• Thu, Oct 18 2007

Autism Manga

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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).

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  • http://autismos.blogspot.com Marilena

    A bit irrelevant, but the name of the autistic child, Hikaru, reminded me of Hikari Oe, the autistic son of the Japanese Nobelist Kenzaburo Oe, a talented composer.
    greetings from Greece.

  • http://www.autismvox.com Kristina Chew, PhD

    Thanks for mentioning that actually! And not irrelevant.

  • KimJ

    We are definitely a manga house here, I’ll check it out. Manga has been instrumental in teaching emotion expression and dramatic flair.

  • http://lisa-jedi.blogspot.com/ Lisa/Jedi

    Thanks for letting me know about this post, Kristina! We are also manga buffs here, as you know :) Hikaru means “shining” in japanese, hence the pun in the title of the manga.

    While we were in Japan last June we watched an NHK (Japan’s PBS) documentary on autism, which came as a welcome surprise (I was trying to figure out what the documentary was about when I heard the japanese word for autism “ji-he-shou” & realised what I was watching!). It is heartening to see these efforts toward autism education all over the world…

  • http://qian2.multiply.com superpanda

    This is a very good manga. I read until book 11… still waiting for the next one.

  • Abablog

    I just got “With The Light” as a present from a very special person, a Manga fan. Our worlds connected so nicely in one book. Thanks Kristina.

  • http://www.autismvox.com Kristina Chew, PhD

    Thanks, Lisa/jedi for the translation! I’m really looking forward to reading it—-with Charlie, too.

  • KimJ

    I just found this book today at Barnes & Noble. Just finished it a few minutes ago. Weirdly enough, it’s in the Special Needs Child/Parenting section and not the Graphic Novel section. About 3 years ago, autism books were very, very rare at B & N. There would be just a few, dry examples available and they could be scattered around in Parenting, self-help/mental ill, and education. Now there is a section just for Special Needs with a majority devoted to ASD.

  • LWJ

    Came here via google, as I have just finished reading this story. It is certainly proof that manga really are written of all kinds of stories and not just the typical romance, sci-fi or horror stuff that usually gets translated into English.

    I know nothing about autism, well, I didn’t until I read this comic. I really enjoyed it and although I’m not interested particularly in children (well or disabled) the plot really grabbed me and I was quickly drawn in to caring very much what happens to the mother and whether or not her child can be integrated into society. Overall it looks as if the answer, in the end, will be no. But he has a loving family, friends and associated professionals and his life seems to be so much happier than it was in the beginning. I will definitely be more sensitive to those who suffer from this disorder or who are carers in future. And I hope against hope for a more happy and certain ending, as the mother character does.

    I look very much forward to future issues of this book. I’m assuming that since this one is labeled 1 that there will be others.

  • http://www.naturalbirthandbabycare.com Kristen

    This was an excellent manga. I could really identify with Sachiko, the mother. Her spirit and determination were wonderful. It was really a great read – so refreshing to have a perspective on accepting your autistic child in current works which mostly focus on changing your autistic child. Brilliant, and lovely art.

  • http://comautworld.blogspot.com Jannalou

    I just bought this book & read it today; planning to write a review sometime this weekend. It is very, very good, and I do hope there is more to the story!

  • http://lisa-jedi.blogspot.com/ Lisa/Jedi

    Yes, volume 2 is out! It’s at Amazon- I’m getting ready to order it… :)

  • http://www.geocities.com/mrshoujo/ Andrew

    Having Asperger’s I really should look into collecting and reading this series. Have you heard of the 12 episode Japanese drama “Something you taught me”?

  • Hetty

    I have to heartily recommend this manga. I do not have anyone in my family with autism and it was still a very engrossing story.