Sundome Books 3 and 4

Review by Ed Sizemore

!!! WARNING: THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS, SPECULATION ON FUTURE VOLUMES, & ADULT LANGUAGE !!!

Hideo’s and Kurumi’s troubling relationship/romance continues to explore new ground. In volume three, they inadvertently discover the world of golden showers. Kurumi doesn’t seem very shy about touching and grabbing Hideo’s penis. In fact, she treats it like a child does a new toy.

Sundome Book 3 cover
Sundome Book 3
Buy this book

However, she still allows Hideo very limited contact with her own body. They haven’t had sex yet but had a couple of passionate kisses. There’s one new threat to their dysfunctional happiness. Hideo learns that Kurumi is regularly visited by an unnamed older man, I’ll call him Mr. Blackshoes. When given the chance to find out more about the nature of Mr. Blackshoes’ and Kurumi’s relationship, of course, Hideo chickens out, instead preferring to torture himself with speculation.

These two volumes increase the role of the Roman club in the narrative. The student council president wants to shut down the Roman club so he can make Kurumi his own personal secretary. To date, he’s the creepiest character we’ve meet, and in this manga that’s saying a whole lot. Kuyouko, the other female Roman member, comes up with the plan that saves the club and Kurumi. Later, Kuyouko tries to instill some bravery in club member Tatsuya, but that scheme backfires. We get to see the club members bonding by hang out in the clubroom together, doing karaoke, and having a ghost story party. This is the first time in the series that they’ve truly become a circle of friends. Friends with lots of issues, but friends nonetheless.

My own 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 very careful to keep Sundome from crossing over into the porn genre. This volume reminded me of the most explicit softcore films that Cinemax is famous (infamous?) for showing late at night. It’s this erotic content that almost made me quit the series. I felt Sundome was dangerously close to simply becoming a catalog of fetishes. I mean golden showers?! Really?!

The other element in volume three that I found off-putting was the red herring of Mr. Blackshoes. It’s obvious that Okada is adding this element to the story to create dramatic tension. I have to give him credit, the last pages of collar (chapter) twenty-seven are masterfully designed to create the false impression that Mr. Blackshoes and Kurumi are lovers. The best way to know what is true in Sundome is to look at what Hideo thinks and take the opposite. The fact he’s convinced they’re lovers is almost a guarantee they’re not. I’m upset about how Mr. Blackshoes is presented because it’s such a cheap ploy to create tension. Hideo and Kurumi have enough problems to work through without the need of a false lover subplot. Such a juvenile trick feels like Okada has a low opinion of his readers.

Sundome Book 4 cover
Sundome Book 4
Buy this book

My speculation is that Mr. Blackshoes is Kurumi’s physician and guardian. It’s been heavy hinted that Kurumi has a serious illness. In fact, in volumes three and four the implication is that her disease is terminal and there isn’t much time left. Mr. Blackshoes’ regular visits are part of his treating her illness and giving her spending money. Of course, it would be nice to get all of Kurumi’s backstory, but that isn’t likely anytime soon. Okada is sure to string the readers along until the last volume, which promises to be two hundred pages of exposition.

You can see the dynamic in Hideo’s and Kurumi’s relationship beginning to change. Kurumi is treating Hideo less like a pet and more like a friend. She actually leans on him for courage in the graveyard, she seems to genuinely care about his health, she takes comfort in his presence, and she suggests they go away to the seaside sometime. The sad part is that Hideo refuses to see himself as anything more than a playtoy. He’s so locked into his own negative self image that he can’t see Kurumi is tiring of the games and has developed genuine affection for him. She’s making subtle offers for a real relationship and he misses it every time. He frustrates me so.

As I mentioned earlier, by the end of volume three I was pretty disgusted with the series and ready to walk away. However, I had already bought volume four and figured I should get my money out of it. That was a horrible mistake on my part. Just when I thought I had kicked the habit, another fix, and I was hooked again.

Volume four tones down the nudity and sexual content significantly. Mind you, this is Sundome we’re talking about, so toned down needs to be taken with a grain of salt. Still, the focus here is on character development, and thankfully, we are spared any new fetishes. What makes this volume especially additive is seeing Kyouko begin to mature and blossom as a person.

Kyouko initially joined the Roman club because she thought Kurumi was stealing her boyfriend and she was looking for revenge. Over the course of the series, we’ve seen that she has a genuine interest in the UFOs, ghosts, and the supernatural. She participates in all the club activities and hangs out in the clubroom as much as the other members. Beginning in volume three, there is a subplot that deals with Kyouko coming to grips with her own self-esteem issues and a burgeoning romance between her and another club member, Katsu.

In volume three, Kyouko’s ex-boyfriend comes by the clubroom and invites her to hang out on the roof. For some inexplicable reason she agrees. Next, we see her finishing up giving him a blow job. Once she’s done, he walks away and says, “I’ll fuck you later when I’m feeling horny, ‘kay?” Kyouko returns to the clubroom to find Kurumi sitting alone and waiting for her. She breaks down and cries saying, “Kyouko isn’t a fucking toilet!!” Here we get the first glimpse that she’s changed and no longer happy with her old life. In volume four, when the ex-boyfriend tries the same stunt he’s soundly rejected. I can’t help saying, “Yah! for Kyouko!”

Incredibly, the Roman club has begun to instill in Kyouko a sense of self-worth. They may berate her for saying stupid things and her lack of general basic facts, but they see her as a full-fledged member and treat her as an equal. The Roman club is a twisted version of Genshiken for its members. It’s a safe place where they’re allowed to express and be themselves without fear of being rejected. They can be tough on each other, but they also show genuine regard for each other. Well, at least as genuine as it gets from them.

I’m interested to see how the potential romance between Kyouko and Kutsu develops. They are both shy and indirect about their feelings, something very out of character for Kyouko, and may show how serious her feelings truly are. Katsu offers to give her a ride home on his bicycle and pays for her karaoke. Kyouko doesn’t complain about being partnered with him on several occasions and actually seems to gravitate toward him during club functions. I’m hoping Okada doesn’t screw this up and develops the storyline properly. I’d like to see them become a couple.

I continue to like Okada’s artwork. He’s a master of communicating emotional content. Not just the simple emotions of happiness and sadness, but even the complex emotions of desire, pensiveness, gentleness, and frustration. In volume three, we get to see him be visually playful when drawing the student council president and his many exaggerated facial expressions. Of course, be warned in volume three you will get to see Kurumi in all her natural glory both front and back. There are plenty of panty shots and nipples exposed through wet shirts in both volumes. The mature warning on these books should be fully heeded.

Given Christopher Handley’s current legal problems, I couldn’t help but feel that reading this manga was a subversive act. The characters in Sundome are all only fifteen or sixteen years old. Granted, there is no explicit sexual activity, but there’s still plenty of nudity and softcore images. Further, given the current conviction in Australia over Simpsons porn, I’m much more appreciative of and concerned over my free speech rights. It’s funny how a series that has caused me no end of distress while reading it has been the catalyst for this realization.

I guess at this point I might concede a very qualified recommendation of this series. If my reviews haven’t sickened you or scared you off, then you might want to give the first volume a try. But Sundome is like cigarette smoking, it’s better if you don’t start. I’m not as emotionally attached to the series as I was with the first two volumes, but I’m too caught up in the story and characters to stop. I’ve talked about reading as a conversation and this is one that I just can’t seem to pull away from.

Similar Posts: Sundome Books 6-8 § Sundome Book 5 § Sundome Book 2 § Sundome Book 1 § Shocking Sundome Is Discussed on Manga Out Loud Podcast

23 Comments

  1. Danielle Leigh

    I’m not as emotionally attached to the series as I was with the first two volumes, but I’m too caught up in the story and characters to stop.

    I probably NEVER would have read this unless Yen Press sent me a copy and now I’m stuck feeling like you. In a way, the series tests my boundary limits in terms of what I feel is appropriate for visual representation of young people. I also appreciate the fact that volumes 3 and 4 take the series to new emotional places that I feel reward me for hanging in so long. Considering this isn’t a book I probably ever would have picked up otherwise. And now I know I’m definitely hanging in for volume 5. Dammit.

    I posted a discussion of volumes 2, 3, and 4 here:
    http://goodcomics.comicbookresources.com/2009/01/16/danielle-leighs-reading-diary-11609/

  2. Ed Sizemore

    Danielle,

    I did see your well-written review. I was telling Johanna, that most people reading and reviewing this series all seem to have the same reaction. We’re following the series, but we’re not proud of that fact. Johanna suggested we form a Sundome Anonymous group.

  3. Danielle Leigh

    heh. I think “yes!” to a support group because Sundome goes beyond “guilty pleasure”….mainly because in many respects I don’t find it a pleasurable read, more an interesting one.

  4. [...] into more depth on vol. 8 of Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service at Comics Village. Ed Sizemore reads vols. 3 and 4 of Sundome, against his better judgement, at Comics Worth Reading. Julie checks out vol. 2 of Mixed Vegetables [...]

  5. Jeff Flowers

    I have books 1-4, which I started reading after your review of book 1, and I have to say that I really like this series. Sadly, it will end with book 5, but I think it was been a worth while read.

  6. Jeff,

    Where did you see that it ends with book 5? I know that book 5 just came out in Japan, I didn’t hear that it was the last volume. I can’t read kanji, but it looks like Amazon Japan has a listing for book 6.

  7. Alexzanders

    There are 6 in japan…. I can’t wait for 5!

  8. Ed Sizemore

    Alexzanders,

    Do you know if vol 6 is the conclusion of the series or will there be a volume 7?

  9. I subscribe to Young Champion , the By-Weekly manga magazine from Japan , and Sundome is going strong in every issue still, so I don’t think that it will end soon.

  10. Ed Sizemore

    Arpad, Thanks for the information. What number is the lastest collar (chapter)?

  11. The latest issue I have is the January 13th edition of Young Champion, and it has chapter 60 of Sundome, also has 2 full page ads, one for volume 6 of the books and a full page back cover ad for a DVD edition of the 3 part of the live action movie of SUNDOME.
    here is the site for the movie…http://www.dannychoo.com/detail/mac/eng/image/663/Sundome.html

  12. Ed Sizemore

    Arpad,

    Again thanks for the information. I’ve seen the trailer for the first movie before. I’m still unnerved by how much the lead woman looks, and acts, like Kurumi.

  13. I am looking for an English subtitled version of Sundome if anyone heard about it, please let me know.

  14. Ed Sizemore

    Arpad,

    There isn’t an official subtitled version that I’m aware of. I’m pretty sure everything on the Internet is a fansub. According to CD Japan, the region 2 version doesn’t have English subtitles either.

  15. THat is interesting, considering that the most popular Anime/manga series have been available in subtitled versions. I do have Death Note for example with a perfect English , subtitled version. I guess Sundome is just not popular enough here to have somebody spend time on it to release it to the fans in the English market.

  16. [...] is tenderness. Mind you, this is Sundome we’re taking about, so it’s tenderness relative to the prior volumes. However, this book marked a significant shift in tone for the [...]

  17. I have’nt found any english sub so far, I found a spanish version,though(just google sundome – olympos). It’s just like Ed said “Sundome is like cigarette smoking, it’s better if you don’t start” I’m so hooked now! (´∀`)

  18. There is an english subbed one you just have to find it haha and it’s been there for quite some time!

  19. hi, i’m from poland. I have read all 6 vol. and what can i say, i can’t sleep, my day is now 48h not 24h. I have been like this few weeks now and i’m afraid to read it egain (but i want to).
    I have never felt much toward anything, anyone or to myself.But now I feel that i’m alive, but it’s one of the painful version of this feeling(dificult to describe especially with my english, sorry for that)This is overwhelming for me, but i’m happy.I could never imagine that it would happen because of some stupid book.

  20. So how does Sundome fit in with the recent ruling for Christopher Handley?

    http://www.animenewsnetwork.com/news/2010-02-11/christopher-handley-sentenced-to-6-months-for-obscene-manga

  21. Chris,

    Short answer: I don’t know. Since Handley was arrested for violating obscenity laws, it depends on the community you live in and the what your local District Attorney thinks is worthy of his time and effort to pursue. I don’t want to speculate, least that give some publicity hounding DA an idea.

    To say I’m upset and troubled by the Handley ruling would be an understatement. I will be doing my best to see that no one else every goes to jail for reading a book or for what their thinking.

  22. [...] Books 3 & 4 [...]

  23. [...] 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 and [...]

Leave a Reply