What happens when all you want is your mom, but she doesn’t want you?
Story/Art: Taiyo Matsumoto
Translation: Michael Arias
Editing: Hope Donovan
What They Say:
What is Sunny? Sunny is a car. Sunny is a car you take on a drive with your mind. It takes you to the place of your dreams. Sunny is the story of beating the odds, in the ways that count. It’s the brand-new masterwork from Eisner Award-winner Taiyo Matsumoto, one of Japan’s most innovative and acclaimed manga artists.
Content: (please note that the content portion of a review contains spoilers)
The first volume of Sunny introduced readers to the kids at the foster home, with each chapter telling another short story about one of the children, left at the home for varying reasons. Volume 2 continues in the slice-of-life vignette style, beginning this time with one of the girls, Kiko, who lies about getting kidnapped and escaping. This is obviously an attempt to gain attention, since she sees how much attention the girl who thought a kidnapper was chasing her is getting, but it also comes about from jealousy since Megumu, her friend from the home, is so concerned with being invited to another girl’s birthday party.
This want for attention comes up in other chapters, too. At parents’ day at school, Mr. Adachi and the other adults from the home work double time to make sure all the kids get a representative in their class, though Haruo still acts out and needs to be reminded of how much Mr. Adachi works for him. Later, Kenji, an older kid at the home, is ready to drop out of high school and go live with his estranged mom, but when a girl he knows finally tells him off about it, he’s reminded that not only does he have people that care about him now, his own mother would probably be more annoyed than thrilled to have him show up. Both these stories are big reminders of what these children lack, but also, subtly, what kind of support they actually have.
The final pair of chapters drive the point home a lot of the points made in earlier chapters. Haruo is on a visit with his mother, who lives in an apartment in Tokyo. While he’s excited to see her, he quickly “ruins it” by begging her let him live with her. (“I promise I’ll be a good boy and everything!”) The cold way his mother dismisses him is hard proof of what the other kids fear, that the parents won’t come get them, like with Sei, or that their mother will only find them a bother, like with Ken. Basically, that the parents would rather live their own lives than take their desparate children back. Haruo’s mother shows some sign of caring for her son when she buys him a stack of hand cream that reminds him of her so he won’t have to worry about running out, but she cuts that by asking him to call her by her name, disconnecting herself from even the word “mom.” And like with Sei, you think he’s coming away from the situation, if not happier, a little better, a little more understanding, until he takes the first opportunity to scream at some kids laughing at his hair.
Each chapter is it’s own story, so while the kids’ personalities and back stories get built up a little at a time, you can jump into this volume without having read the previous one (I read it so many months ago that the memory is faint). You can even pick a chapter at random and start that way. Despite the connected stories and recurring scenes and characters, Matsumoto puts so much tight focus on the particular moment we’re looking at that we don’t need the surrounding story to understand what he’s trying to portray, whether it’s a need for attention, for a sense of belonging or being wanted, or bitter, dying hope. Sunny is a slow manga, quiet, and requires a careful reading. And for all that work, you’ll feel, not depressed, and certainly never never really jubilant or excited, but bittersweet and anxious about these poor abandoned kids. So it may a hard sell to certain readers, especially younger ones, but Matsumoto does an excellent job stirring up emotions for the characters and making you care deeply about their lives.
Content Grade: A-
Art Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: A
Text/Translation Grade: A-
Age Rating: T for Teen
Released By: Viz Media
Release Date: November 19th, 2013