Monday, May 12, 2008

Manga to Love - "With The Light"

Some weeks ago, I was with Mark at the newly refurbished Reads bookshop in Dublin City Centre. I call that bookshop an "emergency bookshop", in the sense that is rather like a convenience store than a real bookshop. By that I mean, it sells the obvious bestseller releases, tourist guides, Irish-themed books for foreigners, calendars, and the sort.

But they've got a tiny manga section, to my surprise. And there I found this book, from Yen Press (that I haven't heard about until then, altough they are re-publishing another favourite of mine - "The Antique Gift Shop"): "With The Light: Raising an Autistic Child", by Keiko Tobe. Really heavy volume that I quickly browsed and decided to buy on the spot and see how it might be. And this was only the 1st volume, covering the main character's early years.

No regrets. The artwork is lovely and the subject quite distinct from the usual manga offers. It is really a manual-like, guide to autism, and very interesting at that. I say "manual-like" because it gives you some guidance on how to help raising a kid with that condition and shows as well some valuable data and pieces of information on the subject. But it is not quite so, or not limited to that. It is a story, with loveable characters and told with sensitivity, interest and knowledge.

It tells about a couple. Sachiko and Masato Azuma, whose 1st child, Hikaru, turns out to have a very peculiar behaviour on his infancy until he is finally diagnosed with autism. The book follows his journey (and his family's) though the condition and how he interacts with the world around him, prejudices, friendship, and all their strive to adapt - not only to the condition itself - but to society as a whole. And as a normal, functional part of it, not merely as a "disabled" or "special" member of it.

Then you realise how hard it must be. For the kid, for the parents, for the teachers. Hard yes, but also rewarding. As I mentioned before, the artwork is very good and the characters are easy to identify even if a bit stereotypical sometimes - Sachiko is way too nice, the Mother-in-law is way too strict and unsympathetic in the beginning, Masato changes abruptly from a workaholic salary man to a loving Father.

The plot is as simple as that: a day in a life. It could easily turn into a mushy, corny piece of a graphic novel, but believe me when I say it is not. Worth buying it, reading and appreciating for the story and the artwork, I cannot do it otherwise but warmly recommend it. And even urge you to get a copy.

(Please click on the scan below to have an example of the text and artwork...)

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