Visualising 'unacceptable' lives? The moving story of Hikari to tomo ni [With the light: raising an autistic child] (2001-2010)

Mio Bryce, Nicole Matthews, Yuki Takeyama

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In this article we will interrogate the notion of 'the unacceptable' by tracing the movement of a particular text – a series of manga novels by Keiko Tobe entitled Hikari to tomo ni (With the Light: Raising an Autistic Child, 2001-2010) – from serialisation in a Japanese women's magazine, to publication in Japanese as a series of manga novels, to publication in English in book form. In following this text – a narrative of parenting a child with autism from birth to adolescence - through its various contexts of production and reception, we want to raise doubts about a shibboleth of a particular kind of media and cultural studies - that the unacceptability of a text in mainstream popular or political contexts makes it particularly interesting from a scholarly point of view. Our account of Hikari to tomo ni's movement through its various contexts of publication and reception supports Mitchell and Snyder's argument that disability politics does not allow easy categorization of representations into 'straightforward catalogues of "acceptable" and "unacceptable"' (Mitchell and Snyder, 2001, 213). The context of the original publication of the serial in Japan demonstrates the barriers to publication of manga centring on experiences of disablement. Such stories were seen as commercially unacceptable not only because they seemed difficult to market as entertainment, but also because they required the use of contested language which might draw unprofitable attention. Tobe's work and its enthusiastic reception by the readers of For Mrs. ultimately overcame publishers' qualms. Yet the visual strategies adopted by Hikari to tomo ni and the reception of this manga in an English language context demonstrate the way its writer and publishers manage its apparently unacceptable theme.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-21
Number of pages21
JournalPortal: Journal of Multidisciplinary International Studies
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2014

Bibliographical note

Copyright the Author(s) 2014. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.


  • Manga
  • Disability
  • Autism
  • Childhood
  • Publishing
  • Japan


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