Friday, October 08, 2010

Book-A-Day 2010 # 247 (10/8) -- Sundome, Vol. 7 by Kazuto Okada

At this point in my writing about Sundome -- a manga about one teen boy who is far too focused on one girl and has fallen into a kind of dominance/submission relationship with her (without the usual whips-and-chains accouterments) -- I don't really have anything more to say that I didn't say about Volume One, or Two, or Three, or Four, or Five, Or Six. (And there's only one more, which is good for my lack-of-things-to-say problem.)

The mix of elements is the same here as in previous volumes: Hideo Aiba, the viewpoint character, has gained a bit of spine and self-regard, but he's still utterly in thrall to Kurumi Sahana, and is sexually obsessed with her to a degree unhealthy even in a teenage boy. (She said, early in the series, that she'd never have sex with him, but their relationship has progressed to the point where she allows him to masturbate -- sometimes in front of her -- and she becomes notably aroused by his arousal a couple of times here.) Hideo is also still president of their school's "Roman Club," which is ostensibly dedicated to all things "romantic," but actually is a Haruhi Suzumiya-style outlet for investigations of the paranormal...without the actual eruptions of the paranormal from Haruhi. The rest of the members of the club are nearly all geek stereotypes (the butt-obsessed ex-president, quiet Tatsuya Yatsu, and bespectacled Katsu Toshitsuku), except for random (and, I think, meant to be Western) hottie Kyouko, who joined the club way back in the beginning for contrived reasons I don't remember in detail.

And so the stories in Sundome mix Hideo and Kurumi's relationship (mostly moving towards honesty and openness at this point, if vastly more fetishized than many of us would be comfortable reading about with mid-teen protagonists) with the wacky, slapstick hijinks of the club's explorations (trying to remove a cockroach from the clubhouse, visiting Katsu in the hospital and praying at a shrine for his return to health, another camping trip) -- which is a good mix, actually, since they're very tonally different and either one all by itself would be far too much. (Although many readers would find both aspects far too much, and the whipsaw transitions from one to the other to be even more disconcerting.)

Sundome is taking too many pages to reach a conclusion -- as so many manga do -- but it's been one of the best depictions of obsessive love in comics (or any form), and the Hideo-Kurumi relationship is believable and real, even if it's often squirm-inducing. The next volume is the final one, and then, finally, we'll presumably learn the true secret of the mysterious man who keeps coming to Kurumi's apartment. But I wouldn't hold out much hope of a happy ending....

Book-A-Day 2010: The Epic Index

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