Graphic Novel Review: Sunny Volume 1 by Taiyo Matsumoto

Sunny Volume 1 by Taiyo Matsumoto. Translation by Michael Arias. Viz Signature, 2013. 9781421555256. Publisher’s Rating: T for Teen, recommended for ages 13 and up.

The stories in Sunny are about the kids who live in the Star Kids Home, a place that takes in children who can’t live with their parents for a variety of reasons. In the first installment Sei is dropped off. He thinks his mom will be back to get him over the summer, but the white-haired Haruo slowly convinces Sei that he’s been dumped, and that no one is coming back to get him. Haruo is the kid who skips school and acts out everywhere, but it’s clear loneliness is driving him. He’s hoping to live with his mom and dad again, and unlike Sei even gets to visit with his parents occasionally, though it’s clear Haruo will never leave the home. There are other kids, too — the pretty Megumu who Haruo crushes on, Junsuke with his long fingernails and messy hair, the gigantic Taro whom everyone loves, Kenji the cool older kid about to drop out of school, and others. Their stories all come out to some extent, though Haruo and Kenji are clearly the focus of the books. And at the center is a broken down car, a Sunny 1200, which is a kind of clubhouse where they play and smoke and look at the porn Kenji hides there and generally hang out. There are lots of up and downs, and many bright moments that bring the characters to life. Haruo savors the smell of the Nivea cream his mother gave him, hoping to visit her. Sei responds to his loneliness and despair by sinking into books, and eventually even has a girlfriend of sorts, a girl from outside the home who walks the dog Kurimaru with Sei when it’s his turn. Taro sings at the top of his longs. Megumu shows how worried she is about herself by worrying about a dead cat in a ditch, which Haruo helps her bury.

This series is complete in six volumes. Each has immense shelf appeal — the covers are beautiful front and back (see photos), and the art uses organic lines and a variety of textures to create a sense of reality I don’t often encounter in manga. Taiyo Matsumoto is perhaps most famous for Tekkonkinkreet, a book full of kinetic, entertaining violence which also features a kid named White (this is Haruo’s nickname, because of his hair). Viz just published Matsumoto’s sports manga Ping Pong (complete in two volumes), and is now publishing his science fiction series No. 5 as well.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.