In this episode they certainly made a big deal of the play that Nitori-kun and Saori are writing. It's great because they themselves are simply characters in an anime, and you have a boy trying to be a girl and a girl trying to play a boy, but in the play they're also putting on another layer by acting a certain role... and so on. These are fairly simple ideas about crossing boundaries that are present throughout english literature, particularly drama. The thing that I find interesting about Wandering Son is the fact that the characters are children. So far I've felt that the language and presentation has been fairly simple. In addition the soft art style and almost minimalist use of sound and music make this anime easy to watch. However, I can see how some might find this boring. I myself find that sometimes the dialogue and plot is almost too childish, trivial or melodramatic, but I think that this just helps reflect the fact that the main characters are children.
In this episode we have the first time Nitori-kun seems to worry about growing up. It was a very brief moment when Nitori-kun is talking to Takatsuki over tea and he says something to the effect of, "I can't really be a girl, my voice will change, I'll grow facial hair..." *sadface*. And Takatsuki predictably replies something like, "That doesn't matter! You can do it, it's mostly about the clothes you wear." From what I can tell so far, the anime is deliberately not doing anything exaggerated or crazy, it certainly seems to set limits for itself in terms of plot, dialogue, character interaction and art style. Also maybe this is done purposefully to reflect Nitori's rather reserved personality.
The almost minimalist nature of this anime is probably striking to me because I recently finished watching Kuragehime (my impressions of Kuragehime can be found here
). Where in Kuragehime cross-dressing was used to great comedic effect, here in Wandering Son it is used in a more serious way.
Another thing that some might find annoying, which I also sort of do, is that Nitori-kun is basically a helpless male lead stereotype. However I am interested to see how Nitori develops, or whether his character will be put down by other characters, or what else.
Sometimes I feel that this anime purposefully plays with our expectations of what a romantic anime is supposed to be. In the face of a huge moe boom, sometimes it might be more important to look at what is not being done or said in plot and dialogue, rather than what actually is being done. This may be one of the reasons why the art style seems more washed out (in contrast to many other vibrant colourful anime on the market), it's almost like watching an old vignette with white faded borders in this anime.