"My sister's dream is to go to a school for idols and to be classmates with Maiko-chan. I think that's stupid. My dream is..."
Shy, quiet Shuuichi Nitori is not your average ten year old girl. Nor is her classmate, Yoshino Takatsuki, your average ten year old boy. Even though Shuuichi enjoys baking snacks as a hobby, she is different from the other girls. Takatsuki-kun is admired by his classmates, but endures bullying from other boys for things about himself he can't control. When Shuuichi transfers to her new school, she is sat next to Takatsuki and they become fast friends.Though they do not immediately know it, the two learn they have a shared secret, despite their natures, biologically they are the wrong gender. Shuuichi dreams she could be a girl in society as she is in her heart, while Takatsuki wants to become a proper man. Eventually, both realize their true nature as much as they are able despite the adversity and shame they face. Shuuichi wears clothing belonging to her sister and given to her either by girls or Takatsuki. Takastuki gets hold of his older brother's middle school uniform and goes in to town as a boy.As the series takes place during their childhood and depicts their life as they struggle to come out of the closet, the story refers to Shuuichi as "he" and Takatsuki as "she" because the characters in the story don't know the truth about the protagonists. The main characters cannot use the correct pronouns for fear of social ostracization. As readers we are aware of which gender the characters are and refer to them with the correct pronouns. Since the pronoun "he" is meant to describe boys and Taktsuki is a boy, he will be called he. Similarly Shuuichi is a girl and the english pronoun for girls is "she".The Slice of Life tale of Takako Shimura's Wandering Son (Hourou Musuko in Japanese) follows the lives of Shuuichi, Takatsuki, and those closest to them as they wrestle with their difficult struggle for identity. The milestones that come with adolescence, the day-to-day occurrences, and everything in between make up the plot while the dreams and secrets of the young cast create its drama.An Eleven Episode Anime for the series started in January 2011, and has since ended. Also, the manga has been licensed by Fantagraphics Books and has to be released in hardcover since June 2011.Compare and contrast to Bokura No Hentai and Ai No Shintairiku.
Adaptation Dye Job: Eye variation. In the manga, everyone has brown eyes. In the anime, characters have golden eyes, black eyes, blue eyes, or even red eyes and purple in Yuki's and Anna's cases.
Cases of color changing within the manga happen often. Originally Takatsuki and several of the parents had brown hair however they later were retconned into having black hair. Shi had blond hair in his first colored artwork but was quickly given black. Everyone originally had Brown Eyes but now they have eye colors that fit their hair shades.
Adaptation Expansion: The anime. For example, the climax of episode 1 was an adaptation of a scene in volume eight (around four volumes ahead of the point the anime began). In the manga Shuuichi just stares at the manga, until her sister comes in and yells at her. They've also pieced together scenes, for example the scene where Shuuichi hits Maho is from another part in the manga (when Maho tries to read a letter).
Ambiguously Gay: Several of the characters. Momoko hasn't really shown any interest in boys so far, instead just being extremely clingy toward Chizuru and saying that she "loves" her. Arguably Maho has shown bisexual tendencies with her fangirlism of Maiko. Takatsuki apparently might have liked one of his male teachers. Shuuichi has shown an interest in Anna and they are dating, but she may be bisexual because of her feelings for maybe Seya and Takatsuki. Chiba's obsessive love for Shuuichi falls under this.
Chiba's obsession with Shuuichi is a fringe example. While Shuuichi is a she, and Chiba enjoys seeing her dressed as such, it is likely she(Chiba) has a hard time seeing her(Shuuichi) as such, leading to much of her personal angst.
It is also worth mentioning that the relationship between Shuuichi and Takatsuki ended before it began largely because Takatsuki is uncertain of his own preferences.
Art Evolution: Quite apparent from volume 1 to volume 2. Also quite noticeable if you compare the early volumes to the later volumes. Justified since time is passing, and the main cast is either in, or entering, puberty. Also noticeable is the coloring changes. Some hair colors darkened while others changed completely after a few volumes. Compare the first cover◊ to the tenth◊. The difference is quite noticeable in chapter 89, when we get a flashback to the first volume with Shuuichi looking quite a bit younger than we see her now.
Shuuichi's hair is noticeably darker than before. Referenced to in the manga, when she states that her hair is getting darker due to puberty. The art style has become more realistic too, the eye style doesn't push them into the Uncanny Valley anymore, and the lines are less dark.
Attractive Bent Gender: Shuuichi is very popular with girls, such as Chiba and an elementary school friend she met again in high school. They think she looks good as a boy.
Chiba, Chizuru, Seya, and Takatsuki also garner attention when they've crossdressed for whatever reason.
Character Development/Hidden Depths: Many of the characters have quite nuanced characterizations. Even characters who seem like pretty crappy people on introduction get shown as being more complex than that, often volumes after said introduction.
Characterization Marches On: Chiba's personality and design were different for the first 3 volumes, before she changed to her more well-known self. Before she was more peppy, on par with the other children (albeit more socially awkward at times), and didn't look nearly as mature.
Probably one of the few instances of this trope being justified, given that this series revolves entirely around the often-dramatic changes children go through at the age the main cast are at.
Class Trip: Chapters 16 - 17, to Nikko; also Chapters 56 - 57, to a ski area.
Clingy Jealous Girl: Saori Chiba shows signs of this, but Momoko's behavior toward Chizuru takes the cake.
For a real-life example, the author of the manga, Takako Shimura. Many people would be surprised to learn that a sensitive issue like transgenderism would be approached by someone who is essentially a Crazy Cat Lady who lives in what she believes to be a haunted house.
Covers Always Lie: The covers tend to have Shuuichi in feminine clothing, while in-story she rarely gets to dress like that. Colors also tend to be off such as Maho having blond hair on the back cover of volume 1 (despite inside clearly showcasing her with brown, and her family having brown hair), and Anna having brown eyes in one volume when the inside showed her with her (new) black eyes.
The covers◊ to the boxsets for the anime have the manga school uniform colors (green and blue) while the anime goes for more generic colors (black for the boy uniform and blue for the female uniform).
Crotch Grab Sex Check: Shiina did this to Takatsuki in chapter 12. Though in the scenario he thought Yuki was cheating on him with Takatsuki, so he probably grabbed his groin to see if he had a penis.
Curtains Match the Window: Recent chapters have made most characters fit this. Originally everyone had Brown Eyes, but now if you have black hair you're probably going to have black eyes. Brunettes have brown eyes though.
The Ditz: Kanako Sasa. Too much thinking makes her brain itchy.
Double Standard: Shuuichi gets hit with this hard since it is especially taboo for transgirls to be themselves in public versus the more permissive attitude to transboys in chapter 65 when she gets the idea to go to school dressed in the girl uniform after Chizuru and Takatsuki successfully dressed in the boy uniform*
To explain, Chizuru and Takatsuki have gone to school in boys uniforms, with little consequence other then a small scolding; kids also complimented them on how "cool" and nice they looked. Shuuichi decides to go in a girls uniform one day, she gets sent straight to the Nurse's office for her mom to pick her up, switched into a boys uniform in the office, and becomes the laughing stock of the school
A slight, and justified, example happens in chapter 94. It's Valentine's Day, so Makoto decides to give out chocolates to some people; in Japan typically girls give chocolates on Valentine's Day though. She shies out of giving a teacher she likes chocolates, thinking it'll be weird since she's seen as a boy. When she tries to give a friend, Oka, he freaks out of the thought of another boy giving him chocolate.
Dude Magnet: Chiba. Any straight, boy-at-heart character can't seem to be indifferent toward her.
Early Installment Weirdness: Many characters had different hair colors in the first two volumes' artwork, the manga was more slow-paced, and the personalities were different (Justified in the latter case).
Eleven Episode Anime: Started airing in Japan on January 14, 2011. Twelve episodes, with one being Blu-Ray only*
The last two episodes were made into one episode when aired on television, but the Blu-Ray cuts them in half again
Expository Hairstyle Change: Beginning at high school, Chiba stops wearing pigtails to school. She's worn pigtails ever since she began middle school, though only when she was in school. She began wearing pigtails when she was at her most sarcastic and depressed, starting around the time her characterization changes for permanently. She's been working on making herself more appealing and less aggressive lately. A more subtle example is Chizuru and Sasa. Chizuru recently started wearing Girlish Pigtails, showing off she's still an immature Genki Girl. Sasa stopped wearing her pigtails for the first time in years, which makes her come off as trying to mature.
First Name Basis: Maho forces her boyfriend Riku into this. Sasa also refers to Chiba as "Saorin", which comes from the fact that a lot of Japanese girls add "-rin" to their friends names as a nickname. Shuuichi is on a First Name Basis with Makoto, though Shuuichi calls her "Mako-chan", while she is called the feminine form of her last name in return (Nitorin).
Generic Cuteness: Averted. Shu is feminine, but poor Makoto just won't pass as a pretty girl even if she dresses up.
Gender Flip: When the kids put on The Rose of Versailles and Romeo & Juliet.
Gender Reveal: As seen here◊. However, Yuki seems to have known from the beginning. It's hard to tell though, since she seems surprised when she learns it and continues to refer to the event as her not knowing it.
Gender Vocabulary Slip: Shuuichi & Takatsuki once noticed that Shuuichi refers to herself with the pronoun "boku" which is used by tomboys and boys and masculine girls, while Takatuski refers to himself as "watashi" which is gender neutral and more formal. They intentionally decide not to change this though as they agree it suits them.
Hime Cut: Shuuichi wants one of these, though she did temporarily try and sport a pixie cut because she thought it would be cute and couldn't justify growing her hair out longer to her parents.
Hopeless Suitor: Saori to Shuuichi, Fumiya to Saori (well, not so much in recent chapters), Mako to, well, pretty much anyone whom she likes.
Hot Mom: Essentially all the mother's, though Chiba's mom has been referred to as "beautiful" by a boy in-series.
Idol Singer: Maho & Anna. Well, they actually are models and are never shown singing. Peculiar is that Shuuichi actually passed the screening together with her sister despite the agency knowing she is biologically male.
Primarily because Maho told them "both of us or none of us." Also, Maiko-chan is enough of an idol that adoration of her is what brought Maho into modeling in the first place.
Apparently Maiko does sing too.
If Its You Its Ok: Saori, she just cares for Shuuichi irrespective of gender presentation, although she thinks of her as a boy.
I Have No Son: Yuki's parents come pretty close to this. (Well, also, they have no son now, but... you get the idea.)(Yuki has an older brother, so unless he died they do have a son.)
There's a side-story in a collection of one-shots by the manga-ka called He Said "I'm A Girl" that shows a bit about Yuki's past. She was scolded by her father for being on a TV show, but not disowned. Her mother, brother, and brother's fiancee are taking it in stride though.
Only the brother and the brother's wife are okay with Yuki's identity. Her mother chooses not to talk to (and possibly see) her, which in a sense, is worse than the father who is upfront about his disapproval.
There's also Takatsuki's important haircuts in chapters 4 and 75.
It's also important to note their Important Letting it Grow since they do have some impact. For example, Shuuichi's starting by chapter 74, and Takatsuki's in chapter 58, both by other's recommendation.
In both cases it's subverted. Shuuichi wanted a certain (feminine) hair style, but it turned out differently from what she planned. Takatsuki grew his hair out because Saori told him it would look cool and other boys had longer hair too, but it wasn't as manly as he wanted.
Subtle, but Takatsuki is growing his hair out in high school. It's not a Bob, but not nearly as short as before. He eventually grew it past his shoulders, the longest we've seen on him
Doi recently got a haircut.
Informed Flaw: Arguably Mako's lack of passing skills. It's Justified that a lot of it is just her having poor self esteem.
In Medias Res: The anime begins at volume 5 of the manga, when the cast enters junior high.
Kudzu Plot: Shimura increasingly juggles various parallel plot points, giving each only a few panels of attention before moving to the next, leading you to reread chapters just to keep a handle on what is going on.
Loads and Loads of Characters: It's gradually getting there, with all the members of the various families, classmates and romantic interests piling up in every chapter.
Long Runner: Mild, but it's been going on since the early 2000s without much hint of ending soon.
Long Runner Tech Marches On: The series is hit with this but it's barely noticeable and somewhat realistic. You can put off the reason why no one had cellphones for a while with them just being too young.
Type 10 occurs temporarily between the Nitori siblings and Seya with him as B, Maho as A and Shuuichi as C.
Shuuichi, Chiba and Takatsuki form longer-running one, which starts out as type 5 (Shuuichi as B, Takatsuki as C and Saori as A), but growing tension between Takatsuki and Chiba, and the appearance of Suehiro Anna complicates things.
The triangle between Takatsuki, Chiba, and Shuuichi seems to have resolved itself, with Anna taking Chiba's place now.
Mistaken for Cheating: This happens in chapter 12 when Yuki's boyfriend walks in when she's alone with Takatsuki, touching his face. This is despite the fact that Takatsuki is only around 10 or 11, so it makes her seem like she's a Shota Con.. Though considering how Yuki's acted toward him in future chapters...
This who situation is rather complicated. Yuki is a trans-woman who is attracted to the body and features of young girls, as they are things she always wanted for herself as a child but couldn't have. Takatsuki is a trans-boy, and is thus biologically female. Yuki did not know this at first but mistook him for simply being a regular boy but was attracted to his skin, which she mentions is smooth like a little girls. At the time the mistake scene occurred, whether she was about to do something or not is arguable. But given her behavior in a later chapter, after knowing Takatsuki's physical gender, not arguments seems a little weak.
Mythology Gag: One of the teachers is from a previous manga by Shimura, Inhabitants of the Threshold. Also if you look closely at the last episode you'll see a green haired guy and a girl standing in one scene - they're the protagonists of said manga.
One of the scenes is lifted word from word from a chapter of Boku Wa Onnanoko. Interestingly enough that chapter of the manga is in-series a play written by Nitori.
Mukokuseki: Averted. The characters have either brown or black hair, and brown eyes. Early colored manga had a variety of hair colors and eye colors, but eventually they settled on the colors around volume 3.
Name's the Same: Shuuichi, Makoto, and Yoshino are also names of characters in Minami-Ke, and the other Makoto is a crossdresser who goes by the name Mako-chan. However, unless it's Minami-ke doing the shouting, this could not be a ShoutOut since Minami-Ke started two years later than Wandering Son.
Nerd Glasses: Makoto. Though recently you can see through her glasses at all times.
Nocturnal Emission: Shuuichi has had them, though for non-sexual reasons. At the end of the first episode she wakes up from a dream and has to wash her underwear, which she does other times in the manga.
No Periods, Period: Averted in the case of Takatsuki and, later, Maho. Momoko, Sasa, and Chiba have also stated they've had their periods; Momoko and Chizuru even were surprised when Sasa said she was on hers.
One Steve Limit: Averted. A omake reveals the Nitori siblings dad is named "Hiroyuki", which is also Yuki's name.
Sailor Fuku: Shuuichi was the only one in the manga to apparently own one for a long time, though recently she's brought a new uniform that matches her high school one. Sasa's and Chizuru's new school requires Sailor Fuku, so they wear one.
Scenery Porn: The anime in spades, especially the climax of the first episode.
Secret Diary: Eventually found and used to expose Shuuichi's and Takatsui's secret.
Series Continuity Error: In the first volume of the manga Takatsuki says "Her brain gets itchy? That's weird." in reference to Sasa's nature, and otherwise acts as if they aren't close. In the second volume it's established that they've been close friends since kindergarten, so Takatsuki should already know of Sasa's habits.
Shown Their Work: The manga has a realistic view on different LGBT topics. Simple cross-dressing, being transgender, being trans as a kid, questioning one's gender identity as a kid but growing out of it, being gay, sexuality in relation to being trans, trying to pretend to be one's biological sex to confirm they are actually trans etc.
The series is a Lighter and Softer portrayal of much of what a transgender person would go through in Japan, but it does not sugarcoat the matter.
Skinship Grope: Chizuru does this twice to Takatsuki. Neither occasion ends well. A random girl in the locker room of chapter 107 grabs Takatsuki's waist.
One of the former examples doubled as a Crowning Moment of Funny, in which Chizuru grabbed Takasuki's chest from behind after he had began binding his breasts. Chizuru's Large Ham reaction of surprise is quite priceless.
Spiritual Successor: It's arguably this to Mizuiro Jidai. It can also be seen as one to an earlier manga by Shimura called Shikii no Juunin
Spell My Name with an S: Maiko's name is typically written as "Maiko" by fans, but one magazine in the manga romanizes it as "Maico".
Surprisingly Good English: The passage being read aloud in English class in episode 9 is part of the story Try to Be the Only One, which really is in the New Horizon textbook used by Japanese middle school students. It's even from the correct (year 2) book!
The ending theme of the anime also begins with a bit of English that is pronounced properly.
It helps that the singer of the ending, Rie Fu is bilingual in both Japanese and English.
Uncanny Family Resemblance: Shuuichi and Maho, especially when the former grew their hair into a bob like her sister. Oka's little brother looks exactly like him, right down to the haircut.
Funnily enough, while they don't resemble any of their parents too much, they look almost exactly like their aunt looked about their years. And said aunt, then Miss Kimishima, just happened to be the first crush of a boy... who became Shuuichi's homeroom teacher in the middle school and therefore couldn't really keep his calm in the girl's presence. Ouch.
Unkempt Beauty: Yuki in recent chapters, and occasionally Takatsuki the resident pretty boy.
Unresolved Sexual Tension: Shuuichi and Anna, especially in recent chapters. Ever since they broke up, there's been tense moments. Shuuichi makes it clear that she loves Anna, and Anna seems to feel the same way, but nothing ever happens except for a lot of blushing and Ship Tease.
The tension has ended, because it's shown that they're dating again.
The tension has begun again with Anna thinking to herself that she has dirty thoughts about Shuuichi, and wanting to to touch her.
Unwanted Harem: Almost criminal to list this one here due to the intense realism used when portraying it. A subversion of the common associated tropes, but falls cleanly into a Harem; it's arguably a deconstruction of harems.
Villainous Crossdresser: Fumiya Ninomiya crossdresses just to impress Chiba. While not an outright "villain", he is portrayed as a bit of a slimeball when compared to the actual trans characters in the cast.
Webcomic Time: Six years in-series was nine years in real life. The series was written throughout The Noughties so you can tell when a chapter is written by the technology. Originally not that many kids had cellphones but later on almost everyone has them; the type of cellphone has also changed from flippable to touch screen in a few cases. We see Playstation 2s and the occasional Nintendo DS or Playstation Portable too.
Wham Episode: Episode 9. For the manga chapter 31, chapter 32, chapter 54, chapter 63, chapter 66, and chapter 99 come to mind.
Wise Beyond Their Years: Less apparent than other examples, and more realistic, but still there. A common complaint about the manga is that the kids act "too" mature for ten through thirteen year olds. Although it's less about too mature and more about too aware, children who aren't trans tend not to overanalyze and philosophize about gender until they're older, while transkids feel the pressure sooner.
You Are Better Than You Think You Are: In chapter 78 Nitori gives this to Mako. After confining into Nitori about how she doesn't see herself as cute Makoto, Nitori told her that she was. This incident made Mako reconsider whether she may have feelings for Nitori.