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Sunny, Vol. 1 Hardcover – May 21, 2013
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To adults, the Nissan Sunny 1200 may look like a broken-down old car in front of a Japanese home for orphans. To the children and teens of the orphanage, though, the Sunny is a clubhouse, a spaceship, a getaway vehicle, and one of the few places that is truly theirs after they are abandoned by their parents. Readers catch glimpses of each of the orphans’ lives, both the imaginary adventures they devise while in the Sunny and the sometimes heartbreaking ones outside of it. Matsumoto is probably best known for his Eisner Award–winning title, Tekkon Kinkreet (2007), about orphan street kids trying to protect their town from invading Yakuza. He returns to those themes in this latest work and combines evocative art and concise dialogue to tell the melancholy story of the kids and teens who use the Sunny to escape their problematic home lives. This title would appeal to fans of atmospheric titles such as Benjamin’s Orange (2009) and Yuki Obata’s We Were There (2013). Grades 9-12. --Candice Mack
About the Author
One of the most influential and innovative manga artists currently working in Japan, Taiyo Matsumoto is best known to English-reading audiences as the creator of GoGo Monster, Number Five, and Tekkonkinkreet, which was made into a critically acclaimed animated film of the same name. In 2007, Matsumoto was awarded a Japan Media Arts Festival Award for Excellence, and in 2008, he won the prestigious Eisner Award for the English publication of Tekkonkinkreet.
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"Sunny" is a wonderful evocation of how it feels to be a child and alone. Even though the caretakers in the Home are kind, and the natural meanness of the kids is kept in check by those adults and by the well-known highly civilized Japanese behavioral norms, it gradually becomes clear that these kids know there is no-one in the world looking out for just them. That fact affects various characters in this story in various ways, making for good stories, with a touch of sadness always lurking in the background. Anyone who has had reason to learn that sadness is an inescapable part of life will love this manga. And it might be a revelation, as well, for people who up til now have tried to look away from that truth.
The title of the series comes from a broken down yellow Nissan Sunny in the yard of the orphanage, where the kids often go to escape from reality. When asked if it runs, one of the kids responds, "yes, it runs on telepathy!" Then they climb in and imagine the car taking them places, from outer space to fantasy lands. The kid on the cover, nicknamed "White," often imagines himself as a gangster trying to evade the law.
The kids go through typical kid stuff, from crushes and bullying to dealing with abandonment and death. The art style is very unique and utilizes a kind of controlled scribbly chaos. I couldn't get enough of it, and when I got to the end I went right back to the beginning and reread it!