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A Josei manga by Keiko Tobe.
The story begins with Sachiko Azuma having her first child, Hikaru. He's not like the other babies, though: He stays in his stroller even when he's too old for it, he is only willing to eat the same thing every day, and he refuses to be held by his mother. Sachiko feels she is to blame...but she learns that Hikaru has autism -- a communication disorder. What ensues is the story of how Sachiko, her family, and others around them both hinder and contribute to Hikaru's life, and her ultimate goal that he will grow up to be "a cheerful working adult".
Yen Press has been publishing an English translation of this manga, with the twist that each American volume consists of two volumes of the original Japanese version. Sadly, Mrs. Tobe died of illness in early 2010, leaving it unfinished.
Tropes in this work:
- Abusive Parents: The fathers of Eri and Oki are the main offenders. Eri's father intimidates her and beats her mother regularly. Oki's father beats his son and keeps the house is a state of squalor after his wife leaves. A few other frustrated parents approach this at various points in the story (even Sachiko, who hit Hikaru in frustration a couple of times, admits this to herself), yet they never quite get that far.
- Author Existence Failure: 'Fraid so.
- Beauty Equals Goodness: A subtle but still unfortunate version occurs with Sachiko's two friends from her mommy-baby group. One, Mrs. Tanaka, looks like an anime drawing of Jennifer Aniston, and the other, Mrs. Katakura, looks much more like a Japanese woman actually would look like. Guess which one winds up being more accepting and supportive of Hikaru...
- Cloudcuckoolander: Anyone with autism.
- Doorstopper: The American paperback volumes of this are huge, even for a non-manga series. Granted, each volume is actually two Japanese volumes put together, but even half of that is big.
- Everyone Calls Him "Barkeep": Masato's older sister and her daughter are introduced early in the first tankobon, but she's always referred to by oneesan or "Sis." It's not until towards the (premature) end of the series that we catch her name.
- Freudian Excuse: This is usually employed upon any bad caretaker or mean-spirited person that doesn't breach close to Complete Monster territory. A lot.
- Funny Foreigner: Early on, we are introduced to Sachiko's Filipino neighbors. After one become friends with Hikaru, he starts randomly repeating several phrases in Tagalog.
- Gender Flip: Lampshaded during a school play when Kanata and Misaki play Vega and Vega's father, respectively.
- Ironic Name:
- Hikaru's full name is Azuma Hikaru, or "light of the East," and upon hearing this name, his new father Masato's first hope was that Hikaru would grow up to climb the corporate ladder. Which... he most likely won't do.
- Miyu means "beautiful feather", but she acts far less delicate than her name would suggest, as does the fifth-grade kendo champ Misaki, whose name means "beautiful blossoms."
- Last-Name Basis: Takuya Oki, Daisuke Ishida, Kanata Tanaka, and Misaki Oota.
- Mood Whiplash: Pretty much the entire series may count, largely due to its effort to capture the unpredictability of Real Life. Families with autistic members have to handle the afflicted person's condition on top of all the other challenges and fears of life -- job loss/tranfer, illness, natural disasters, etc.
- No Periods, Period: Averted. Saori has her first during a school trip; it's also mentioned that Miyu will probably start getting hers soon.
- Not What It Looks Like: Gunji-sensei was quite scandalized when she caught Hikaru with both hands down his pants. He just had a rash, and didn't know better than to scratch himself in public.
- Opaque Lenses: Gunji-Sensei, whose eyes were visible before she was a jerk. You do see them a few times later though.
- Orphanage of Fear: Oki was sent to one after being taken from his father. The older kids bully him and the youngest child, force all their chores onto them, and force Oki to shoplift for them under threat of either him or the littler boy being beaten. Then we discover the principal and all but one teacher are abusive as well when the principal beats the bully with a baseball bat so much that the kid can't even move.
- Replacement Goldfish: The way that Sachiko's Filipino neighbor treats Hikaru has some shades of this, as she was separated from her own son when she left for Japan.
- Rousseau Was Right: Anyone who acts as antagonistically towards Hikaru or Sachiko do so either out of ignorance of autism, or some other Freudian Excuse. With a little bit of friendship, however, many people change their attitudes towards Hikaru for the better.
- Science Marches On: The statistics present in With the Light are quite out-of-date, and there are several notices in the margins noting as much.
- Shout-Out: Plenty that both American and Japanese audiences would recognize, though the English translation includes extensive footnotes for the uniquely Japanese ones (no matter how minor).
- Shown Their Work: See Science Marches On.
- Sweet Dreams Fuel: For all of the struggles that Sachiko and her family go through, you can't help but just feel as happy as they do when things go right for them. Hikaru and Kanon are just adorable, too.
- The Unfavorite: Variation -- Sachiko loves both her kids well, but her mother-in-law prefers Kanon, Hikaru's little sister, to her brother. Having a "normal" child to interact with makes it harder for her to accept him, especially as he gets older and the full ramifications of his condition become more apparent.