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Thursday, December 31, 2009

More thoughts on fiction and autism

I have received the forth volume of With the Light. I am waiting for the third to arrived. So I decided to discuss more on it and probably do another review on With the Light once I finish reading Vol-3&4.

Now for those who don't know, With the Light is a manga or Japanese comic about a woman that her son Hikaru is autistic. Unlike the universe that Tikaani is featured in. Hikaru is actually diagnosed and the manga acts like educational tool than a perky fun read. It's still fun to read and I totally recommend it to parents and siblings with autists.  There is even a 'trope' page for it too. 

The thing I liked the most about With the Light was the fact Keiki Tobe the author doesn't turn the man character Sachiko into "Please please pity me!" mom like the woman humping the Anti-Vax train. Her spirit reminds me of the moms here actually. If she was a real person I can see her commenting on Kim's Blog about her boy Hikaru and how she just wants him to be a "cheerful working adult." Which is the baseline of this manga. It's about Sachiko raising her son to be an independent and happy adult. Yes folks, happy. As he is. 

The second thing I like about With the Light is the posAUTive message through out the series. It works to educate people on autism not demonetize it. Which is such a breathe of fresh from the real life "warrior mom' shit. With the Light doesn't quite follow the suite of say Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time or Speed the Dark in which the main characters are the autists themselves and they either poorly executed like the former or wonderful but then turn disappointing the latter. Whilst With the Light, the main character is 'NT' so the author avoids writing from an autistic point of view and consequentially dodges "ministerial-ing" the autistic character. 

Hikaru is also characterize well, he is done in a manner that is realistic and not too stereotypical. However you still have stereotypes like Hikaru being fixated on trains (oh of course Keiko) but he's done in a manner that isn't over bearing and screams puppet. Keiko even says that Hikaru is modeled after real life autisic boys, 'Dada-kun and R-kun' (kun is an honorific) so that probably explains why I connected to Hikaru. Tikaani and Wilson are also modeled after real world boys and real world experiences. Tikaani main influence was from a boy named "Dave" who had very limited words and a few undiagnosed autists in my Hospitality class. Wilson was modeled from a boy I dated shortly. So with that being said it was obvious that I connected to Hikaru quickly. 

Now the things I disliked are few but still worth mentioning. The first is the altruism of Sachiko, she works with Hikaru and tried to fit things in his perspective, however she has this idea that if Hikaru is functioning enough to be independent that everything will be ok and Hikaru will have his place in the word. Sweet notion. But it just shows Keiko's ignorance. In reality nothing is that easy when your child is high-functioning and an adult. There are MORE challenges as an adult than their is as a kid. For Hikaru he won't have the supports and systems in place as he did as a child. Those will be gone once he hits the age of adulthood in Japan. I don't know what government checks are in Japan to help disabled Japanese, but for Hikaru, his place is going to be constantly questioned. Will Sachiko ever think about respite care or whatever Japanese have for that? Will she worry about Hikaru being aggressive once he hits puberty? Will she every see the look of confusion and anger in Hikaru's face as might loose his job to a neurotypical adult? These are questions come up a lot in families with mid-high functioning autistic adults. Parents worried that they might not be able to get the services that their children need. They worry that they might be taken advantage of. Will Hikaru face persecution as an adult? This is something that is never mentioned. It just assumed by Sachiko and her husband that once Hikaru is independent that things will have happy ending. This autistic adult who suffers the same challenges that Hikaru did as a child, says YEAH RIGHT D:<. Dream on Sachiko. 

Another thing that bugged me is that everything is in the POV of Sachiko I want to see a few pages or a chapter that is through Hikaru's POV. Now as I explained previously about Keiko avoiding 'ministerial-ing' Hikaru. I can see why she didn't. Still as an autist I want to see through his eyes. I want to to say "Yeah bro, I've been there man." 

Another thing which might be silly, is the fact that everyone is so NICE to Hikaru. He seems to make friends easy and he somewhat unaware of it. While he has a few problems with a few children. He doesn't suffer from the heavy bullying and harassment that every autist probably went through. Everyone is so nice and patient with him. The again Hikaru is a nice and polite autist so it's quiet easy how people flock to him. He doesn't have meltdowns in class which might constitute desk tipping, spitting, screaming, biting. And if he does have meltdowns his teachers are all well trained and handle his meltdowns with brevity and he doesn't actually cause a huge disturbance because, oh he doesn't understand what's going on we'll forgive and everything will ok. After all he has nice neat tantrums nothing like punching out teachers or peer on peer aggression. Wow special-ed class rooms in Japan must be so nice Keiko. I mean I've seen high-functioning autistic children run like antelopes and fly out the building in the middle of class and autists throwing huge screaming fits that reverberated around the school. And man, I work at a school that specialize with autistic children. While I totally appreciate the tolerance and forgiveness of Aoki-Sensei(Hikaru's teacher), especially when a parent tells Aoki sensei that her daughter bites. Aoki brushes it off with "Oh I know sometimes she does that when she is trying to communicate". Really? If I bite anyone at her age I got slapped. How lucky of a girl to have a teacher that is so forgiving. I mean even some of the most patient teachers won't be so easy around injurious behavior. However being this a manga I'll let go of people always being so nice to Hikaru and Hikaru having nice and neat meltdowns. 

Another thing is and this might purely be an artist deal is that we don't see Miyu or Hikaru the two autists in the manga stim. Now I have drawn Tikaani wiggling his wrist or waving his arms around. But it seems that Hikaru will repeat back words, toe walk but not stim-stim. Well that just might be how he is characterized. Not all autists have obvious stimming behaviors. I mean we see Hikaru flap his hands but Sachiko corrects (much to my irritation) him. However he doesn't chew, twist his head or have destructive stims. That something I added with my own autist. Tikaani will chew his hands, clothes and anything he can get his hands on. As well as tear up paper and cloth into tiny pieces. It seems like his tantrums, Hikaru has nice/neat behaviors. As far as I can tell from the first two.

As I wait for book three to come in and I'll probably get book five soon. I have to say that it's very well developed manga and most of my critique is all rather nit-picky. I totally think ND activists should read it and pro-cure people too. 

Bard out. 


  1. The series sounds interesting; one I'll have to get. Your analysis is intriguing. Does the author of the manga have an email or website where you can discuss some of your thoughts?

    I hope you have a good new years!

  2. I haven't found any e-mail to Keiko Tobe I wish I could e-mail or write to her

    You can order the manga on Amazon