Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Book-A-Day 2014 #97: Sunny, Vol. 2 by Taiyo Matsumoto

You might know someone who thinks comics can't be good books -- that there's something about sticking words and pictures together that inherently degrades both of them, turning the final product into junk no matter whose words and whose pictures. [1] The work of Taiyo Matsumoto includes some of the best counterexamples available: he tells mostly quiet stories about real people, built up through closely observed behavior, leaving the reader to infer most of his major points of characterization. And his art is subtly impressionistic: not quite mimicking life, but a little bigger and truer than that.

Either of the first two stories in Sunny, Vol. 2 would work well to introduce that skeptic: the first focuses on Kiko (red-faced and helmet-haired, clearly shown to be the less attractive of the two girls of her age), who we can see craves attention, though Matsumoto never actually says that. And she gets her opportunity, though it doesn't go the way she would like. The second story is even more moving, mirroring the first story from Volume 1 (see Day 80) -- but, this time, it's Sei, the bookish baseball-capped boy, who is showing around a new child to the Star Kids Home, telling the younger boy in the same words he heard the details of the house and explaining that he needs to keep believing his mother will come back and take him away. This episode is nearly a Raymond Carver story in comics form: precise, focused, entirely about things it never says but clearly illuminates, down to a perfect last page.

This volume has six stories, each of which focuses on a different child at the home. Their stories are all different, all sad in their own ways, but all true and all different. Each one contains wonders; each one is a polished gem of observation and presentation, showing the lives of these boys and girls in the mid-70s, each cast off by their parents and trying to move on in this new place.

Sunny is a quietly magnificent achievement, a triumph of ordinariness and regular life in a medium that so often treasures bombast and fakery. This is the real deal: comics that can stand up to any other medium of world art and hold its ground there.

[1] Such a person might not exist outside of rhetoric anymore, I admit. But there are a lot of people with unreasoning literary prejudices, so I don't believe this one is entirely dead.

Book-A-Day 2014 Introduction and Index

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