I knew this was gonna happen once Wandering Son (Hourou Musuko) finally got released.
I got Portishead’s Wandering Star in my head because of the anime’s title. Which is a shame because I think that’s my least-favorite song of theirs (All Mine‘s probably my favorite.). Seriously. Why they’ve never done a James Bond theme is beyond me. But whatever.
See, Wandering Son isn’t terrible. I gotta respect it for handling gender issues and the like with a degree of seriousness. It’s refreshing to see a dude in drag and not have him be the butt of some me-too “It’s A Trap” meme. So yeah, more power to you Wandering Son.
At the same time, really? It’s good that the series wants to take things seriously, but do we really need to be so dead serious about all of this that any modicum of joy or entertainment is murdered before our eyes by a metaphorical pastel butcher knife? We don’t need giant robots or aliens or non-stop sight gags or anything like that, but can’t we have at least one character try to crack a joke to lighten the mood every now and then? Maybe have someone spout a clever line of dialogue that makes you chuckle under your breath? Something? Anything? Even the “carefree” girl’s lines are reserved for serious “empowerment” dialogue about doing what you want and not caring what other think.
Everything in the first episode of Wandering Son is about “the message.” It’s like it wants to stay on target and not lose sight of its intentions. But in the process of being so laser accurate it forgets to do the most important thing an anime needs to do: be good.
See, if you want your message to be heard by people outside of the proverbial choir, you gotta try to hook in the audience. Wandering Son is suffering from the same shit that I ranted about when Rainbow aired last year. It’s so concerned about having its voice heard and so determined to have its message told that it forgets that it needs an audience before it can have a sermon. Yeah, you’ll get a handful of people whose personalities are already “converted” to the message that Wandering Son is trying to convey. There’s a small minority of people who genuinely enjoy what I consider stuffy, self-serious, dramatic affairs like this. They’re the same people who genuinely enjoy The Shawshank Redemption or Brokeback Mountain or American Beauty because of the messages said movies convey. They dig that. I don’t. In fact, that angle is a considerable turn off for me, and I seriously doubt I’m the only person that feels that way.
I’m all for movies trying to get some sort of political/sociological/philosophical message. Some of my favorite movies do just that, but they also don’t forget to entertain the audience in the progress. One of my favorite movies from the past decade is Children of Men. It deals with issues of immigration and declining birthrates in Western countries. Britain is overrun with illegal immigrants in the midst of the world falling apart after women stop conceiving children. The youngest person on the planet is in their late teens, and the world realizes that humanity only has several decades of existence left in it, and everything’s going to shit. The movie takes on political extremism from both ends of the spectrum (It portrays radicals on both the left and the right as hypocritical bastards willing to betray everything they supposedly believe in to further their agendas.). It takes on a hell of a lot of “important” issues, but you know what? What makes it good is all of the other things it does. The action scenes are beautifully shot, consisting of extended single-takes that convey considerable more realism than the so-called “realism” people claim shakycam, handheld shots are supposed to capture. The movie’s also fucking funny at times, allowing its characters to make with the gallows humor when things look their worst. Hell, Michael Caine’s character gets gunned down while trying to make a fucking “pull my finger” joke, and it makes perfect sense in the context of the movie.
This is the problem with Wandering Son. It has a nice message about trying to discover and accept one’s identity during those nasty, unpleasant days of early puberty, but it’s hard to say anything about it other than “oh, that’s nice” when it wants to take itself so fucking seriously. Peeps are just gonna tune it out. It’s a shame, but the series has no one but itself to blame since it doesn’t want to do anything but preach.
(And yeah, I read several volumes of the manga after hearing good things about it. As far as I remember, the manga was no different. Maybe it gets more lively later on? All I know is that I got well past the point where the anime starts and I quit reading because it never “picked up.”)
But all that said, yeah, Wandering Son isn’t terrible. It’s just incredibly rant-worthy.