by Kazuto Okada
published by Yen Press; $12.99 US
Review by Ed Sizemore
**Warning: Sundome is an adult rated series. This review contains some frank sexual language.**
This volume continues to explore the dysfunctional relationship between Hideo and Kurumi. At the same time, we see Kyouko and Katsu continue fumbling toward becoming a couple themselves.
The best word to describe this book 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 series.
Absent from this volume is Kurumi asking Hideo to perform some crazy stunt or pass some test of obedience. Instead, we see them interact as normally as a couple can in this series. In the opening chapter, Hideo gets sick with a severe cold, and Kurumi shows up at his house to nurse him. Later, Hideo goes over to Kurumi’s apartment to help her change light bulbs. They actually have conversations about their relationship, and Kurumi hints that she may have feelings for Hideo.
What fascinates me in this volume is Kurumi’s openness. She reveals a couple of facts about her family and her past. She initiates kissing and scenes of intimacy. She actually even masturbates in front of Hideo. Kurumi is beginning to reciprocate Hideo’s affection. It appears that he has proven the sincerity of his love and devotion. Kurumi has realized that Hideo isn’t attracted to every girl; he is attracted to her. She is the only one he wants and wants unrestrainedly.
I get a sense that Kurumi’s openness comes from a new-found acceptance of her own body. Throughout the series, Kurumi has struggled with a mysterious illness. She is frail (almost anorexic), prone to nosebleeds, and gets sick often. It would be normal for her to come to despise her body. It has caused her great suffering and at times embarrassment. Hideo doesn’t see frailty or sickness; instead, he thinks that every inch of her flesh is wonderful. Quite literally, every part of her body turns him on.
I can understand why Kurumi is suspicious of Hideo’s desire. She is the new girl, and he knows nothing of her, let alone her physical ailments. How could find ‘this’ body appealing when there are so many other prettier and healthier girls to choose from? And not just attractive, but how can he find ‘this’ body erotic? How can he get so easily turned on by looking at her?
Yet, despite rebuffs and Job-like tests, Hideo’s erotic fervor never waivers. He desires Kurumi despite, and in the face, of everything she puts him through. Hideo’s ardor makes Kurumi rethink her own negative body image. In this volume, she begins to accept that her body is both beautiful and erotic. This self-affirmation tears down her own resistance to Hideo and his love. Now she is ready to express, and explore, her own sexual desires and romantic feelings.
Another joy in this volume is seeing the continued personal growth of Kyouko. At first, Kyouko came to the Roman club to get away from bullying boyfriends. Here, she could be the bully. However, we learn her choice of clubs wasn’t as random as she would have us believe. It turns out that she is actually a devotee of the paranormal and supernatural herself. She is also a video game junkie. These were aspects of her personality she wasn’t permitted to express when she was hanging out with the cool and dangerous kids. Now, she quickly jumps into discussions on the latest TV show exploring UFOs, haunted houses, urban legends, etc. Also, we see her asking for help in getting to the next level on the newest video games. It’s a pleasure to watch her come out of her shell and just be another fangirl.
Also, I get a kick out of watching Kyouko and Katsu awkwardly, and with glacial speed, becoming a couple. They are both attracted to each other, but neither wants to admit it. Katsu is too shy and uncertain for such a confession; Kyouko still isn’t ready to embrace her inner geek that completely. As is standard in most manga, their attraction to each other is obvious, they just have to overcome their personal reservations and fears. I love the scene where Katsu is showing Kyouko how to get to the next level of a game. It’s refreshing and cute to see them bond like that.
This is still Sundome, so fetishes abound. If bodily fluids make you squirm, then this volume won’t be to your liking. There are a wide variety of secretions to be found. There is even some toe-sucking action at the end. As always, this series is not for the faint of heart or weak of stomach. There are scenes I have to read quickly to make it through.
Okada’s artwork continues to communicate desire effectively. He makes passion tangible. As usual, there is a LOT of fanservice. There is no outright nudity, but plenty of wet shirts, loose shirts, and camel toe to leave little to the imagination. A couple of scenes are definitely softcore.
This volume really caught me off guard. I’m used to be conflicted and twisted up after reading Sundome. However, this time I actually enjoyed myself, without the self-loathing. Those following the series will find this volume a welcome change of pace. As usual, given the disturbing nature of the relationships in this series, I can’t recommend it, even though I continue to read it. You can read my previous reviews to see why.