Page 45 Review by Stephen
"Y'know, when I first came to the home I was always crying. But, little by little, you get used to being sad."
Not "you get used to the home" but "you get used to being sad".
Japanese orphanages are very different beasts to our own. The homes don't house 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?
SUNNY VOL 1 set in the Star Kids Home was so deeply affecting we made it Page 45 Comicbook Of The Month. It's Dominique's book of the year. The walls are so thin that one over-excited exchange cuts into another. So many conversations are happening all the time so that, as in any crowd, you may hear only snatches.
And although some kids are quiet and introspective, they can be a chaotic bunch, their faces flushed, hair messy, snot dripping from their noses. They're pretty outspoken too but Mr Adachi takes it in good humour. It is only young Makio - the calm voice of reason treated by unruly Haruo like a minor celebrity - whom they listen to and respect.
Oh, it's so acutely observed: the way a story circulates and is repeated, like the approach of a man with dark hands who must be one of those strangers children should never talk to; Kiko's jealousy at not being the centre of attention, so making a second incidence up - that she was actually kidnapped but got away - then finding herself boxed in and having to embellish the lie, then panicking when caught out. It's all seen from the narrow lens of small children with the limited understanding of the adult world outside:
"Yelling about it isn't gonna make it true, liar."
"Yeah. Y'know lying to the police is called perjury."
"You might even go to jail, y'know."
"My Dad says a criminal record stays with you forever."
"You can never marry anyone."
"Megumu really bugs me
always feeling sorry for herself," broods the ever-resentful Kiko, always feeling sorry for herself.
So welcome back to the daily routine and crisis management of the Star Kids Home, where new kids come and go all the time leaving others behind, seemingly destined to spend their entire childhood there, distracted and so saved only by the strength of their imagination and the sanctuary of the Sunny Datsun in which adults aren't allowed.
It's parked in the yard, without engine, going nowhere.