Wandering Son has a very interesting sort of pace. It spends most of its time in the “present” of the narrative, but so much of that present relies on the past that it can’t help but hint at it. So even as we move closer toward the future (that is to say, the ending) we get a sense for the past, even before that past is made explicit. It makes for a very rewarding watching experience.
Take the scene with Maho (Shu’s sister) and Riku (the guy she likes). Learning that Riku once mistook Shu for a girl and thought he was “cute” does more than just move the narrative forward. It provides backstory (an event from before the narrative began), opens up the climactic seen from last week’s episode to further interpretation, and further establishes Maho as her own character. That’s a lot of ground for just one scene to cover, and it is a wonder to behold once you start thinking about it, especially how it manages this sans flashback.
I hate flashbacks. I really do. While they can work in theory, mostly they are a lazy replacement for competent storytelling. And this scene proves it. A flashback here would add nothing except filler, and nine times out of ten that’s half the point of a flashback. When the episode does later resort to one, it not only provides plot-related exposition but also illuminates the characters. Which is what a flashback should do.
Speaking of wishful thinking: Makoto. Suddenly his teddy bear hugging makes more sense when you realize he was probably trying to sort through his crush on the teacher. This scene was another example of moving the narrative forward in multiple chronologies simultaneously, but I’ll leave the math (SCIENCE!) to you this go round.
Oh, right, wishful thinking: I had a point to make, somewhere. Last week I linked to Day’s “Queer Identity in Manga,” which deals with a lack of queer identity in manga you would expect to have them more often. You know what’s even rarer? Queer identity in the mainstream. Though Wandering Son is technically a “trans” manga, its placement in the noitaminA slot gives it a higher profile than most of its kin.
Do you know what it’s like to be left out of most popular media? And then whenever they do deign to acknowledge that, hey, you exist, the best you can hope for is a comedic caricature? Do you know how refreshing it is to see a show treat you like an actual person for once? Yeah, this, basically. A reviewer (I can’t remember which) said this show was about how we’re all special etc. That is exactly not the point. It’s not that we’re special; it’s that we exist, and likewise are not abnormal. Pardon the italics, but I think they are warranted here. So to see the LGBT community acknowledged in a timeslot that people pay attention to is a breath of fresh air.
A final point: I am really loving the ED. The music is nice, and on a whole it’s just really relaxing to watch. Though it is interesting how both this show and Fractale went for a more minimalistic ED (and both are lovely).