Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Sunny Vol 1 by Taiyo Matsumoto and a bit on Matsumoto himself

Praise be to Jehovah, a new Matsumoto comic came out this year. Well, not just one but two! The second volume just recently came out and once I get my hands on it, I'll be posting about it but for now, vol 1.
Sunny tells the story of a group of orphans who live together in a home. It goes in and out of their individual lives, each story building of each other and adding to the overall picture of their lives and the world in they inhibit. With each chapter Matsumoto focuses on one of the characters, gives some background on them and what they did that day and how that affects them and the people around them. This isn't a plot driven narrative but character and world driven. Matsumoto lets the characters and world show him where to go and let them take lead.

This type of narrative isn't new for Matsumoto. Actually, this is the type of narrative he usually works in. On TekkonKinkreet, he let the children and especially the world lead the narrative and his drawing pen. With GoGo Monster, it was one of the character's wild imagination in a claustrophobic area and with Blue Spring, he did a series of short stories revolving around young delinquents and he weaved in and out of their lives.

http://www.mangakong.com/manga/mangas/Tekkon%20Kinkreet%20-%20Black%20And%20White/033%20-%20Epilogue%20-%20Let%27s%20Go,%20Cats/Black%20&%20White%20v03%20187.jpgIf you've picked up on it, Matsumoto works with youth. He's one of those rare cartoonists, like Lynda Barry, who understand what makes children tick, how they think and how they talk. The kids in his comics come off as real kids, not an adult's image of what kids are. He also does something special with kids, he writes them in that cusp where kids are getting ready to grow up. A lot of his children are just a few away from transiting and becoming ready for adulthood. He writes about the before, the during and after of this type of phase in childhood.

Some spoilers ahead. In Tekkon, our two main characters, Black and White, are the heroes of Treasure City. As the story progresses, the kids start to realize that they can't really protect the city and that it's going to change without them. If they continue to live like they did before (as kids), they're just going to hurt themselves. Black and White have to come to terms that the city is changing and so are they. They're growing up and have to leave childish things behind them and that growing up isn't bad. There's freedom in it that you didn't have before. In GoGo Monster the main character's wild imagination is literally doing him emotional and physical harm. So he has to overcome it, grow up and realize it's not bad to be an adult. In Sunny, his working with the same themes but we're only starting to see the whole pictures, but I wouldn't be surprised that it goes down the same path, theme wise, like his previous works.

Another theme he has is that there are no parents or adults to be found; if there are, they're usually benevolent or they don't care about the kids. And the kids themselves don't trust adults and it's up to them to fix their problems and find their path into adulthood. This probably has to do with Matsumoto living as an orphan and his parents abandoning him. So that frustration, distrust and anger comes through through his characters. 

Another thing is, his kids are heavily resilient and have to rely on themselves and each other. They might go at each others throat and fight but in the end, they only have each other and they have to take care of each other. They have to help each other overcome the obstacles in front of them and help each other find their own path into adulthood.

Sunny (MATSUMOTO Taiyou) 4 - Page 19And all of this is refined into perfection in Sunny. We're seeing all the motifs, themes, and tropes that Matsumoto has built his narratives around at their absolute best. Sunny is a comic made by a creator at his peak; both narrative and visually (I'll get to visuals later). A group of orphans living life, trying to get better at it and helping each other. Not just each other but the adults around them. One of the orphans has a drunken deadbeat Dad, whose slowly killing himself through alcohol; he's fucking teeth are rotting away. And yet, his son gives him money to fix his teeth and is looking after him. And even though the father wasted he child's money on more beer, the kids is going to give him more and trying to force him to fix his teeth. As you can see, tables are turning and Matsumoto is still exploring the kids becoming adults.

Visually, this is one of the most beautiful comics I've read in a while and Matsumoto is on his A game. It almost has an old Japanese woodblock style to it but modernized and filtered through a manga lenses. It's hard for me to describe, mostly because I'm not an artists and most of the technical terms would be lost on me.
 Sunny is a masterpiece comic that I have a feeling will only get better and I have read it does get better; so my feelings are reinforced, haha. But really, do yourself a favor and buy Sunny. Hell, buy all of Matsumoto's work. You won't be disappointed.

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