“With the Light” makes me think very much of arguably the most popular shonen manga around; Naruto. This series has been around for now 14 years in anime, and the manga since 1997 where the main protagonist, Naruto Uzumaki first appeared in 1997. 20 years since his first manga appearance, the manga and anime will be ending in a few comparatively short months. The way that the mangaka, Masashi Kishimoto refused to westernize the series the way that other anime shows such as the Dragon Ball series, the Pokemon series, among others really challenges the status quo of the United States’ programming standards. Naruto has been infamous for it’s suspenseful, violent, bloody but honorable battles, not afraid to push the western countries’ moral lines in the sand. “With the Light” touches on a topic, that as we’ve noticed in class, isn’t so directly referred to in fictional literature.
“With the Light” is centered around raising a child with Autism. That is the main theme in the manga, and it is done wonderfully, in my opinion. The fact that Japanese culture is accepting enough of this, considering it has been translated to English, is extremely fascinating. Thus, through this main idea, it serves a similar purpose to the Naruto franchise. It brings up a topic that is held more-or-less hush-hush in the US, and shows the various dynamics involved in raising a child with autism through the viewing lense of a Japanese family. Culturally, this coincides with Japan’s apparent idealistic approach of no topic really being too “mainstream,” boring or provocative enough to make into manga.
Is it a big gimmick? I don’t believe so, because perhaps the emotions, styling and events in the book may not be perfect representations of otherwise neurodivergent children in any one society, it does help bring awareness to it. And it shed some positive lights on the experience too, right down to the cover. Smiling faces, light blue and white colors suggest a more holy or divine outlook on the contents inside. After all, Naruto was a bullied, outcast orphan and could be argued as being neurodivergent based on his behavior throughout the entire series. Yet, he became a pop-culture icon in Japan, the US and many other countries around the world. He isn’t directly labeled as autistic or even being any other kind of neurodivergent, thus we assume he is neurotypical and just “quirky.” Yet it is implied by various villagers, comrades and enemies alike that he is thinks different, fights different and is more fixated on his “ninja way,” or creed more so than any other person they have ever been around.
Regardless, the point remains that the kind of refreshingly blunt, approachable manga we were assigned is definitely not a “westernized” version. For example, these kinds of foreign programming or other media is often watered down heavily, removing a lot of things like blood, cursing, any kinds of sexual innuendos and even sometimes cultural signifiers such as flags, symbols or body features in order to make the media in question more “appropriate for the general population.” Naruto and “With the Light” are two examples of the cultural difference between the US and Japan, and why perhaps the US could use a little more influence from Japan from a manga and overall media censorship standpoint, so that topics like autism and neurodivergent individuals as a collective is a more approachable and understood part of our society.