Born during the sunrise—an auspicious beginning—the Azumas' newborn son is named Hikaru, which means "light." But during one play date, his mother notices that her son is slightly different from the other children. In this alternately heartwarming and bittersweet tale, a young mother tries to cope with both the overwhelming discovery of her child's autism and the trials of raising him while keeping her family together. This is a story that resonates not only for those whose families have been affected by autism, but also for all past, present, and future parents.
(Source: Yen Press)
Volume 15: Thank You Sensei!, Haru no Manazashi
In 2004, Hikari to Tomo ni...: Jiheishouji wo Kakaete won the 8th Japan Media Arts Festival's Award of Excellence in manga division, and was adapted into a live-action TV drama series.
In 2010, after the author's death the last two unfinished chapters in their manuscripts format were published in the magazine, and later included in the last volume, deeming the series as incomplete. On the 30th anniversary since Tobe's debut in 2016, Kawasaki Mei drawn those two chapters concluding the story.
The series was published in a 2-in-1 omnibus edition in English as With the Light... Raising an Autistic Child by Yen Press from September 24, 2007 to September 20, 2011.
This is my first time rating a manga so I apologize if there are any mistakes.
I give this manga...a perfect, pure, concentrated 100/100!
Yep! You read that rating right! I feel this is the single greatest and best manga of all time!...yet it's so underrated and underappreciated! But the appreciators who DO love it are truly devoted to this beautiful and majestic manga! I honestly feel that this is one of the most ground-breaking and wonderful and incomparable manga ever created! This is my number one all time favorite manga. And I can give A TON of reasons for it being sooooo wonderful!
The premise of this
manga is actually very surprising and unusual, and not many other manga have done this before! The manga's about a young mother who discovers her beloved son, Hikaru, has autism, a developmental disorder of the brain that affects communication and social interaction. The Azuma family go through both hardship and joy as they go on a journey to help their son live to be a "cheerful, working adult" when he gets older.
I'm autistic myself, so I relate to this manga on an extremely personal level. In fact, I didn't even know this manga even existed until 2008, when I accidentally came across a Wikipedia article about it! I was so surprised and overjoyed that I literally begged my dad to order the first two volumes (volumes 3 and up weren't out back then) off of Amazon! And boy, am I glad I did! This manga has won a very very VERY special place in my heart. Even the awesomeness that is Shounen Onmyouji (my number one favorite anime of all time) couldn't compare to this manga's beauty and divinity! And boy do I have a TON of praises for this beautiful, sublime, and wonderful manga!
Let me start with the story first. Autism is a very controversial yet well known subject nowadays, yet this manga wasn't published until the late 90s, and autism wasn't all that well known in Japan just yet. Heck, NO manga before that time has ever even DARED to tackle the issue that is autism! But in this manga, it's done absolutely wonderfully! The plot is adorably consistent, the portrayal of autistic children (and adults) are absolutely spot-on, and the development is fantastic! Of course, the manga, while having an optmistic and warm and kind-hearted message behind it, refuses to shy away from discrimination and social prejudice toward the autistic. Thankfully, there's no insane melodrama or unnecessary angst or complicated matters or anything of the like. In fact, if you ever have an autistic relative or are autistic yourself, you can actually relate to these problems and issues!
And the characters! My goodness, the characters are absolutely and positively wonderful! Sachiko, the mother in this series, is a wonderful and strong character who is able to carry the weight of this manga perfectly. She's a wonderful depiction of a mother trying to raise an autistic child. Of course in the beginning she's in denial and feels alone and abandoned regarding her son, and on one occasion she even takes her anger out on Hikaru, but she grows and develops and learns and accepts whatever she's been given. Her husband, Masato, is also great too! At first he may seem like the stereotype of a cold and uncaring parent, but that's simply not true. In the beginning, he's simply too young and inexperienced to be the star husband and employee that his family, and society, want him to be. And like Sachiko, he grows and learns and accepts what he's given and doesn't look back. I love that in a character! Hikaru...awwww, what can I say about him!? He's soooo adorable and a wonderful portrayal of an autistic child, though I will confess that I haven't met any children like him in my country (America). But I can easily see a character like him in real life! And the minor characters. The family and friends are also wonderfully depicted and developed. Even the very minor characters who only appear for one chapter or more are given a little impact and personality! There's always something about them all that leaves an impression. How can you go wrong with that!?
The artwork...of course it looks rather old school shoujo manga-esque with round, sparkly eyes and all that. Thankfully, the artwork never loses it's edge. In fact, even with its simplicity, it really makes everything feel real and soft and warm-feeling, like you're actually seeing the characters and actually playing the events of the manga in your head! No page feels overly extravagant or overly bland. The artwork is nice and well-balanced. Plus, it really captures the emotions the characters feel and the events going on in each chapter fantastically! Wonderful! Sublime! Nothing is wasted and nothing is overly used.
In general...I can only label this manga as sublime and wonderful. One of the best ever. An amazing and beautiful and authentic portrayal of a family raising an autistic child! And I NEVER say these words for anything unless I'm really pulled in by it! Of course, the manga doesn't ENTIRELY focus on JUST the family and their autistic child. In fact, the manga also tries to develop the characters around them and give them some depth and development and impact on the story from other families with autistic children to the children Hikaru befriended (albeit impassively) and even the relatively minor characters! Even so, this is a wonderful manga that truly deserves more attention in this world.
One thing I was terribly upset about was when the author of this manga, Tobe Keiko, died abruptly in January of 2010. You couldn't believe how upset I was. I even thought it was a joke until I started losing it. I cried so much I even woke my parents up at 6:00 in the morning, I was THAT heartbroken! And the manga isn't even finished yet! Well, I guess it is now considering Yen Press is releasing the posthumous final volume of this manga later this year. Waaaahhh!! Why did she have to die!? She still has so much to give to the world! But what she did give will be greatly cherished and remembered. We will always remember Keiko Tobe and the great things she achieved in life, this manga being her highest and best achievement.
If there's one thing I want out of this manga, it's this: A FREAKING ANIME ADAPTATION!!! That's right! This manga would be a GREAT anime if handled by the right staff and production company! We need more realistic anime like this nowadays! We're tired of being bombared by big-boobed, underwear flashing, overblown moe and incest and ecchi moe garbage!!! So many awesome manga like this are left in the dark while stupider titles get adapted! Well, all's not lost. There's apparently a 13-episode live-action TV drama of it. I only saw the first episode, but I plan on watching the rest of it this year.
All in all, this is a sublime and divine manga! The best ever! GO READ IT NOW!!!
As many readers of my reviews may note, I typically don’t tackle manga titles since anime is more my main priority of covering. But upon learning the premise of With the Light: Raising an Autistic Child almost three years ago, it caught my interest for both personal reasons and seeing how mangaka Keiko Tobe would approach exploring autism as to my knowledge, the disability has not had a serious exploration within any Japanese anime or manga series. The manga focuses on the challenges faced by the Azuma family as they try raising their autistic son, Hikaru, as With the Light explores his life from birth
up to junior high school.
To go into the personal reasons that With the Light caught my interest, I shall confess that I am on the autistic spectrum in the same vain that the manga’s lead, Hikaru, is. Growing up had its highs and lows for me with autism. I had a delay in being capable of talking compared to other toddlers growing up and even through school, had to take speech therapy classes due to my struggles with properly pronouncing and expressing words. I was placed in other special education programs such as occupational therapy and a Resource Room to have adequate support in handling school life with my disability. I also struggled often with understanding proper social behavior and interactions with others as I got into enough misunderstandings growing up that led me to being bullied and teased by other kids my age. The struggles I had in school on many occasions caused enough stress for my parents. In spite of these issues, I still benefited from having a strong desire to learn, engage myself in whatever interests I took up, and being the first within my family to graduate from college.
Reading through With the Light and relating it to my experiences growing up, the manga does very well at believably exploring the challenges an autistic child can deal with. The desire for repetitive routines and differences in processing information are typical traits for those on the autistic spectrum, and the social challenges that come with it also get explored when Hikaru’s behavior causes enough stresses for his family and friends due to the misunderstandings and inconveniences it can cause. The toll this can take on Hikaru’s family and friends does get focused on as well with Hikaru’s family gradually learning how to work around their son’s disability and dealing with the ignorance that others have with understanding it.
Outside of its believable exploration of autism, With the Light also features an interesting exploration of how the Japanese perceive and take care of those on the autistic spectrum. While many Americans have gradually come to better understand and provide support to autistics in spite of lingering issues that still need addressing, the situation for autistics in Japan is much worst. Many schools are underequipped to handle caring for students having a mental disability and many teachers lack training in teaching styles that can work around the cognitive issues faced by said students. Also, the Japanese translation of the word meaning “self-closure syndrome” creates a stereotype to many in assuming that the blame for the person’s actions is either their own or the parents instead of genetic inheritance being a factor. This is actually truth in real life as Japan faces struggles with valuing individual worth due to its “group over individual” cultural mentality and the country’s mental health services are underfunded and understaffed, with many staff members lacking adequate training to provide sufficient services to varying mental disorders.
Outside of exploring the everyday lives experienced by Hikaru and his family, the series also devotes time to exploring issues that affect friends and acquaintances known to Hikaru and his family. Issues such as family abuse, neglect, and institutional corruption are touched upon with exploring supporting characters and Hikaru’s family often find themselves caught up in handling or learning of these conflicts.
One thing I should note with With the Light though is the series can get quite heavy with emphasizing its exploration of autism at points throughout its run. Melodrama is often milked to dramatize the emotions felt by its characters in handling their everyday situations, especially in cases where Hikaru’s mother, Sachiko, is trying to understand her son and be responsive to his needs. While there were points where I found this dramatization to be overdone, it still helped enhanced the manga’s major scenes that highlighted developments with Hikaru’s family and other characters learning to better understand the challenges faced by Hikaru and others dealing with various disabilities.
Another issue with the series is that it does lack a proper ending as it ends inconclusively during Hikaru’s middle school years, though this can’t exactly be faulted on quality since Keiko Tobe was struggling with a serious illness that eventually took her life in 2010 and left the series in a permanent hiatus.
Overall, With the Light met up to my expectations rather well in its believable exploration of the challenges faced by Hikaru’s family in raising him despite his disability and the issues that Japan as a whole has with accommodating individuals with disabilities. It can be overdramatized at points with emphasizing its themes. But this is perhaps one of the few titles you can find in Japanese media that offers a serious and believable look at the challenges of raising an autistic child.
Okay, let's talk. There's a reason I decided to review this. Please bear with me here as this will be long and include personal anecdotes which have made this story extremely important to my family.
The year is 2014. I come across this series at the library and read a few volumes. It's touching. It's well-done. I didn't know anyone with autism (well, I didn't think I did, since I didn't quite know what it was, either, but my best friend at the time was autistic) but it seems heartfelt and educated. I like it, but it didn't really stick around as something impactful.
The year is
2015. I am 14 years old. My mother is pregnant, to my dismay, as I am not fond of the idea of having the stress of a young child in the house. And the main problem is I don't want to give up my room, either, because I'm 14 and a selfish asshole. In September, as I begin high school, a baby girl is born. For the sake of privacy I will refer to her as G.
The year is 2016. G is barely one year old, but she is cruising and walking. I witness her saying her first words. "Hey there." She's obviously repeating things she heard my mother and me say, and I'm not sure she quite understands what it means. But she's only a year old, so it's not an issue.
The year is 2017. In February, my mom has a baby boy, who I'll call C. In March, my stepdad's sister has a baby girl (R). Perfect! C will be able to grow up with his cousin R as well as G! We notice that things with G are...off. When her third cousin of the same age comes to visit, I'm impressed with his communication skills. Turns out he's not advanced; she's just behind. She repeats this little vocal sequence constantly and not much else. It sounds like "Go-go-go-geh!" It's pretty cute, but I keep wondering when her "word-splosion" is coming.
The year is 2018. G is very picky and particular. She is easily upset. She needs routine. She can love you one minute but one wrong word, touch, tone, etc. can make her cry and kick. She screams bloody murder when we sing happy birthday to my sister L, who turned 15. She doesn't really respond to verbal cues, especially not when preoccupied with a TV show or one of her toys or books. She doesn't respond to direction or mimic the politeness of her parents, L or me, but C does even if he's only 18 months old. We know something is not right. My mother has been talking with and taking G to specialists.
The year is 2019. It's only gotten worse. The gap between G's development and C's has closed, and C has surpassed her. He responds to directions. He's chatty. He asks for what he wants. He tells you when he feels "yucky" and when he's gotten hurt. He loves robots. His cousin R is on track, too, and has a leaderlike personality. She sets an example of obedience for him, which he doesn't get from G. R often cowers away from G because she is so much bigger but seems to be very temperamental. G is still in diapers while C and R are potty-training. When G has a meltdown, C points at her and then looks at me to say "G upset?"
My mother has had a lot of trouble in her life but I've never seen her bawl her eyes out so much. She wants to connect with G and help understand her, but she's afraid that maybe she can't. And she feels awful. One day in the car, she just breaks down and spills it all to me. And a lightbulb goes off in my brain.
With the Light.
I tell her about this manga, and I tell her there's probably a lot out there, but the graphic novel format was really expressive and if she's willing to read right-to-left, she might find some solace in it.
I immediately go home and binge the whole thing, sending info to my mother midway through. There's good information, resources and an accurate depiction of the struggles facing families with autistic children, as well as the children themselves. And it does this in a way that doesn't just exploit their situations for some cheap drama and sales. The artwork is well-done and the whole thing is really heartfelt and incredible. You can tell the author had personal connection to this. It does not glorify the parents' mistakes, but what they learn on their journey to improve themselves. And I love it.
My mom loved it too. My stepdad read it as well. I'm trying to convince L to read it. It's helping us understand G as well as C, and it's telling my mom what she needs to hear: She's not a bad mom. She's not pathetic. She can do this. We aren't a terrible family. We'll just need some help and to put in some effort.
Now, it's almost July 2019. G will be four years old soon. I'm going to college. And this series has made my family feel less alone in our struggle to help give G her best life and let her know how much we love her and just want to see her be happy and healthy.
So, thank you, Tobe-sensei. For this series and for all the hard work of research and interviewing beforehand. RIP and know you've possibly saved my mom's life.
This is a very good manga, even if you don't know anybody with autism. If you do, the manga has little blurbs of advice interspersed with the story, which I thought was a nice touch.
I noticed that there is never any trouble with insurance, or tuition, because it takes place in Japan.
One area where the story was sometimes not very realistic: Sachiko is often looking to choose a daycare/kindergarten/school for Hikaru. When this happens, there is usually a daycare center that treats the disabled kids really negligently, and then there is one that treats them awesome. She rarely sees any schools that have both good
and bad things about them.
People who have not read manga before can still feel comfortable with reading With The Light. The best example of this is the sound effects: Rather than replacing the kana with English, or putting a cumbersome glossary of SFX in the back, the equivalent sound effect is written along with the kana. So next to ビュッ (byu!) is written "whoosh!".
The characters are believable, and overall it's a pretty well-done story!