Taiyo Matsumoto’s new manga, Sunny: melancholy and wonderful

I’ve long been a fan of Taiyo Matsumoto, a guy who for years has ranked amongst my favourite mangaka. Hopefully you’ll know him as the author of Tekkonkinkreet (Black & White,) or GoGo Monster, or perhaps even Ping Pong? If not, you really should, because he’s a genius.

So, I’m a Matsumoto fan-boy, that you know by now, but what you probably don’t is that he has a new series out, called Sunny. I’ve long been promising that I’ll read it, and tonight, I finally got to it.

Sunny is set in a Japanese adoption home. It’s no sob story, but at the same time, deals mostly with the trauma of being a kid without parents. It’s bitter-sweet, really. The kids are well looked after by their orphanage and the staff working there are all great, but that doesn’t stop the likes of young Haruo from sniffing a tub of hand-cream every morning because it reminds him of his mum.

By the way, the name Sunny comes from a broken-down old car that sits in the orphanage’s garden. It’s off-limits to the adults, like a tree-house or something, filled with dirty books and girls dolls and toys.

Kenji is one of the older orphans, around 15 years old. His dad is a toothless drunk and his mum lives far away with some other guy. He’s thinking about dropping out of school and running away to find her.

His delinquent school-mate Haruna hangs out with a group of yakuza, but when Kenji seems to be going the same way, she tries to stop him. One dark night, he rides his bike in the middle of the road, arms out-stretched, screaming with laughter, cars hooting behind him. He just wants to escape and be free of it all.

Reading back on what I’ve written so far, I’ll accept that Sunny‘s probably sounding a tad depressing, but I’ll make the point again of saying that it’s bitter-sweet for a reason: bitterness lingers in the children’s longing for their parents, but there’s a sweetness here, too. One chapter is purely devoted the children’s minders taking joy in visiting them at school and just being there for them when it counts the most. Matsumoto’s genius has always been in capturing both the truth and magic in life. Sunny‘s no different, in that it’s a beautiful and seamless mix of the dream-like and emotional.

His is more philosophical style than anything. Another of the orphans, a girl named Megumu, finds a dead cat floating in a river near-by. Haruo shows up and fishes it out for her, but she’s worried about the same thing happening to her. What if she were to drop dead right there and then? Would any one care (if not her long-gone parents?) Haruo looks up and shouts that he’ll find her and bury her under the biggest tombstone in the world! Just knowing that means everything to her, and makes Sunny what it is: a melancholy and wonderful story.

(You can read Sunny online at Batoto, or get the scanlations for yourself from Flat Face’s blog.)

Author: bateszi

A huge bloody nerd. I apologise in advance. I live in Cambridge, England. That's not an excuse, by the way.

9 thoughts on “Taiyo Matsumoto’s new manga, Sunny: melancholy and wonderful”

  1. That sounds like a wonderful manga! I love Taiyo Matsumoto – his Tekkon Kinkreet is a masterpiece – so I really hope someone licenses Sunny eventually for English language release. This kind of melancholy but sweet tale of young children seems right up my alley.

    Thank you for reviewing this!

    1. No problem, Sarah :) I hope it gets licensed, too. I own pretty much everything he’s released in English and this is some of Matsumoto’s best yet!

  2. Taiyo Matsumoto is one of my favorite mangaka, just a few weeks ago I read Ping Pong, and it was great. I will probably wait till Sunny is complete and then read it, after all I still have some manga of his that I have not yet given a try, two of them are his longer works: Takemitsu Zamurai and No. 5.

  3. The English translation seems to vary from version to version. In the one I just finished te dialogue is totally different from the screen-shot you provided above. They have the same general message just different order. Interesting considering it’s directed at such a niche audience that there is apparently more than one translation.

    1. At the time, I was reading FLAT FACE’s fan translation, but since then, Sunny’s been officially released by Viz (I own both volumes out so far; such beautiful, high quality books with lovely cover art,) so that’s probably why it seems like there’s two translations out there.

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