Sunny is a fairly easy going, slice of life book that highlights the lives of a collection of misfit children at the Star Kids Home. Each child is either an orphan, or has been left there by parents who simply cannot take care of them for various reasons. It’s not exactly an orphanage, since most (if not all) of them do have parents, and they even get to see them a couple times a year; more just a children’s home or boarding house. This volume focuses mainly on four of the children in particular – daydreamer Haruo, loud and troublesome Junsuke, new kid Sei, and the older Kenji. Haruo, once a fairly well behaved and shy child, now skips school often and spends a lot of his time in Sunny, an old broken down car outside the home. The car is a sort of haven for several of the children, a place where they can dream and escape from reality (and get some time away from the chaos inside the house). Sei, recently dropped off by his parents, learns of the car’s magic immediately when he hops in and pretends to drive home. The quiet Sei is awkward and shy, and finds it hard to believe that his parents have left him behind. Fortunately, it’s never boring at Star Kids Home. Not with Junsuke pounding on the piano and blaring his harmonica, the large Taro belting out songs in the yard, the pornographic magazines Kenji hides in Sunny, and the house-master’s grandson Makio coming to visit. Life goes on, and kids grow up, and hide their pains in the backseat of an old car.
It’s alright. The book has its moments, but doesn’t do much for me. Maybe because I don’t like kids? There’s nothing really wrong with Sunny. It’s unique, both story and art wise. Not a lot of books that focus on the day to day lives of children. The realistic but still somewhat exaggerated style of the art stands out. The lines are clean, and the characters’ rounded features stand out well against the structured backgrounds. The story doesn’t shy away from anything; these are troubled kids, and they’re doing whatever they can to get by with what the world has thrown at them. Everything is realistic and believable, and Haruo and Sei’s stories are fairly moving. Examining the bonds of these kids through Matsumoto’s narrative is probably the best experience here. They’re from all different walks of life and circumstances, tossed together, and forced to live in a small space with strict rules and some rather unruly housemates.There’s a clear line between the boys and the girls, but some of the children are reaching an age where that line begins to blur. Many of these children are coming of age, and at least one of them is old enough to realize that his situation leaves him with a lack of options for his future. The price tag here is on the high end. The book is being sold as a hard cover for $22.99, well above the standard price of most manga (even for a hard back; Yen Press’s A Bride’s Story which is about the same length goes for $16.99). Matsumoto has had several titles published in America (the Tekkonkinkreet film came to American in 2007 from Sony pictures, and the manga the same year from Viz Media, Blue Spring in 2004, No. 5 in 2002, and GoGo Monster in 2009), but most of them so long ago that in this industry they’re practically ancient. He’s established, and in the right circles he’d be well known; the circles that would willingly, and probably happily, pay $23 for more Taiyo Matsumoto. Your average reader won’t, and while it’s clearly marketed to manga aficionados, they’re the smaller market. Then again, this is Viz Media, and they’ve got the money to back up the risk. If you’re looking for something new or unique, and particularly if you’re a big fan of this slice-of-life style, it’s worth a look. If you’re balking at the price (and I don’t blame you), you can check out a free preview at Vizmanga.com, where you can also buy a digital copy of the book for $9.99.
Review copy provided by Viz Media.