Manga-ka: Keiko Tobe
Publisher: Yen Press
Rating: Teen (13+)
Release Date: September 2007
Synopsis: “Born during the sunrise, 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 the alternately heart-warming 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.”
Newlyweds and expectant parents, a couple sees a bright future ahead when their first child is born. However it soon becomes evident that their child, Hikaru, isn’t progressing as others his age do. Between bouncing between doctors and dealing with the stressful rift it creates in their lives, their journey coping with Hikaru’s diagnosis of autism begins in this first volume of the most educational and heart-warming series in Yen Press’s library of titles.
What really makes With The Light so endearing is how much compassion and education fills each and every page, and in fair balance of each other. The knowledge about Hikaru’s autism is generously delivered but in a way that compliments the flow of the story and his family’s struggle in coping with it. Sometimes the exposition feels a little stiff but there’s a lot of information being shared between characters that must also be made clear to readers as well, so the creator works well creating a balance between fact delivery and literary fluidity.
Mixing in some harsh reality to a series otherwise coated in sugary fluff, With The Light also takes some time to deal with the less gentle side of things. Hikaru’s Mother, stressed and alone, physically abuses Hikaru for a time out of frustration towards his disability. She must also struggle against misunderstandings, cruelty and animosity shown to her by others who see Hikaru’s condition as a fault of her parenting. The story is really a tale of succeeding over adversity and Hikaru’s family takes one step everyday towards Hikaru living comfortably in society.
As somehow who initially began reading With The Light in volume four, and found myself pretty moved after a single volume, I knew I had to make my way back to the beginning. A downside to this is the obvious knowledge I had of where the series would go. This didn’t cause me much grief, however with notable exception towards the Father.
In the opening portion of this book, he is preoccupied with his work to an extent that leaves him both distant and emotionally abusive, as well as entirely reluctant towards aiding in the support his newly diagnosed son requires. In a few years time however, his personality takes a complete 180, turning into a passive, kindhearted man with sincere goals and a self-sacrificing sense of responsibility towards his family. This transition could’ve been executed with a sense of believability over the years between volumes one and four, but the shift happens almost instantaneously here in the first. I was positive the man must’ve been a first husband, destined to be replaced by a more compassionate Father. Not so, and the severity of the shift really pulled me from the story.
Still, despite the shift, it was sweet reading the new family dynamic. The support between them is heart-warming and is full of the warm fuzzies that make stories of those struggling through adversity so inspiring. I was especially affected by the coming together of their new friends and acquaintances and the elation felt among everyone through even the smallest of victories in Hikaru’s progression.
Ultimately I still find myself really charmed by the series. Any manga that can make me shed a few tears has already won brownie points in the skill department, and while leaving me feeling both fuzzy inside and more educated on an important topic, I see it as well-enjoyed icing on the cake. With The Light is a good read that’s both substantial (at a 500+ page count) and memorably sweet.