Page 45 Review by Stephen
"Listen, Haruo. School isn't just where you come when you're hungry. You gotta show up in the morning an' study too."
"Yer gonna mess up my internal clock!"
Dear, dear Haruo has an answer for everything; but also one specific vulnerability.
Welcome back to the Japanese orphanage where imagination is one of the children's very few assets and parents are everything.
That may sound like an odd thing to say about an orphanage but Japan is a foreign country: they do things differently there. Many of these "orphans" still have living parents who have jettisoned them into state care because looking after their children would evidently be too much fucking trouble.
"No need to sugarcoat it," says Asako to her foundation-caked and rouge-slathered mother who's all doll-faced mutton dressed up as lamb. "We'll be fine. You just keep doing whatever makes you feel good."
Haruo is feeling restless and has taken to petty theft. I mean, really taken to it. The local traders only tolerate it because they know what a rough life he's had, but the teachers are mortified to the core: honour and the genuine shame felt at inconveniencing others are so profoundly important to the Japanese people (please see A DISTANT NEIGHBOURHOOD VOL 2). But Haruo is utterly unrepentant in spite of a store owner kindly declining to call the cops until his teacher promises, "I'll make sure his mother hears about this."
"Adachi, don't tell my mom!! PLEASE, ADACHI, PLEASE!"
"We're not talking about that now. How much is the pencil case?"
"If you do, she'll never let me live with her again! I'LL DO WHATEVER YOU SAY!!"
1,200 yen, but
"I PROMISE I'LL NEVER DO IT AGAIN!!"
As ever with Matsumoto, there's no sugarcoating the children, either. These aren't the wide, shiny-eyed super-cutesies from sugar-buzz manga, but flush-faced, tiny-teethed and dripping with snot in the cold. They have straw hair and tantrums rather than glossy, tufty-wufty quiffs falling half-over their eyes and melodramatic, stylised gesticulations and proclamations.
There's a sadness which haunts the series, often kept quietly to itself in ellipses, and if you want to gauge how highly we value this title, the first volume of SUNNY was our Dominique's book of the year.