Sunday, January 09, 2011

Book-A-Day 2010 # 340 (1/9) -- Sundome, Vol. 8 by Kazuto Okada

Some relationships are good, some are bad. And some, to paraphrase Facebook, are just complicated. It's entirely appropriate that my relationship to the manga series Sundome is complicated, since the relationship central to that series is deeply complicated. (Some might say "perverse," or "appalling," or "bizarre," but I'll stick with complicated.)

(If you want to trace my relationship with Sundome: follow back the train to volumes one, two, three, four, five, six, and seven.)

This eighth volume finishes up the series, and, as usual with complicated, long-running series, it's difficult to say much about this book other than generalities without writing about the events of earlier books. The central conceit is still the same: teenager Hideo Aiba is sexually obsessed with his classmate Kurumi Sahana, and they've fallen into a self-defined dominant-submissive relationship that has pushed both of their boundaries pretty far. Aiba is also the president of their school's "Roman Club," supposedly devoted to romantic pursuits, but actually a hide-out for a small group of geeky misfits.

In this book, the Roman Club, and the comedic plots arising from the fish-faced Katsu Toshitsuku, the gorgeous and pneumatic Kyouko (whom the rest of the members assume is part of some kind of plot to get them to break the club's central virgins-until-graduation rule), and the butt-obsessed "ex-Prez" are minor and backgrounded; this book is about the inevitable end of Hideo and Kurumi's relationship. There have been strong hints all along that Kurumi has a major illness -- of the Ali MacGraw style; so that she stays beautiful and physically unchanged, but is occasionally weak -- and that comes to the fore towards the end of this last volume.

The very end of Sundome is more positive and optimistic, in its own way, than I expected, and it turns out that nearly everything having to do with the Roman Club -- the entire series except for the Hideo-Kurumi relationship -- was subplot. And this book is almost entirely not creepy, though that may be primarily because the earlier volumes broke the creepy detector. I still wouldn't recommend this series to anyone who isn't comfortable with an D/S relationship between two teenagers, but it does cut to the heart of obsessive male teen sexuality like nothing else I've ever seen.

Book-A-Day 2010: The Epic Index

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