Page 45 Review by Stephen
I love the way Matsumoto draws these orphans with flushed faces, messy hair, tiny, individual teeth, shouting over each other to be heard as snot streams from their noses especially on a cold, wintry day.
There's an opening double-page landscape in the palest of colour, wet white paint almost obliterating the ochre Sunny Datsun and the kids hanging round the eerily empty equivalent of what we called "the rough": a scruffy bit of disused wasteland to one side of our houses. Behind the scrubland rises a watchtower, giving the impression of a concentration camp.
SUNNY revolves around an orphanage but as I wrote of SUNNY VOL 2, Japanese orphanages are very different beasts to our own. The homes don't house only orphans: the kids often have parents. Parents who, for one reason or another, leave them in state care.
Can you imagine what that's like, wondering why you have been abandoned? Wondering if you will ever be reclaimed? Desperate for a visit yet, as soon as that visit starts, knowing it will end; that knowledge colouring all your precious time together? Book two was heart-breaking.
Megumu won't be going anywhere because her parents really are dead, and she feels guilty that because of this she so desperately wants no one else to leave, either. But unlike Kiko who constantly reacts to kindness with complaint, Megumu likes to think the best of others even as she thinks she worst of herself.
She's invited to tea by Rie and her friends from outside the orphanage and Rie's mother is so gentle and generous. Megumu keeps zoning out so cuts her finger while preparing some food and Rie's mum sticks a plaster on it.
"Thank you, Ma'am," is what she says. "Thank you, Mom," is what she thinks.
She's zoning out because all the other girls there have family and keeping talking about them.
It reminds me
This picture, a bear on skis. When I lived at home we had the same cups. On Sundays, me and my mom and dad would have tea together."
"Then please take that cup back with you, Megumu."
"I want you to have it, Megumu. You don't want it?"
"That's neat, Megumu. Your special cup
"You should take it."
"Thank you, Ma'am. Thank you."
The kicker is what Megumu reveals later through her private thoughts. Naturally - quite, quite naturally - she just wanted to join in.
Equally moving (I really must learn to stop reading graphic novels on the bus if I can't control my barely stifled sobs) is the opening episode in which a once-wayward Nishita pays a return visit to the orphanage he grew up in so long ago that only Makio and his grandfather, the orphanage's frail father figure, remember him. There was an incident with a large, sharp kitchen knife - a very, very serious one. It was how Makio's grandfather reacted both then and now which halted me so.
On a lighter note, a television crew visit and, oh, the illusion of spontaneity!
"It's not phoney, it's film-making."