Sundome Book 2

Review by Ed Sizemore

This volume picks up literally the next day after book one ended. Kurumi Sahana, the female lead, is home sick, and the members of the Roman club wonder if anyone knows what’s wrong with her. Hideo Aiba, the male lead, calls her, and Kurumi tells him to come over. We discover that Kurumi lives by herself in a one-room apartment. Hideo is scared to ask, so we never learn, where her parents are or how she came to her current living circumstances.

Sundome Book 2 cover
Sundome Book 2
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During the course of her conversations with Hideo, we discover the extent of his masturbation habit. I’m still shocked at how brutally honest Hideo is with Kurumi. He never tells her a lie, and he doesn’t seems to feel hesitancy in discussing the most intimate details of his life. Kurumi forbids Hideo from masturbating without her permission. This leads to Hideo taking up jogging as a replacement activity. The volume closes with Hideo and Kurumi going on their first date. Of course, given the nature of their relationship, it’s far from an ordinary date. The book ends with a tease that their relationship might be making positive progress.

The major change in this volume from the previous one is the nature of Kurumi’s abuse of Hideo. The physical abuse has almost stopped. There’s a little toward the end, but it’s meant to be playful and Hideo’s life is never threatened. Kurumi seems to be more focused on emotional and psychological abuse. Perhaps being ill has mellowed her out a bit, or maybe physical abuse now bores her. I’m certainly happy that Hideo is no longer in physical danger, but I’d be ecstatic if all forms of abuse ceased. Their relationship is still difficult, almost stomach-churning, to follow. Hideo is still a black hole of self-esteem and continues to subject himself to the sadistic whims of Kurumi in the belief that she will come to love him.

There are tender moments between Hideo and Kurumi. However, since Kurumi is still a cipher, I can’t tell if these are genuine signs of affection or simply a clever use of behavioral modification methods. The cynic in me thinks that Kurumi offers these intimacies as part of a calculated system of irregular rewards. By never knowing when the next reward is coming, or the intensity of the next reward, Hideo keeps obeying Kurumi in hopes that this servile act will pay off. (By the way, this is the same system that casinos use to keep you feeding quarters into slot machines.)

There are moments when it looks like Hideo might finally see the truth of their relationship. He tells the reader, “That’s when I learned to fear entrusting myself to someone else.” And just a few pages later, “Does ‘entrusting yourself’ to someone… mean ‘trust’? Or ‘hopelessness’?” Then he finally admits that he thinks that Kurumi could seriously hurt him just to amuse herself. At that point, I want to reach into the manga, grab Hideo, and say, “If you’re in a relationship where you actually fear for your life, then you need to get out of there. Fast!” His tenacious and naive belief that being Kurumi’s play toy is the only way to make her love him frustrates me to no end.

The art in this book is still consistently very good. Okada really has a gift to bring out the emotional intensity in a panel. The fan service here is a little more explicit than in the first volume. There are couple of nipple flashes and panty shots that leave little to the imagination.

So why do I keep reading this series? Why am I so desperate to find out what happens next? The truth is that Hideo reminds me of myself in high school. I was painfully shy, riddled with self-doubt, and not very social. Also, I too was interested in UFOs and paranormal phenomena at Hideo’s age. Thankfully, I didn’t have his massive masochist streak.

I keep reading because I want to know that Hideo will be all right at the end of all this. I’m certain that this relationship will end badly for him, but I want to make sure he’s able to recover when it’s over. At his core, Hideo is a decent, but deeply misguided, young man. He has a lot of potential to be such a wonderful adult. He reminds me of the Mark Heard lyric, “You will weather well, in a climate of love.” I can’t help but hope that he will rises from the ashes of this relationship. I want him to make friends with people who will genuinely care for him and nurture him to become a well-rounded, well-adjusted man.

Honestly, I can’t recommend this series to anyone. In fact, given the deeply dysfunctional and abusive nature of the main and secondary relationships I suggest people avoid this series. If I didn’t feel so emotionally invested, I would quit reading. Just goes to show I’ve still got some of my own maturing to do.

22 Comments

  1. [...] Kuro at ANN, although she does like the scent of it. Ed Sizemore has an interesting review of vol. 2 of Sundome at Comics Worth Reading, in which he confesses to his own fascination with it even as he recommends [...]

  2. [...] Ed Sizemore on the second volume of Kazuto Okada’s oddball high-school romance, [...]

  3. chloes_fork

    “I’d be ecstatic if all forms of abuse ceased.” Wouldn’t that be — I dunno — not this manga at all, since that’s pretty much the core premise?

    Your reviews of this title are intelligent and well-written, but worlds away from my own reaction. Not to put too fine a point on it, I find the dynamic between Kurumi and Hideo highly erotic, and I’d trade places with him in a heartbeat (allowing for a little comedic exaggeration, that is — no, I wouldn’t want to be manipulated into getting my arm broken, as happened to Hideo in volume one). It’s rather fascinating to read how repulsed you are by what I find to be a thoroughly enviable relationship, though I’m sure yours is the more “normal” and “healthy” response.

  4. Chloes_fork,

    Thank you for the kind words. I’m not sure I’m willing to claim that I’m either heathly or normal. I can see the appeal of Kurumi. She definitely is the femme fatale vibe going for her.

    I just saw the review by Tiamat’s Discipline and he/she likes the book and doesn’t have any of objections I do to their relationship. You can see the review here: http://www.tiamatsreviews.com/?p=1036

    So you’re not along in your reaction to the series.

  5. While i agree that the manga can be a bit OTT at times, i actually know someone who has been in a relationship like that, and loved it it. They ended up getting married.

    Looking at it, i wouldn’t call it abuse, since both parties are willing, i’d say it’s more an extreme form of S&M.

    And you have to admit, it makes a change to have the girl in control, rather than the other way around. I’m interested in what her hidden secret is, and what’ll happen next.

    though i have to admit te end of volume two made me a bit edgy, if he was pushed, that’ll be a bit to much for me, but if he fell on his own…i dunno, depends what happens in volume three.

  6. Tiamat’s Disciple,

    If Hideo were a more mature, well-balanced person then I wouldn’t have a problem with the relationship. Because of Hideo’s self-esteem issues and his gross misunderstanding of the nature of love, I see this as abuse. Kurumi knows Hideo’s problems and takes advantage of them.

    I don’t have a problem with two consenting adults engaging in an S&M relationship. As long as both are mature enough to understanding what they’re getting into.

    I too can’t wait for the Kurumi’s secret to be reviewed. Hopefully, volume three will bring some light on her past and her motivations.

  7. TBH if he was more mature and self assure, then the story would flop, since he wouldn’t be pushed around as much as he is. The whole crux of the story seems to be about the power she has over him, mmore than anything else.

    But lets face it, the story is as warped as they come hehe. I mean we have an ex club president with a butt fetish and homosexual undertones, we have the weird alien guy, and the big boobed girl whos practiclay a prostitue demanding money from anyone and everyone for looking at her. When you look at the group as a whole, Hideo and Kurumi seem to be about the most sane, which is really freaky hehe

    I think in the end though, they’ll end up apart, probably with her moving to a new school or city. It’s just the feeling i got from the 2 vols, that they wont end up together

  8. One other thing, lets face it, what woman dosent take advantage of mens urges hehe :) i’m sure it’s something they get taught in a girls only class or something lol

  9. Ed Sizemore

    Tiamat’s Disciple,
    There’s no doubt the entire Roman club should be shipped off to a sanitarium for a year of intense psychological counseling.

    I’m glad I’m not the only one who thinks their relationship won’t work out.

  10. lol i think it would take more thn a year hehe, that ex club pres was weird in the first vol, but in vol2 he totaly creeped me out. i think i’d not only quit the club, but move schools, and hell possibly even towns, if i was in a club with a guy like that :)

  11. Y’know, it’s a funny thing. In the first one Hideo says that Kurumi has “ALL my turn-ons”. She’s actually the figure of my ideal girl, minus the blue eyes.

    But in all honesty you people have to kind of go easy on her. In the first volume she sounded almost melancholy (I play manga out like an episode in my head, hence why I read them about a half hour per two segments, varying on the title). As for S&M, I think Hideo would be lucky enough to get a make-out frame anytime soon, although I haven’t read the 3rd or 4th so I don’t really know.

    I can safely say that there is little to no form of S&M in the first two volumes. Now, if you were to consider it extreme fetishism in the most general form, I’d agree with you, but this is just my opinion.

    Tiamat, the man who takes advantage of the woman’s urge to take advantage of him is the man who robs the woman of that power. Sadly, I am not one of those men.

  12. Oh, (sorry for the double-comment) here’s a question! Why is Hideo so blindly devoted to Kurumi? I mean, the context makes it too obvious that he’s in love, so what if he’s the one really in control?

    What do you people think are the underlying motives for Hideo’s obsession with Kurumi? Think about it as you read this series. It was a prevalent question for me the moment she gave him the first favor.

  13. Ed Sizemore

    Rubedo,

    It’s not hard to figure out Hideo’s obsession. He has no self-esteem and Kurumi is the first girl to every pay serious attention to him. That’s a pretty classic formula.

    As for the S&M component, we’re not talking the ‘suburban studded leather in the boudoir’ variety here. This is the more classic and deeper form of S&M where you have two people engaged in a slave-master relationship. Trust me, the Marquis de Sade would be very proud of the work Kurumi is doing in this book.

  14. Actually there really isn’t much evidence at all to Hideo’s actual self-esteem, apart from the fact that he focuses on lacking a girlfriend quite a bit. I mean, of what’s actually presented by the protagonist, there’s little to completely affirm it other than the reactions by people around him.

    The way I see it, Hideo avoided a lot of girls because of the shallowness, or else the image of shadowness due to a lack of appreciation for fads. You could call it anti-social. Even though he says he’s waiting for that moment, we can tell how stunned he is by Kurumi via his emphasis on how she somehow is the only person to play on any of his weaknesses, let alone all of them at once.

    And if you put it that way, I suppose on a deeper level that’s sort of what they have, but it’s not literal “yet”.

    Maybe I’m just trying to justify Kurumi’s case, but she can’t be all that bad.

    I re-read an old work of mine about a person with Hideo’s persona, but totally different circumstances. He meets this girl whom he is physically attracted to, and this is what starts the exchange. In the end, she starts taking advantage of him, in a manner not unlike what Kurumi does.

    But she doesn’t actually fall in love with him until he takes advantage of her urge to take advantage of him, which is one of the reasons I mentioned it before, now that I think of it. It’s the thrill of not knowing you’ve been exploited in the process of exploiting another person, and because of the complexity of what she’s looking for, the reader finds a motivation for looking into the story.

    Maybe it’s the same with Hideo, y’know?

  15. Ed Sizemore

    Rubedo,

    I find relationships where the exploited turn around and secretly exploit the exploiter to be the constructs of fiction. These stories read like the revenge fantasies of the powerless.

    I guess we will have to agree to disagree about how to interpret Hideo’s and Kurumi’s relationship and on the psychological makeup of Hideo.

    I appreciate you sharing your thoughts and interpretation of the book.

  16. Heads up, we just got a wikipedia report that it was adapted into a live action film. There actually are servers that host the file at this point, but I don’t know any free ones. That, and it’s got Japan’s “Adult Content” rating on it. Looks like your average soap opera though.

  17. Rubedo,

    Anime News Network reported on the movie last year. Here is the news article link.

    http://www.animenewsnetwork.com/news/2007-10-10/live-action-films-planned-from-manga-creators-stories

    Given the content of the manga, an Adult Content rating is to be expected. It would be interesting to see how this was adopted as a movie.

    The official movie website is: http://www.sundome.jp/

  18. I’ve seen the LA Movie, and to be honest, that crosses the line and IS abuse. I was surprised it wasn’t pulled, but then japan has always been more liberal in that respect.

    Several companies have looked at licensing it, but all have rejected it after seeing it. That said, even if they had followed the manga better, and not gone over board on the abuse, it still would have been bad. Some of the worst acting i’ve ever seen

  19. [...] dysfunctional relationship with this series continues. I’ve previously reviewed volumes one and two. Volume three represents the series’ pinnacle of nudity and sexual content, although Okada is [...]

  20. [...] in this series, I can’t recommend it, even though I continue to read it. You can read my previous reviews to see why. [...]

  21. [...] Book 2 [...]

  22. [...] far as Kurumi’s and Hideo’s relationship go, volumes 6 and 7 offer more of the same from the first five volumes. What is captivating in these two volumes is watching the relationship between Katsun [...]

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