Follow TV Tropes


Manga / With the Light

Go To

"The day you were born... the morning sun was very beautiful."

With the Light: Raising an Autistic Child (Hikari to Tomo ni...: Jiheishouji wo Kakaete in Japanese) is a Josei manga by Keiko Tobe, which began serialization in For Mrs. in 2000.

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.
  • All of the Other Reindeer: Sachiko sets out to find an accepting kindergarten to prevent this from happening to Hikaru when she sees an autistic preschool girl being ignored by all of her classmates. She ultimately ends up succeeding in this goal, as Hikaru's own classmates slowly befriend him.
  • Attention Deficit... Ooh, Shiny!: Hikaru is very attracted to shiny things, such as jewelry.
  • Advertisement:
  • Bad Boss: Masato's manager, who demotes his employee to a position where most workers quit after days of horrid working conditions, just so he can keep himself superior to Masato.
  • 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 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...
  • Berserk Button: If you ever call Hikaru names and pick on him in front of Kanon, she will pummel you.
  • 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. Although he later improves his attitude towards his job after setbacks.
  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer: The professor. He writes meticulously researched mystery novels that take place in science labs. He also has a toy train, big enough to ride, running around his house.
  • Cool Teacher: Aoki-sensei.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: Similarly to the manga A Silent Voice, In early volumes, when Hikaru's autism manifests and he occasionally causes trouble, many people are quick to blame the parents for his misbehavior, claiming that they don't discipline him properly or say to their faces that they should lock him up. Sometimes people have claimed Hikaru is a straight-up bad kid. Plus, at one point, late in the series, Hikaru's grandmother tries to keep Hikaru in the house in an attempt to hide him from others, thinking him to be a burden and an inconvenience, and as such, she and Sachiko clash over their ways of treating Hikaru. This is because the Japanese still have a rather skewed view of mental illness, under the belief that the mentally ill person isn't actually ill, but that their problems are personality/character flaws or just plain being an asshole, and that their problems can be fixed if they stop whining and change themselves so they can better meet society's standards. With Japan being a rather conformist society, any deviance from their rigid social norms is considered unacceptable, with many not being very understanding of how autism, or mental illnesses in general, really works. To be fair, the manga does expect the audience to side with Sachiko and her family, and many people who at first dislike Hikaru and don't understand autism do become a bit more understanding—with some exceptions—but it's a good look into a side of Japan that people rarely get to see.
  • Disability Superpower: Zig-Zagged. The professor is an amazingly talented writer and engineer and it's implied to be because of his Asperger's Syndrome. However, many of the lower-functioning characters either possess no such skill, are unable to develop it due to the difficulty of their day-to-day lives and their inability to express themselves, or do have a superpower that isn't very useful to society. Hikaru can recognize ground plants by their leaves, and mix a color that perfectly matches whatever he's thinking of. Given the abrupt ending of the manga, it is uncertain in which of the above four categories Hikaru's abilities fall.
  • 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, Fumiko.
  • First Day of School Episode: Chapter 4 is focused on Hikaru's first day of preschool.
  • Freudian Excuse: This is usually employed upon any bad caretaker or mean-spirited person. A lot.
  • Funny Foreigner: Early on, we are introduced to Sachiko's Filipino neighbors. After one become friends with Hikaru, he starts randomly repeating several phrases in Tagalog.
  • Gracefully Demoted: Sachiko's husband Masato is at first a high ranking employee in an electronics company, and in the beginning, was set to achieve great things due to putting a lot of work into a new project. However, his relationship with his wife is strained because he's having trouble accepting that his child is autistic. At one point, he overworks himself to the point of getting sent to the hospital. He and Sachiko have a heart-to-heart, and in the end, he decides that being a father is more important, so he requests to be placed in an easier, less taxing position in his company, and although he doesn't get credit for the work he put into the project, he's okay with it now that he's gotten his priorities straight.
  • Gender Flip: Lampshaded during a school play when Kanata and Misaki play Vega and Vega's father, respectively.
  • Hollywood Autism: This manga focuses on a mother raising her autistic son, Hikaru, in modern-day Japan. However, this is mostly an aversion of Hollywood autism. Hikaru develops different talents such as cooking, mixing colors, and memorizing train schedules, and goes to a regular school. However, he is still clearly disabled by his autism, such as that he is unable to cope with loud noises and is in the special education program at school. The author's ultimate goal for the story was for Hikaru to realize his parents' hopes for him to be "a cheerful working adult"; sadly, her death meant that it ended as he was adjusting to junior high.
  • Imagine Spot: In the first chapter, Sachiko has a few in which Hikaru is a neurotypical young boy who's happily willing to be held in his mother's arms, being read to on her lap, and being taught and speaking words.
  • I'm Standing Right Here: Mrs. Katakura once badmouths Hikaru... behind Sachiko's back.
  • Ironic 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.
  • Obnoxious In-Laws: Sachiko's mother-in-law, who establishes her jerkassery by blaming Sachiko for Hikaru's autism before his diagnosis.
  • 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.
  • Parental Abandonment: Masato, Sachiko's husband and Hikaru's father, walks out on his family over his son's diagnosis. It doesn't last, though.
  • Potty Failure: Hikaru goes through a couple of them. A girl goes through another one.
  • The Quiet One: Hikaru is a very silent boy.
  • 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.
  • Self-Harm: As a toddler, Hikaru would pound his head with his fists whenever he was overwhelmed. He grows out of this, fortunately.
  • 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).
    • ...almost. The manga references Pokémon, albeit under the name ''Bokémon''note , something that you would only notice if you read the untranslated Japanese in the manga panels. None of the characters mention the program by name, instead saying "the show from channel XX". The characters note that Bokémon is too loud to a lot of children, especially Hikaru.
    • Another case is Nonari no Nonoro (Nonoro the Lazy), a parody of Tonari no Totoro (My Neighbor Totoro). note  The problem is that a teacher played Nonari no Nonoro while neglecting Hikaru. The egregious element is that another reference to Tonari no Totoro did get a footnote; Hikaru looks at a few sprouts and says "Totoro" in reference to the plant-growing scene in the original movie. Apparently, the English translation avoids putting out footnotes to references that put the original in a bad light.
  • 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.
  • Vicariously Ambitious: Sachiko's mother-in-law constantly pressures the Azumas to put Kanon through piano lessons and extracurriculars as well. In addition, when she believes Hikaru could have some kind of Rain Man-level skill, she blames the Azumas for not trying to uncover it at a younger age.
  • Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?: Hikaru is afraid of dogs.