Thursday, July 9, 2009

With the Light, vol. 2

The story: In this volume, Hikaru starts the fourth grade. There's new people to meet and new things to learn, both for Hikaru, who is autistic, and his mother, Sachiko. While they've become reliant on Hikaru's teacher, Aoki, there's even more change on the horizon when Hikaru gets a new teacher. Unfortunately, the transition does not go slowly, as the new teacher, Gunji, is on the verge of retirement and has only one year of teaching left. While things are rough at first, eventually, they work out and everyone learns how to better communicate and understand one another.

Reaction: Ugh, I totally cried again, especially when the volunteer at Aoki's wedding explained her past. This volume isn't as full of heartbreaking moments as the first, but there are still plenty of touching scenes. I loved watching Hikaru grow as an individual and enjoyed seeing how the new teacher, Gunji, renewed her passion for teaching. This book is such an educational resource, on top of being an amazing story about one autistic boy's growth.

Deep thoughts: One chapter is focused on a schoolmate of Hikaru's and the trouble he experiences at home. Since he bullies Hikaru at school, everyone simply sees him as a bad kid. But, when it's discovered that he's suffering family troubles, too, the adults in his life begin to see him differently. Since bullying has gotten more attention in recent years, it's now being treated as more than just a "kid's problem." In a recent New York Times article, a pediatrician writes about how it's become a community's problem and that it takes a network of adults to help advocate and educate both parties involved to help get to the root of the problem. If this kind of action had been taken earlier on, Hikaru's schoolmate's family troubles may have been recognized and addressed sooner.

Artwork: The artwork here is typical of other josei series I've read -- while it still is typified by the large eyes seen in shojo, it has a better sense of realism, much like seinen series. There's plenty of outdoor scenes here, too, especially since there's an emphasis on the seasons changing as Hikaru grows up.

The verdict: Highly recommended. This is such a thoughtful, touching and educational manga; I love the characters Keiko Tobe has created and look forward to watching Hikaru grow in coming volumes. With the Light is available in the U.S. from Yen Press.

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