by Marlan Moore | staff editor
Taiyo Matsumoto, creator of the much-loved Tekkonkinkreet, brings to life another tale of children on the outskirts of society with Sunny. Thanks to VIZ and their often awesome Signature line, Sunny is now becoming available for American audiences, both in beautifully bound hardcover editions and digitally through VIZManga.com.
The first volume of the series starts as a bit of a mystery — the cover shows a boy with white hair on the front, and a big guy wearing only shorts holding an umbrella and a toddler sitting on the roof of an old car. There’s no clues as to what the story’s going to be, and maybe part of the experience of enjoying the book is not knowing what’s inside. There’s something to be said about going into something not knowing what you’re going to get. It takes away all expectations, while also lending itself to small frustrations that only add to the character of the story.
So here’s the lowdown. Sunny is about a group of kids that live in Star Kids Home, an orphanage. The titular Sunny is a broken down old Nissan that the kids use as a singular escape from their distraught lives. When Sei, a child new to the home, is introduced to Sunny, he asks if it works. Haruo, the resident rebel, tells him it moves with “telepathy.” And he’s right — it’s only with their minds, with imagination, does the car ever go forward.
Some of the kids still have their parents, but it’s never really explained why they’re left at the orphanage. As an audience, we’re left in the dark as much as the children in the story.
The children in Sunny are as varied a cast of characters as you can find anywhere. They range from toddlers to teens, from silent observers to rebellious ne’er do wells. The one thing they all have in common, despite their differences, is a want for something more. Haruo wants to be somebody important, a life of meaning — he imagines himself a winning race car driver, or (in the beautifully painted opening pages) as a dying traitor realizing with his last breaths that his life will finally be worth something once its over. Sei’s dreams are less grand, as he only wishes to go home. But when in an orphanage miles from home and everything you ever knew, even that small wish is a want for something more.
One of the residents of the Star Kids Home is a big guy simply known as Taro never speaks. He only sings classic earworm “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” Matsumoto emphasizes the lyrics “life is but a dream” from the song, further illustrating the importance of dreams and the imagination, especially when the real world hasn’t given you much.
Sunny is a slice-of-life story that takes place on the edge. Not knowing where this story is going, and not knowing answers to various questions brought up in this volume helped keep me in step with the characters. Thanks to that, the vivid art and the candor of the characters, Sunny is a story worth following.
[NOTE: The opinions expressed here are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the SPJA.]