July 14, 2013
Taiyo Matsumoto – Viz – 2013 – 2+ volumes
Taiyo Matsumoto! I’m a huge fan of his work, and it’s been a long time since we’ve seen one of his series in English. I was so happy when I found out this was coming out while doing research for another article.
It’s… about what you’d expect from Matsumoto. He has a way of covering potentially depressing subject matter with a light touch. Sunny is a collection of short stories about a children’s home and the kids that live there. Some of them have parents that come to visit periodically, some of them don’t. None of them really fit in at school. Or even at the home. The title of the series comes from the fact that there’s an old Datsun Sunny sitting on the front lawn of the home that the children frequently play in and imagine driving elsewhere.
Actually, the most heartbreaking instance of that was probably in the first story, which sees a new child being introduced to the home. The other kids embrace him in their way, but he refuses to be friendly with them, insisting that he doesn’t belong there and that his mother will come for him soon. It’s really, really sad. At the end of the story, he imagines himself driving back home in the Sunny.
The second story is about a younger kid who seems to enjoy life, but hates going to school. It seems to invite unwanted comparisons to his own lifestyle. He winds up stealing a classmate’s chopsticks, then when his teachers send him to apologize, the other student’s mother gives him candy. He has a near-constant runny nose and unclipped fingernails, and loves playing the harmonica badly. This one, and most of the others, are slice-of-life kind of stories, a day in the life of one of the main children at the home.
The third story is about an older boy who is the “cool kid” at the home. At the beginning of the story, one of the younger girls tells him she loves him, and later, the girl he likes asks him to bury a stray cat she found that had been hit by a car. They do so without much comment. It’s just a sweet slice-of-life story, with not much depressing content.
The next story makes up for the depressing content, and is about one of the older children/aides at the home. He has a father, but his father is an alcoholic, and he appears to spend a lot of time at the home helping out with the younger kids instead of taking care of his father.
The next story is about the house-master’s grandson coming to visit. The children at the home hero-worship him (he’s about college-age), and it’s a fairly upbeat story with him hanging out with all the kids. But even this is sad, because he has to ask the children who aren’t going home for their parental visits why that is.
And the last story is about the group going out and looking for one of the older developmentally disabled residents.
Basically, it’s an interesting read, and Matsumoto’s great at writing characters. It’s also nice to see his artwork after so long, and see how it looks nowadays. But… for a book called Sunny, it’s a depressing read. Great, and I wouldn’t advise against it because it’s depressing, but it’s still depressing.
Having said that, it’s true that any Taiyo Matsumoto book is worth a read, but Viz also does right by the books themselves. There’s nifty editions of Tekkon Kinkreet and Go Go Monster floating around out there, and Sunny is a very nice cloth-bound hardcover. Being a book geek, that’s also a huge reason to pick one up.