"The day you were born... the morning sun was very beautiful."
With the Light (Hikari to Tomoni in Japanese) is a Josei manga written by Keiko Tobe.The story begins with Sachiko Azuma having her first child, Hikaru. He's not like the other babies, though: He stays in his stroller even when he's too old for it, he is only willing to eat the same thing every day, and he refuses to be held by his mother. Sachiko feels she is to blame...but she learns that Hikaru has autism — a communication disorder. What ensues is the story of how Sachiko, her family, and others around them both hinder and contribute to Hikaru's life, and her ultimate goal that he will grow up to be "a cheerful working adult".Yen Press has been publishing an English translation of this manga, with each American volume combining two volumes of the original Japanese version. Sadly, Mrs. Tobe died of illness in early 2010, leaving it unfinished.
Tropes in this work:
Abusive Parents: The fathers of Eri and Oki are the main offenders. Eri's father intimidates her and beats her mother regularly. Oki's father beats his son and keeps the house is a state of squalor after his wife leaves. A few other frustrated parents approach this at various points in the story (even Sachiko, who hit Hikaru in frustration a couple of times, admits this to herself), yet they never quite get that far.
Adult Fear: Evident in Hikaru's early childhood, as his tendency of getting lost often scared Sachiko, fearing that he may be kidnapped.
Bathroom Stall of Overheard Insults: After Hikaru's panic from bright camera-lights disrupted a school event, Sachiko overhears two parents complaining about his 'misbehavior' while she's in a stall.
Beauty Equals Goodness: A subtle but still unfortunate version occurs with Sachiko's two friends from her mommy-baby group. One, Mrs. Tanaka, looks like an anime drawing of Jennifer Aniston, and the other, Mrs. Katakura, looks much more like a Japanese woman actually would look like. Guess which one winds up being more accepting and supportive of Hikaru...
Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Akamatsu-sensei. Looks like he understands autism, but thinks that autistic students must be like Rain Man, and refuses to listen to his students' parents. And this is why the Special Ed class under him learned nothing.
Door Stopper: The American paperback volumes of this are huge, even for a non-manga series. Granted, each volume is actually two Japanese volumes put together, but even half of that is big. That's because the original Japanese versions are pretty large too.
Earn Your Happy Ending: So many things go wrong against Sachiko's family because of Japan's ignorance of autism and bully culture, but even after all that, you'll feel happy when things go right for them.
Everyone Calls Him Barkeep: Masato's older sister and her daughter are introduced early in the first tankobon, but she's always referred to by oneesan or "Sis." It's not until towards the (premature) end of the series that we catch her name.
Hikaru's full name is Azuma Hikaru, or "light of the East," and upon hearing this name, his new father Masato's first hope was that Hikaru would grow up to climb the corporate ladder. Which... he most likely won't do.
Miyu means "beautiful feather", but she acts far less delicate than her name would suggest, as does the fifth-grade kendo champ Misaki, whose name means "beautiful blossoms."
Kids Are Cruel: The junior high bullies that torment Hikaru on his way home certainly count, by trying to rob him and making him scared as well. Also included are the children that mock Kanon for having a "stupid" brother.
Last Name Basis: Takuya Oki, Daisuke Ishida, Kanata Tanaka, and Misaki Oota.
Mood Whiplash: Pretty much the entire series may count, largely due to its effort to capture the unpredictability of Real Life. Families with autistic members have to handle the afflicted person's condition on top of all the other challenges and fears of life — job loss/transfer, illness, natural disasters, etc.
Name That Unfolds Like Lotus Blossom: Both Hikaru and Kanon have names related to circumstances of their birth. The titular character was given the name meaning "Light of the East", like the sunrise during his birth. His little sister Kanon is, loosely translated, "the sound of eastern flowers", given after Sachiko heard a canon on radio while giving birth.
No Periods, Period: Averted. Saori has her first during a school trip; it's also mentioned that Miyu will probably start getting hers soon.
Not What It Looks Like: Gunji-sensei was quite scandalized when she caught Hikaru with both hands down his pants. He just had a rash, and didn't know better than to scratch himself in public.
Opaque Lenses: Gunji-Sensei, whose eyes were visible before she was a jerk. You do see them a few times later though.
Orphanage of Fear: Oki was sent to one after being taken from his father. The older kids bully him and the youngest child, force all their chores onto them, and force Oki to shoplift for them under threat of either him or the littler boy being beaten. Then we discover the principal and all but one teacher are abusive as well when the principal beats the bully with a baseball bat so much that the kid can't even move.
Replacement Goldfish: The way that Sachiko's Filipino neighbor treats Hikaru has some shades of this, as she was separated from her own son when she left for Japan.
Rousseau Was Right: Most who act antagonistically towards Hikaru or Sachiko do so either out of ignorance of autism, or some other Freudian Excuse. With a little bit of friendship, however, many people change their attitudes towards Hikaru for the better.
Shout-Out: Plenty that both American and Japanese audiences would recognize, though the English translation includes extensive footnotes for the uniquely Japanese ones (no matter how minor).
Sweet Dreams Fuel: For all of the struggles that Sachiko and her family go through, you can't help but just feel as happy as they do when things go right for them. Hikaru and Kanon are just adorable, too.
The Unfavorite: Variation — Sachiko loves both her kids well, but her mother-in-law prefers Kanon, Hikaru's little sister, to her brother. Having a "normal" child to interact with makes it harder for her to accept him, especially as he gets older and the full ramifications of his condition become more apparent.