Visualising ‘Unacceptable’ Lives? The Moving Story of Hikari to tomo ni (With the Light: Raising an Autistic Child, 2001-2010)

Main Article Content

Mio Bryce
Nicole Matthews
Yuki Takeyama


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.

Article Details

The Unacceptable Special Issue July 2014 (Peer Reviewed)
Author Biographies

Mio Bryce, Macquarie University

Mio Bryce is Head of Japanese Studies at Macquarie University, teaching Japanese language, literature and manga/anime.

Nicole Matthews, Macquarie University

Nicole Matthews lectures in media and cultural studies at Macquarie University, Sydney. Her research interests include the autobiographical media and their uses, popular genres of film television and books, and inclusion in higher education.

Yuki Takeyama, Independent scholar

Yuki Takeyama has an M.A. in Applied Linguistics from UNSW in 2012 and was an editor of Japanese comic magazines from 1995-2003.