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The role of libraries in the anime, “Wandering Son”

Today I’d like to talk about Wondering Son, a 12-episode anime also known as Hourou Musuko. The transgender protagonist, Shuuichi Nitori, is considered one of the cutest girls at the school but is  feeling discomfort related to her gender identity, as she usually takes the appearance of the boy, at least at school. In this episode, “Romeo and Juliet,” Nitori begins writing a genderbending play (not like the strange thing Bender did) where girls will play boys, and vice versa, with Saori Chiba. The latter, also known as Saorin or Chiba, tried to encourage Nitori to cross-dress. Anyway, in this scene, they try to first combine their two plays, Nitori’s original and Chibas’s modern adaption of William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, first meeting in the library. Below are some screencaps from this scene (which I think is only 1-2 minutes long at most).

At first, it seems fine.

But then they are made to feel unwelcome.

This makes Nitori admit the library is not a good place to talk…

Then, Chiba suddenly invites Nitori over to her house, to write the play, surprising her, promising it won’t get weird.

But…it ends up getting weird in the sense she gets really into taking dresses out of her closet for her to wear, throwing them onto her bed. She doesn’t want to do that (although she was worn dresses in her home), but they work together, diligently, on the play. Later, she ends up getting jealous and hating everyone and everything in the world…but not in this episode!

In the last two episodes of the series, the library returns like an apparition! This time it’s seen as a welcoming place where Nitori writes another gender bender play, where the girls play boys and vice versa, beginning in episode 11, “Confession ~Each season~” (which was edited into a single episode with episode 10 when broadcast on Japanese television). Here are some screenshots from that scene in the library, which I think is about 1-2 minutes long:

It’s kinda interesting because the scene in this episode parallels the one in the third episode, showing the characters have improved and matured since then. Saori, with the black-brown pigtails, is much more relaxed here than she was in the third episode, less constrained. I think that is part of the point. I like that Nitori is using the library as a serious place of study. There is also a brief scene in the show’s last episode, “Forever a Wandering Son ~Wandering son’s progress~”, showing a library, but it’s only for a couple seconds:

© 2020 Burkely Hermann. All rights reserved.

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on my History Hermann blog but has been re-edited and fixed before being posted on this blog. Enjoy!

By Burkely Hermann

Burkely Hermann joined the National Security Archive as an Indexer and Metadata Librarian in March 2020, using his experience with arrangement, indexing, electronic databases, cataloging, metadata creation, and knowledge of history on a daily basis. In December 2019, he completed his Master of Library and Information Science, specializing in Archives and Digital Curation, at University of Maryland. In 2016, he received a Bachelor of Arts, with a major in Political Science and a minor in History, from St. Mary's College of Maryland. He previously interned at the National Archives II facility in College Park and worked at the Maryland State Archives, Digital Curation and Innovation Center, and the Enoch Pratt Free Library. He is also a member of the Society of American Archivists. In his free time, he researches his family genealogy, serves as a judge for National History Day, which he participated in for several years, writes fictional works, and keeps up with changes in the library and archives fields. He currently runs seven WordPress blogs, primarily about his family history, or reviewing archives and libraries in pop culture.

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