#15 – Sundome by Kazuto Okada

Sundome by Kazuto Okada
Serialized in Young Champion
Published by Akita Shoten and Yen press

I read into Sundome after having heard quite an interesting podcast from Melinda of Manga Bookshelf and Ed from Comics Worth Reading. Their review was a thoughtful assessment on the relationship between a youthful vigorous boy named Hideo and the girl of his dreams Kurumi. That’s putting things lightly. Their relationship is far from normal and after having read a couple of volumes… it’s definitely the kind of romance we’d dream about. Just like the word Sundome, it’s the kind of story that stops before it could even climax.

Sundome’s published in one of those magazines who have girls in bikinis for their covers, Young Champion. Not that I have anything against it, but it conditions my head to think thoroughly on what I should be expecting. This is the first time that I have read something from Young Champion hence what really got me going were the reactions of Melinda and Ed and how this series was a mildly erotic tale internally tackling tough questions on personal enslavement. If you guys listened to their podcast and heard all of the things they were talking, you just had to read it. At least, for those who are comfortable with BDSM, you just had to read it.

And so I did, with an eager hunt from my favorite sources, find a couple of volumes of Sundome. The art was not exactly engaging for me but its cover summed up what to expect from the series: a sulty invitation to what you cannot see, let alone have.

“You don’t belong to me. It is I who belongs to you.”

It’s not a manga for everyone. Kurumi’s relationship with Hideo was an interesting shot at dominant and slave relationship. If that’s not your cup of tea, don’t even think about reading the rest.

With Kurumi holding on to Hideo with a collar, she commands when he can or cannot jack off. More often than not, every chapter involves various ways she’d tease the boy until he begs to fap his erection off. That doesn’t sound like a brilliant story at all and in fact it’s not.

What is interesting in the story doesn’t lie in its side characters or the mis-adventures of the Roman club. Actually the only thing worth noting in the story is the relationship of Kurumi and Hideo. And strangely even that is something hard to swallow.

Their relations come with great pains but at the same time it comes with great faith. Melinda said it best that the heart of their love involves knowing how to deal, and perhaps heal, the damage of your love one. This was quite evident with the relationship of the two protagonists in the story, and as you read Hideo humble himself over and over again to Kurumi, while hope is a good thing, the direction of the story can only lead to heartbreak. You know it won’t end happy. It’s a sado-masochistic love affair. I’m quite sure that on an end you know that the pain is necessary for this story to end beautifully.

But it can really only go so far.

As it is emotionally challenging to read the story, it’s actually jarring to see it go past five volumes. The first volume was hard blow to the gut and when you reach the third volume, I had this feeling of “this can’t go on forever, please, I know this much already. Please, put it to the end.”  While this is a seinen manga, the art and the story is closer to an ero manga for me. The fanservice is no different, even if we don’t see much naked action, it is in many ways similar to some of the ero manga around.

Perhaps my view of Sundome is tainted by the fact that I have seen material like this in ero manga before and unlike Sundome, they did not have to give me a lot of golden showers for me to appreciate the complexities of a dominant and submissive relationship. I know for a fact that sometimes people think that there’s possibly something intellectual about it just because it’s a seinen manga. Perhaps there is but if you’re quick to understand this, the beauty of this manga is really enjoyable only until its first few volumes.  I think a lot of the things in between could have been omitted and the story would have pushed forward and ended in three volumes. Most of the time, I was ignoring the panels on the Roman club and Kyouko’s boob shots and I was just heading straight to Hideo and Kurumi and see what they will do… again. Some of their activities can get repetitive and I’m at that point where the beauty of the series has been marred by my own distaste of seeing Hideo lose his control or seeing the same thing done over and over again. It could have been great. It could really have been great but the fanservice just got in the way.

In the end, I think it’s a nice story. It has enough to make a masochist like me to read a good number of volumes just to see how far it goes but not enough to fuel me to read it again and again. If I wanted that fix, I’ll read some ero manga instead like sections of Love Selection or Shoujo Material. The art, suggestive as it is, is not my cup of tea. I can see the laziness in some of the author’s lines and his proportions sometime upsets me. It is extensively a dark story but its length somehow makes it rather distasteful. Maybe if this was your serious fetish, you can go on forever with this story. Maybe if you’re a masochist, you can read it to the end. I  would like to read more of the story and see it to the end but after having read this much, I think I’ll run to the last volume, flip the last page and see if the author indeed gave Kurumi the last bit of hope that she’d want.

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