January 14, 2011

Wandering Son Pilot Episode: What Boys and Girls Are Made Of.

Posted in Wandering Son tagged , , , at 3:30 pm by meotwister5

What are little boys made of?
What are little boys made of?

Frogs and snails
And puppy-dogs’ tails,
That’s what little boys are made of.
What are little girls made of?
What are little girls made of?

Sugar and spice
And everything nice,
That’s what little girls are made of.

We meet again.

A boy who wants to be a girl.  A girl who wants to be a boy.  Friends who don’t really understand but try to support them anyway.  It sounds just about any group of school friends you’ve ever been with in this day and age of less restrictive gender roles.  Shuiichi Nitori is an effeminate and petite young man, who for the longest time has wanted to be a girl.  His best friend is Yoshino Takatsuki, a tall and masculine girl who also for the longest time has wanted to be a boy.

The viewer knows not a lot of the history between these two nor the relationships they have with their friends, only with the knowledge that fractures have appeared in the friendships shared within this distinctively large and dynamic group of middle schoolers.  The episode serves as an entry point of sorts, giving us flashbacks and hints about the past the series has decided to skip, putting us in middle school rather than in elementary where it all began.  All we really know is that there are two people, a boy and a girl, who are unsatisfied with the lives their genes force them to live, and the problems their true feelings must face on a daily basis.

It is, thus, a story of what little boys and little girls are made of.

There's one guy in those three. Take a guess.

When I first saw screens of the series after it was just announced, I could not for the life of me believe that A-1 would be able to animated this fluidly and consistently throughout the entire run.  11 episodes may not be a long run for a series, but when consistency is key, the sheer amount of quality that screams in those screens must be something that they need to keep at lest they let the fans down.  Seeing the first PV helped calm down my worries a bit, but it would take an actual episode to either keep my worries about or put them to rest.

After seeing the episode itself, it is enough to say that this has to be the most beautifully animated episode (and hopefully series) that I have seen since Tomoya’s monochrome world began to find its color in Clannad.  Seeing it in stills is one thing, but seeing it in motion is almost breathtaking.  Calling it movie quality is an understatement.  A-1 has set a REALLY high bar with this episode, a bar I do not expect them to surpass but at least manage to keep for the rest of the series’ run.  Yes, those sakura petals are something I only used to see in a Kyoto Animation or Makoto Shinkai work, but now I can add AIC to this exclusive list.  Simply astounding.

Fix your wig, son.

The major complaint that has been echoed in this episode, and put into perspective by manga viewers, is the choice to skip a gigantic amount of material (30+ chapters!) and start them in middle school as opposed to elementary.  30 chapters is a huge skip by any means, and we naturally lose a lot of the characterization and backstory that I personally find to so wonderfully fleshes out the characters, especially Nitorin and Yoshino.  If I wasn’t a manga reader, I’d probably have a hell lot of questions myself, especially since we don’t get anything that really showed us how or why these people became friends, and how or why Nitorin and Yoshino’s desire to cross-dress became big.

Is it a bitter pill of sacrifice?  Perhaps it is.  This is a very long and very laid back story.  Unless you have 50 episodes to work with like Cross Game, it’s obvious that you aren’t going to get everything in.  I give the producers the benefit of the doubt on this one that they chose to start in middle school for a reason, and I hope that the reason is right.

That's... really beautiful.

In the end of the episode though, some of my fears regarding their ability to characterize in this giant time skip were put to rest by the sheer beauty of the animation and the presentation of Nitorin and Yoshino’s meeting by the bridge.  Two old friends first brought together by similar circumstances, pulled apart by a bad confession of love, brought again together in a moment of emotional frustration against a world that does not approve of their desire to be different than what the human anatomy dictates.  Hearing Nitorin hiccup as he cries was perhaps the big part of the first scene, that proves beyond doubt that he still but a child, yet a child who is forced to handle issues not even adults are willing to face.  Meeting a kindred spirit out on the bridge on his moment of weakness allows him to vent out his feelings and frustrations that others probable cannot understand.

Yoshino, on her part, her giving of her hoodie to him stands as testament to the fact that they indeed are perhaps the only two people who can really understand the struggles that both must have to face on a daily basis.  She is the same, after all.  Seeing Nitorin try his damned best to face his feelings and emotions, to do what he feels to be right, behind the tears allows her to scream at the top of her lungs with the intention of doing her best as well, as a woman who prefers to think of herself as a man.  Confused as to who or what they are, the two of them become crutches for each other.  In a moment of weakness they find their friendship again, reminded of how they became friends in the first place.  In a span of 5 minutes, the episode managed the encapsulate the inner turmoil that both are forced to face.

Perhaps AIC does know what they are doing.  Perhaps we don’t need all previous chapters to understand.  The final moments of the episode showed that they know how to present the material that was not shown in a more concise form.  This was obviously a well-planned and presented piece.  If they can continue doing it, then perhaps my complaints are rather moot: they will show us the past we didn’t see, in their own way.

So... pretty...

So yes, the best opener of the season yet.  Actually, maybe even the year.  Until something else blows me away, this is perhaps the best show of the year so far.



  1. Protip: AIC not A-1. They’ve done good animation work before. The story level may not be equal but both Oreimo and Strike Witches 2 were amongst the best looking shows of their seasons.

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