by Kazuto Okada; adapted by Christine Dashiell
published by Yen Press; $12.99 US
Review by Ed Sizemore
***Warning: This Review Contains Spoilers****
In these volumes, the Roman Club is given new challenges from the mysterious alumni. Katsun causes problems for the club; first, when he falls sick and has to stay in the hospital for a few days. Then upon his return, Katsun contemplates leaving the club because he has fallen in love with someone. Finally, Kurumi’s unnamed illness takes a turn for the worst, and she is hospitalized.
As 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 and Kyouko blossom.
It’s refreshing to take a break from Kurumi’s and Hideo’s chaste S&M play, to watch Katsun and Kyouko cautiously, awkwardly drawing closer to each other; by comparison, it almost seems sweet and innocent. Seeing these two side characters mature separately and then develop feelings for each other has been one of the delights of volumes five through seven. Okada did a wonderful job with this unexpected, but very welcome, subplot.
I really didn’t know what to expect for the final volume. I was shocked by its tenderness. The physical familiarity that Kurumi and Hideo have developed now becomes a source of comfort and honest affection. The book’s opening chapter, where they spend the night together (still sexless), is very touching. Mind you, this is still Sundome, so it’s not without its disturbing moments, too, but you sense a real and positive change in their relationship. Unfortunately, this emotional intimacy comes too late. Kurumi’s illness is in its final stages, and she is confined to the isolation ward in the hospital.
The Roman Club’s finest hour comes when they help Hideo kidnap Kurumi from the hospital. Hideo wants to fulfill his promise to take Kurumi to the ocean to see the wave flowers. (A phenomena that happens when the plankton-rich waves crash again the rocks.) It was thrilling and touching to see them all band together. It demonstrates how the Roman Club has become a true community, twisted as it may be. It’s the only time in Sundome you feel proud for them all.
There isn’t anything new to say about the artwork. I will warn readers that the fanservice escalates in these final three volumes. There is more than one scene of Kyouko and Hurumi topless. In volume 8, there is full nudity. However, if you made it this far into the series, it’s safe to say that you’re beyond such concerns.
I applaud Okada for not taking the easy way out and finding some excuse to keep Kurumi alive at the end of the series. From the first volume, he has foreshadowed her death, and he sticks to his guns on this. Because of this, you can’t say that Sundome has a happy ending. Yet it ends well and is immensely satisfying. My main worry since the beginning has been the emotional and physical well-being of Hideo. Thankfully, I can say he ends up doing fine. I can’t express how impressed I am with the way Okada wraps Sundome up.
I still can’t and won’t recommend the series. The art and subject matter are simply too risque. On one level, I got to sample something outside the manga mainstream. On another level, I’m not sure I’m happy about that. So I leave Sundome the way I start, conflicted.