With the Light: Raising an Autistic Child is a new manga by Keiko Tobe about a mother, Sachiko, and her efforts to take care of her autistic son, Hikaru. MangaBlog notes that, while With the Light attempts to convey a definite educational message, it is also entertaining. The story seems to be told mostly from the perspective of Sachiko as the mother of an autistic child, while less attention is given to Hikaru’s own perspective. In particular, MangaBlog points out that Tobe uses the manga format to good effect:
Interestingly, the two characters drawn in classic big-eyed manga style are Sachiko and Hikaru, but the effects are very different: Sachiko is usually trembling with emotion, while Hikaru is usually looking off to the side or staring into space. Most of the adults are drawn with smaller eyes and animated features that express their different personalities well. Tobe also composes the pages well, shifting points of view, varying her panel style, and moving the eye along with plenty of visual cues. And interestingly, although this omnibus volumes spans 500 pages, she retains a remarkable consistency of story. Characters from an early chapter recur later on, and even simple elements like a ticking clock that show up early in the volume turn out to have significance in later chapters.
Yen Press notes that With the Light began as a serial in Akita Shoten’s For Mrs. magazine in 2000 and continues to be serialized today. It’s available on Amazon.com; is a review on Comic World News emphasizes some “universal messages” from the book:
One of the most important is the notion that making an environment safer and more inclusive for people with special needs makes the environment better for everyone. Tobe’s illustration of this, via a conventional school festival, is a tremendously effective sequence in terms of conveying that message. The adaptations to the event don’t diminish it or even change it materially; they just open it up to all of its participants.
Equally valuable is the notion that ignorance isn’t incurable, nor is it entirely predictable. Tobe renders a horrible experience with health care workers, who might be expected to be better informed or more sensitive, then balances it with a surprisingly enlightened and encouraging encounter with the noisy, Filipina bar girls from upstairs. Frustrations and jealousy aren’t unforgivable in the Azumas’ world; they can be overcome with information and honesty.
I’m curious as to how Tobe uses the manga genre to present a story familiar to many autism parents; With the Light seems very much a good read (and I am glad, too, for more about autism in graphic/comics format, besides The Chelation Kid).