Wow, this book has really been an interesting and enlightening experience! Before reading this book, I do not think I had ever even thought to pick up a Manga before, nor do I even remember seeing them prominently displayed in bookstores or libraries before. So I went into this book unsure of what to expect, and was very pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed it.
What I found most interesting with this book was the contrasting details not only in the way the Japanese are portrayed in the way they respond to an autistic child compared to what I have come to expect from the way American’s are portrayed, but also in the differences and similarities in overall culture.
The first thing that really jumped out at me was on the very first page. The parents in this Manga have just witnessed the birth of their child and now have a newborn baby. Because I am accustomed to seeing this portrayed as a very personal and emotional familial moment, I was shocked to see the first response the father had to the name of his child. They name their son Hikaru after the morning sunrise, and the father responds by saying, “Maybe he’ll move up the corporate ladder like the rising sun” (Tobe 1). This may have been intended to be a bit of a joke, but I was still shocked nonetheless that the idea was even in Hikaru’s father’s mind at that moment. As the first few pages of the book progressed, there were even more mentions of the father’s profession that further emphasized just how important this topic is in Japanese society.
I knew a little bit about the “workaholic” culture in Japan before reading this Manga, but I felt compelled to do a little more research on it after reading the first few pages of “With the Light”. I found an interesting article that I felt really demonstrates this key cultural difference between American and Japanese cultures. In this article entitled, “’Death by Overwork’, Workaholic Japanese forced to take vacation time”, the author discusses how many Japanese companies are now being forced to make their employees use their paid vacation time due to an increase in mental and physical health problems that have been breaking out due to being overworked. What I found interesting was one passage in the article that states, “Part of the reason for the Japanese reluctance to take that leave is the stigma attached. Many workers feel resentment from colleagues if they are absent from the workplace, as this increases the amount of labor the coworkers have to carry out” (RT News 1).
I felt that this attitude toward disdain for not working and the emphasis on the importance of “product” was demonstrated in the Manga throughout the way everything seemed to somehow relate back to a job or how a job held much more emphasis than emotional or mental needs. I also noticed that despite the fact that this Manga takes place in Japan, the “refrigerator mother” phenomenon is still present, as shown in the scene where Hikaru’s father snaps at his mother. He places all the blame on her, stating that “children grow up as they were raised”, and that his autism was caused by her own lack of discipline and allowing him to be babysat by a TV. Similar to the way I felt watching the refrigerator mother documentary, I felt very bad for Hikaru’s mother at this scene, as you know how hard she tries to be a good parent and how much she loves him. However, I felt that because Hikaru’s mother is portrayed in a sympathetic light in this situation despite the blame she gets from her husband, that it shows that perhaps the Japanese have been working on combating this stereotype as a culture, which was encouraging.
“‘Death by overwork’: Workaholic Japanese to be forced to take vacation time .” RT News6 Feb. 2015, https://www.rt.com/news/229943-japan-work-holiday-compulsory/. Accessed 28 Nov. 2016.