At the Star Kids Home, a combination group home/orphanage, a disparate group of children struggle with both the everyday issues of growing up and those specific to abandoned or orphaned children. Their one avenue of escape is the Sunny, a junked car that sits a little ways from the home. In the Sunny they can travel the world, go into space, or just find a refuge from the troubles of their world.
Artwork is very different.
Storyline is slice of life with different chapters focussing on different characters. It's an easy series to read and keeps you absorbed. Nothing that left a particularly strong impression on me though. Maybe because I'm from a different generation to the one it depicts. I only read it last year but couldn't remember what it was about until I re-read the synopsis on MAL and that brought back bits and pieces of the story back to me. I suppose the characters didn't resonate with me, and I didn't identify myself in any of them so I was detached.
Anyway, still think it's worth
checking out if just for the artwork. Taiyo Matsumoto, the guy behind Tekkon Kinkreet has a unique style which sets his work apart from typical manga.
The aspirations, the fears, the miasma of doubts, the delusions of the personal, are things that colour life for all of us. Sunny, a manga that follows the lives of the teenagers living at the orphanage Hoshinoko, achieves with a quiet grace a stunning overtude on life with specific mention to these qualities. The aspects that lead to this laudable achievment are manifold, but perhaps most prominent is the deeper understanding of personal desires and behavioural trends that underly the portrayal of the Hoshinoko's occupants.
Sunny is currently serialised in Shogakukan's Ikki magazine, the mangaka responsible Taiyo Matsumoto. Matsumoto has come a long way since his
career started in 1986 in Kodansha's Morning magazine. 25 years later comes Sunny, succeeding works like Ping Pong, Zero, and No. 5. It is plain to see how Matsumoto has honed his craft in this time.
The most obvious aspect, that gives shape to Sunny, is the art style of Matsumoto. It's not regular. His work is an overabundance of lineart with often mindbending angled frames and intricate yet cryptic details. From almost authentic graffitti to peculiarities of character design to marred-yet-beautiful urban landscapes. As a sort of adapting to the predominance of line, Matsumoto's use of shading and tones lacks equilibrium. It is not unusual for a whole chapter to be almost black and another lack any form of affectation. The lines themselves are non-uniform. Scaling is often incorrect, character design nearing incoherency from a lack of consistency. Yet one would be entirely wrong to think that this approach would simply be ugly and entirely unimpressive. Rather, there's often a deeper sense of place from the style, and many larger panels are confusingly majestic and impressive. The characters with their personal attributes become sincerely real, and ensuing drama concrete. This art style is something that Matsumoto has slowly gotten better at. In his earlier works it is not obdurately difficult to lose comprehension. The panelling, the connections, is something achieved well in Sunny, including the usage of so called 'pillow shots', a Japanese convention of scene transitioning.
Sunny's attributes are hardly only aesthetic however. We are presented with multiple personalities at Hoshinoko. From the eponymous car that becomes refuge for many, from the senile owner who lies down quietly and sleeps most of the time, to the carers who are devout yet ever under-fire, to the teenagers without parents. Matsumoto's depiction of these lost children is depressingly accurate, and his portrayal of their thoughts pin-point accurate. Like most of Matsumoto's work, there is a lack of structured linear narratives. Each chapter plays as a teasing-out of character, of setting. There is little rush, rather there is a definite reaching to really communicate the feelings of the characters who inhabit Sunny. It comes as a welcome change to the majority of serialised manga that do little than reinforce conventions and deliver a factory-line narrative.
Sunny is definitely something special. The time spent reading is illustrious with awe, heartbreak, 'wabi sabi' and a deep sense of flowering hope. The manga is much a testament to the human condition as it is a serialised story.
This review may be filled out when the manga is finished, but for the moment it is here to hopefully inspire you to read Sunny, as it really is something special.