how most anime and manga are populated with characters so young. It isn’t very interesting anymore to question why so many lead pilots of robot anime are high school freshmen or even younger.

This age, is the beginning of possibility. As a kid I can talk about wanting to become a firefighter or an astronaut, but after age 12 it becomes just that bit more serious externally, while internally, I start taking things ridiculously serious. So here we have characters exploring self-expression via appearances. Our wandering son wants to look like a daughter.

Is it fundamentally different from her older sister’s self-expression? She wants to look pretty, wear the pretty dress, and be looked at (she’s some kind of model doing a shoot). He doesn’t have those aspirations at all (at lest not that we can find out at this point), but he too wants to look pretty and wear the pretty dress.

Meanwhile, other wandering daughters are doing an Utena and wearing boys’ uniforms.

[ReinWeiss] Hourou Musuko - Wandering Son - 01.mkv_snapshot_19.34_[2011.01.17_07.25.22]

It’s oh-so-tempting to read this through a lens of gender politics, or with a sexual spin. But I’m challenged not to, because the presentation makes such a great effort to give that feeling of innocence. And when its time for us to pluck that fruit as viewers, I do wish it’s ripe and ready.

About ghostlightning

I entered the anime blogging sphere as a lurker around Spring 2008. We Remember Love is my first anime blog. Click here if this is your first time to visit WRL.
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44 Responses to I Wandered into Wandering Son

  1. acostoss says:

    I must agree that this show is one of the more beautiful syndicated series I’ve seen in a long time. I cannot wait to wander along with this show, so long as it doesn’t take any turns towards an unsavory plot, such as the wandering son wishing to be a model.

    • Why would you find that unsavory? Is it because of the deceit involved? Is it too campy for you? I am indifferent to this idea but I want to get what you mean.

      • acostoss says:

        I only mean that I do not wish for it to be sensationalized. I enjoy the calm, mature tone that is set, and would be more than a little annoyed if one of the characters had an over-the-top reaction to something, a la Kuragehime. While I enjoyed such things in that show, I don’t want to see it here, as I feel it would take away from the drama.

        In essence, I only wish to continue to see this show act within the bounds it has set. If the MC wished to become a model, it just seems like it would be setting the pace for this to become more of a rivalry story, instead of one of self-understanding and adolescence.

  2. Sorrow-kun says:

    I had a similar reaction to the first episode. This will be a show that rewards patience and loyalty (my favourite types of shows). It definitely comes off as confusing and overwhelming as far as the characters and their respective relationships go in the first episode (it reminded me a bit of Marimite in that respect). But I expect in subsequent episodes we’ll become more familiar with them and learn what makes each of them tick as the show becomes more focused (and the hints of that came in the second half of the first ep, which was pretty damn focused itself). Aoi Hana was a bit the same (though its introduction wasn’t quite as “busy” as far as characters went). It wasn’t until half way through the series that the drama started hitting hard. I expect it’ll be a similar experience for this.

    • Too bad V Gundam did not reward my patience and loyalty (I finally finished it a few hours after publishing this; after 3 tries since 2006). While I mentioned Kimi ni Todoke, I dropped that show after a few eps. I don’t have a strong record of remaining engaged with shows like this. But just like my persistence with V Gundam, I won’t be discouraged from trying.

  3. adaywithoutme says:

    I don’t know that a relationship chart exists out there, but I’m beginning to think I may have to make one… quite the challenge. It also isn’t clear if all of the relationships that were in existence to this point in the manga will also be canonical to the TV series. And given the approach of the TV series, of having only made the anime viewers aware that Nitori confessed to Takatsuki and was rejected, wouldn’t these relationships technically be spoilers?

  4. Best way to get a handle on it all would just be to read the manga. The anime starts in like volume 3 or 4, skipping the process of properly introducing all of these characters and their relationships.

    I’m glad you seem to have gotten out of the show exactly what I thought you would~

  5. ojisan says:

    In media res is always the best. I’m going back thru episode 1 with graph paper & pencil at the ready, while waiting impatiently for #2 –

    • I don’t know about always, and anime often doesn’t do in medias res properly (see: Shin Mazinger Z-hen ep 01, Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann ep 01) — as they start the show near the end then work back from the beginning, rather than start from media (middle).

  6. Mystlord says:

    Ha this is more or less my reaction. The first episode of Hourou Musuko was just a giant mess, no doubt about it. It was hard to make heads or tails of many things going on in the series, but it’ll hopefully all resolve itself later on.

    • There’s a difference between something being “a mess” and being difficult to understand. I don’t believe for a second that with the level of confidence shown in this episode, it won’t be an excellent series that knows exactly what it’s doing. It’s not always necessary that you fully grasp the scenario of a series by the end of the first episode.

    • I wouldn’t call it a mess, lost as I was. It’ll prove itself to be so over three episodes or less, but not over this one. See Jack’s comment.

      • Mystlord says:

        It’s a mess because the narrative just lacked coherence. You probably have a different view, but like you said, it’ll come down to how the show continues beyond the first episode.

        • asdfas says:

          It only lacks coherence to those unable to understand it. The average viewer who didn’t read the manga was easily able to understand the first episode and see the coherence in it.

  7. Jack says:

    I must say that it took me about half the episode to work out who everyone was. Although I had no trouble following the actual plot.

    That isn’t necessarily a bad, various television shows such as “The Wire” place the audience deep within a storyline and assume the audience is intelligent enough to figure out what’s going on.

    It remains to be seen if that will work out in the coming episodes.

  8. SengokuRakuen says:

    Probably one of my favorite manga titles in terms of how each character is REAL to some degree. It’s like watching drama, but with the medium of animation. Not sure if I wanna pick up the anime, ’cause the manga’s well done, and I’d hate to compare the two.

    Hourou Musuko, of what can I say… It’s a story of development, and that goes for every major, to semi-major character. “What’s gonna happen once he grows facial hair and whatnot?”, “What gonna happen she gets into puberty?” are some of the questions I had when I delved into the manga, it was pretty interesting. It’s like watching a diary written by all the characters, it really shows what they feel, and everything’s so honest and life-like. It’s wonderful, considering what I always feel every time some series ends, and you won’t know anymore what happens to the characters now that the series is ending. It leaves me into the confines of my imagination of “what would happen now to them?”. It’s very thought-provoking to a degree that I’m most comfortable with. It’s almost so creepy how I can relate to Shuichi Nitori, considering what I went through with childhood. I looked like a girl to some degree (long hair, svelte physique), sort of like a loli. And that left me to my imagination of “What if I was born a girl?” Now that I’m a manly man that dates a lot of women due to my new-found way of living, I start asking again the same question, and still find myself intrigued at my own answers. But yeah, definitely a good show to look forward to, but not me, ’cause I’ll stay loyal with the manga.

    • I wouldn’t be able to relate to this to the degree that you do, but for some things I do sense the ring of truth running through the work. This too is keeping me interested and looking forward to more.

  9. GTebbetts says:

    Here is a post I put up with translations of the relationship chart on the Hourou Musuko website:

    http://animaybe.blogspot.com/2011/01/confused-wandering-son-relationship.html

  10. ariannasterling says:

    I, too, was pretty lost on the characters. There was kind of a lot going on for that chunk of the anime. I didn’t really notice how pretty the setting was until the screenshots you have up here. Those trees are absolutely beautiful.

  11. Aorii says:

    It’s a bit surprising (in a good way) to hear you watching this actually 😀
    You’ve probably heard already, but they skipped something like 30 chapters of the manga’s exposition to get to this point; causing them to throw in a ridiculous number of hints on past occurrences at once (and interactions between every character), which literally floods the audience. I can’t say this is necessarily a bad thing— some Asian literature (including some famous authors like Louis Cha) actually aims to achieve this during start; but it’s definitely hard on the viewer.
    The good news is that the pace picked up a lot in exchange; the manga’s starting pace is slow enough to strain even patient readers— probably won’t work on an anime at all.

    • I’ve seen a couple of adaptations recently that strictly follow a 1:1 chapter to episode ratio which creates a lot of pacing problems (High School of the Dead which had to do a recap half-ep by the third or so episode, and Bakuman which somehow turned into a lame love story snoozefest when it still is a hot-blooded shonen nerdmanga) so I can appreciate the risk-taking done here.

      I keep telling myself that I’d take on my huge ancient robot anime backlog, but I realize how numbingly repetitive, ugly, and boring those 4-cour shows can be so things like Wandering Son fulfill a valuable function in my anime viewing habits.

  12. foshizzel says:

    Probably the best animated show this season great artworks! looks like a painting 🙂

  13. kadian1364 says:

    The androgyny certainly compounded the busy-ness of the first episode so that I couldn’t quickly catch who was even crossdressing or not. The short length of its TV run probably necessitated a hurried intro, an issue we’ve seen before from Noitamina *coughKuragehimecough*. The time slot is a regular stomping ground for mature and artistically inventive titles, but fostering a spirit of renewal and experimentation means truncating stories that deserve more than 15 seconds of fame, so to speak. Moyashimon, Kuragehime, Hataraki Man, Five Leaves, pretty much everything not named Nodame Cantabile or Honey and Clover didn’t get their due time in the Sun. (I probably just gave away my post idea to someone, but eh, good for them if they can make something out of my ramblings)

    • Interesting observation about these noitaminA, and it would take someone more into the studios/stations/industry as subjects than I am to make a meal out of this. I would be really interested to read it though.

      • Jack says:

        Coincidently, I too was thinking about series length. I pulled some data from Wikipedia about the years 1988, 1996, 2004 and 2010.

        In 1988 the average length of a series was 67 episodes (not how many episodes it had in that year, but how long it would go on to run, without getting another name e.g. Gundam 00S2). By 1996 it was 71. In 2004 it dropped to 35 and in 2010 it was 17.

        Or, to look at it in a different way, in 1988 0% shows ran for 13 episodes or less. In 1996 3% of shows had 13 episodes or less. In 2004 it was 40% and in 2010 it was 75%.

        I haven’t pulled episode counts for any other years (because it takes a while to do) but there you have it.

        • Longer shows are far riskier indeed since once you lose a viewer it’s hard to get her back 40 eps later, and it’s next to impossible to get a new loyal fan 35 episodes in. I think the shrinking episode count makes economic sense. Splitting seasons, with a pause long enough for a new fan to watch reruns or acquire the show somehow sets the next season up for success.

  14. ayame says:

    http://kitsunetoneko.blogspot.com/2011/01/hourou-musuko-1-roses-are-red-violets.html

    Although you were given a relation chart already, perhaps you’d like to take a look at the manga introductions (without spoilers don’t worry) and also the extensive analysis I put my best to achieve. I’d be honored to read it 🙂

  15. Dein says:

    This was my only pick out of the entire season (aside, maybe, from the zombie show for the sheer stupidity), and I’m very glad I wasn’t disappointed. This, for me, is one of those rare cases when I got exactly what I expected.

    I do agree with you about the characters and their relationships being a bit confusing, but from my experience this kind of setup works quite well (off the top of my head out of the recent shows, I’d point towards durarara, where I was still not sure how everybody was related to each other well into the second half the the show.) It just feels more realistic, giving off the vibe that these kids and their lives didn’t just bign when you pressed the play button, but it was always there, and if you find yourself truly interested in their life and issues they deal with, you have to work a little yourself and pay a bit of extra attention. That’s how I see it, anyway.

    Very much looking forward to the second episode.

    p.s. Thanks for pointing me to this blog, Ghostlightning, it’s fantastic and I will be going through older posts when time allows.

  16. I wholeheartedly support any plan or situation that gets you to watch more shows like Wandering Son or other picks from the new season instead of more old mecha stuff like Gundam. Watching the latter seems to be making you angry in a way I can’t relate to at all (ragehate posts do little for me, don’t find em’ funny, don’t find em’ pointed, don’t really even want to read em’), while the former seems to have that “calming” effect on you that others talk of when dealing with shows set in schools that I have yet to experience myself. In any case I actually enjoyed reading this post far more than anything I’ve seen you write about Gundam shows or the like in a long time. Mostly because of the absence of general anger and that excess energy instead being channeled into writing something thought-provoking and ponderous. Good stuff….

    Anyway I’ve actually been meaning to get around to this one…yeah hard to believe right, me interested in a show set in a school. Here’s the catch though, I’ve stated elsewhere that the subject matter sounds like it could be engaging and give me something to think about which is what I look for in my entertainment. The way you put it the show appears to be “challenging you” and that’s also what I like my entertainment to do, challenge me to put some effort into paying attention to and following the narrative. Hopefully this doesn’t turn out to be light fare in the end and the reactions other people have strike true for me as well. Probably going to rattle off the first episode tonight after work.

    Lastly, perhaps more shows could benefit from that Legend of The Galactic Heroes style name under character thing to keep track of everybody. Of course when you have as many characters as you are claiming and I look at the series length at 11 episodes I can’t help but wonder just a little whether there’s going to be time for anything profound or whether this shows going to be directing me to the manga afterward the same way some of the posters here have been.

    tl;dr: Basically I’ve been searching for my gateway into the whole “slice-of-life” school setting phenomenon and I’m putting some hope into Wandering Son to finally be the one that has enough engaging material to get my brain running and into it. I genuinely want to see at least one show in this whole theorem of entertainment that actually inspires some passion for it in me after so many personal failures like the K-On experience etc.

    • I don’t know if this show will “hit hard” with questions, as much as leave bread crumbs for people who like those questions to follow. Given how little is said so far, people are talking about all sorts of things already regarding sexual awakening vis-a-vis gender identity and the like… contrast to another anime’s approach (show 2 new characters, show how they’re into each other, get them to discover another person is pregnant, get the woman to be pregnant, kill them both = war is hell in a single episode). But who knows? There are many ways to do melodrama, but I just suspect that the issues that you may be interested in exploring won’t be “hit hard” as much as the anime allows itself to be a canvas by which viewers can paint their own impressions on.

  17. Martin says:

    I think I’ll have to write a post of my own about this show soonish, but rest assured you’re not the only one who’s feeling overwhelmed at the sheer number of characters – I’ll have to rewatch the first episode before moving on to the second.

    All I can say right now is wholeheartedly agree with this:

    “It makes me have to approach the subject matter on its own terms.”

    and leave it there for now.

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