Out of all the manga I have reviewed on this blog, this would have to be the most different one in comparison to everything else. This title, as the name suggests, is about human development, and how when a normal family finds their newborn has a disability such as autism, how it can affect their lives, for the better… or worse. Now, I assume that at least some of you have already moved on and decided to read other articles, since I am sure this manga wouldn’t suit everyones tastes, however, for those who are looking for a serious read, then I doubt you will find a more interesting manga as With The Light: Raising an Autistic Child by Keiko Tobe.
To new mother Sachiko Azuma, her baby boy is the light of her life. Accordingly, she names him Hikaru, Japanese for “to be bright”. Eager to raise her son, Sachiko gradually begins to notice that Hikaru seems a bit different from other children. He is reluctant to be held or hugged, and his growth and development appear slow. Sachiko’s suspicions are confirmed when it is suggested that Hikaru, at a year-and-a-half, may be deaf. A specialist, however, reaches a different diagnosis: autism.
Since all my human development textbooks are trapped under a pile of anatomy and physiology textbooks, I would strongly advise that if you do not know what autism is, that you read up on it at at a reputable website, or alternatively, just Wikipedia it. I don’t think this book will do you much good if you don’t understand the underlying basics of the neural development disorder.
The storyline of this volume progresses through the time periods of when Hikaru is born, to around second grade of primary school. The storyline has its moments that make you go “Awwww”, but for quite a bit of the time, it would make you want to wish you were in the storyline to whack some sense into the characters within the storyline that discriminate against people with disabilities. The first half or so of the storyline involves the first few years of Hikaru’s life where, as the synopsis states, medical professionals have no idea what condition he has and what his symptoms are linked to. This also involves families potentially breaking up and an unwillingness and misunderstandings by professionals, educational/child facilities and even Sachiko’s own friends towards Hikaru. Also in great focus is the affect that Hikaru has on his mother, often showing the overall impact that he had on her health and mental state.
The second half or so focuses on Hikaru’s time at day care and kindergarden, in which his parents decide that it is best for him to go to a normal school and how the misunderstandings affected the family, alongside the helpful support that some teachers and people gave to them to improve Hikaru’s recovery. Hikaru’s condition seems to be on the more severe end then the higher-functioning people with autism, and sometimes unrealistic scenarios seemed to happen (Can’t say they wouldn’t happen through), however I thought it was really well spaced out and that it kept my eyes glued to the pages from start to finish.
It was also good that during the storyline, whilst Hikaru and Sachiko were definitely the main characters, that the backstories of the other characters were focused on and that every character that appeared within the storyline fitted one of two criteria:
- Aided to the development of Hikaru
- Presented their own back-story which kept the reader engaged.
Honestly, it is by far a happy storyline, with several individuals standing between the family and a happy life, however there are some really happy and heartwarming moments that really make it a worthwhile read.
Graphics wise, I really thought it was appropriate for the type of storyline it was. The character designs were basic, with no extravagant artistry that other manga seem to rely on, however each character has their own distinct appearance and it comes off more cuteish and heartwarming then “wow!”. Considering the number of characters on each page and the overall design of the manga, this is to be expected.
Background designs were a mix, my good friend the white room of nothingness is back however, this is less prevalent then in most manga I have read and they will often attempt to put some sort of object in the screen such as a desk or chair, otherwise they will do closeups of the characters, often drawing attention to the character designs. The cover design is basic, however as this is targeted towards a different group of readers in comparison to most manga, I do think that it is appropriate to let this slide.
There is quite a lot of extra content within the volume which includes:
- Reading tips at the front of the book – Usually I find, manga publishers will only put how to read a manga at the end of the book (When reading it western style, it would be on the first page). This was a nice touch, even if I didn’t use it.
- Cultural notes – Always helpful.
- Each chapter title page had a nice piece of artwork, nothing fancy but still refreshing.
- Two short stories titled “With Dada” and “Nobu’s World” which seem to be real life stories of parents living in Japan with autistic children.
- Translation Notes – Once again, always good.
- Additional Tagalog Translation Notes – Within the story, there are a few characters that speak this language, to preserve this, the publishers decided to keep it in the text and offer translation notes for this as well.
- Advertisements for novels relating to children with autism.
In my personal opinion, this is a manga that I would recommend to anyone that does not look at manga just for the sake of fantasy. This is a title that I would have expected to be as a novel, however instead I think it was very effective as a manga, and it comes in a 523 page book, and it isn’t even a full omnibus! I have known a number of people with autism, and this book really does show that just because they do have this disorder, that there is absolutely no reason for them to be disadvantaged, discriminated against or treated any different from a normal healthy person. I hope that anyone who reads this series can understand the troubles experienced by parents of children with any form of disability. So far, this is shaping up to be one of my favorite mangas!
Storyline – 10
Characters – 10
Artwork – 9
Extras – 10
Personal Opinion – 10
Overall Score – 10
This title has been published in English by Yen Press. This series was done by Keiko Tobe and currently has 6 volumes released in english, with a seventh being released in September 2010.