The Otaku’s Manga Study #1b
Memories go around…
Everyone goes around together
When everyone’s happy, I’m happy too
I’m sure that this felling.. is what they call happiness
A little effort goes a long way — that’s what Sachiko, Honda-san, and Gunji-sensei learn as they struggle to work together to make life easier for the Special Education children. With the help of gadgets and the support of more people in their environment than meets the eye, Hikaru and Miyu become able to communicate better with the world around them. But when Hikaru’s teen idol classmate sends some mothers into a flashbulb frenzy that causes Hikaru to panic, other parents begin to question his presence alongside “normal” students in the classroom. Hikaru’s first school trip also ends in disaster, when he gets separated from the group, and Sachiko begins to worry that Hikaru is losing his hard-fought place in society.
With the Light is one of those series that you will either love or you will find bland. Instead of a fantasy setting, comedy chapters or even filler content, you are presented with an emotional and realistic tale of a mother whose child is born with a severe case of autism. This manga series has been split up into a number of chapters from Infancy to (As of volume 3) middle elementary school years, each of which detail a number of problems and moments of happiness experienced by Sachiko Azuma, Hikaru Azuma and the many friends and acquaintances they both make. All of this is to achieve the ultimate goal of having Hikaru grow up to become a “Cheerful Working Adult”.
As this is the third volume, as with my review of Bunny Drop I would like to take a moment to detail the plot of the previous two installments. Volume 1 encompassed the infancy, pre-school and early elementary years of Hikaru’s life and could quite easily be the most tragic as autism is not properly understood by a majority of the characters, thus the burden in put down to bad parenting. Beginning to be segregated from her husbands family and Hikaru’s peers, this volume was all about showing the reader what her life is like while trying to ensure her son is not isolated and dragged from the path of a happy life. The second volume started off more happily as Hikaru gets well into elementary school with a supportive group of friends and supportive staff however lack of understanding by some students, staff and the public cause more problems, especially as his kind and supportive teacher is transferred out and another tragedy befalls the one other person that can help. I have enjoyed this series so far as it works well at providing a detailed story that is both realistic and sets off a mixture of emotions… but how does Volume 3 fare?
As with previous volumes the reader is given both spur of the moment events and those that have a bit more to them. The two main overarching plots of this volume involve the plot surrounding Gunji-sensei, Aoki’s replacement who originally took the job because she thought it would be easy, but instead the only two students in the special education class are causing her more work than ever before and more towards the end of the volume is the Grade 5 school camp, which is Sachiko’s first respite from Hikaru in ten years but doesn’t necessarily bode well for her despite the relief. The other plots deal with either support and services towards those with autism or the everyday running about Sachiko does in order to ensure both her children grow up happy. Keiko Tobe has managed to over just three volumes showcase Hikaru’s development over a period of ten years effectively through his interactions with staff, family, friends and even those who are unfriendly to him. In the end, it is what you would expect from With the Light – some saddening moments, some interesting moments and some moments that make you go “Awwww…”.
My feelings towards the design hasn’t changed from my previous reviews, it provides simple artwork that is nothing overly extravagant but instead fits in well with the realism that Keiko Tobe tried to get across with her tale. Considering the sizable cast of characters with many of them being infrequent characters, there were no real chapters of scenes that suffered from a degradation in quality with appropriate use of character emotions, character details and “realistic” manga environment designs which all added to the experience. While Yen Press could have just left the volume at the manga pages and nothing else, they extended themselves and provide a number of intellectually interesting extra content including the article “What is Autism” by Tokio Uchiyama (Director of Yokohama Developmental Clinic and Assistant Professor at Otsuma Women’s University), My “With the Light” by Mariko Abe (Lawyer at Yuuki Law Office) and “My Son is a Senior in College” by Masako Suzuki. The following three were brief literature detailing the individuals experiences with an autistic son, daughter, friend, family member etc. Also provided was an extensive translation notes.
Overall, I think if you enjoy something a bit more light-hearted in reading, don’t mind learning a bit from reading manga or even if you say… enjoyed school-life or drama series then I think this might be for you. Once again Keiko Tobe did an interesting job at bringing us to the mindset of a mother who is at wits end trying to do everything for her two children, provided with both happiness and stress.
Storyline/Character Development: A
Extra Content: B+
Personal Opinion: B+
Overall Score: A-