Saturday, January 5, 2019

Dreamin' Sun Volume 1 isn't as good as that "Orange" one (Manga Review)

Kameko Shimana
Sorry (not sorry) for the silly, rhyming, headline, but I picked up Dreamin' Sun Volume 1 (by Ichigo Takano and published by Seven Seas) for two reasons: 1) I loved, LOVED "Orange" (also by Takano-sensei) and 2) the cover art is great (love the style, love the color pallet - which is actually slightly more subdued and a bit warmer in tone in real life). Sadly, I was only luke-warm on the story so far but the art does continue to be great at least. I missed this when it first started publication, so it's a 2017 release I'm just getting to now.

"Dreamin' Sun" is the story of Kameko Shimana who runs away from home and ends up living in a house with a few other high-school boys and the twenty-something-year-old landlord. I'm not going to do much more of a summary here, 1) because there isn't much more, and 2) because I'd rather pick apart some of the key story elements one by one.

First, this starts off looking like it will be another shoujo where the main female character comes from an abusive household with an absent father and a mean stepmother. I'm just getting a bit bored/over this trope (even though some of my favorite shoujo comes with that as the background - see "Twinkle Stars" - although no one does emotionally abusive family like Takaya-sensei!). Thankfully, this part of the storyline is actually wrapped up by the end of the first volume and it seems like the need to run away was mostly due to poor communication and teenage drama (mixed with grieving about her dead mother...dun dun dun...I smell some plot with this later as there is a link to her car accident with the landlord's dad who prosecuted the killer). But, she makes up with her family in the fourth chapter, so that's not going to drive the story.

Then we get the love-at-first-sight story with Asahi, a guy who wears a slightly nerdy persona at school but is a hottie at home. I don't know that I really care about this relationship, it feels more like a visual infatuation by Kameko than actual deep romantic interest. To look at the difference between how Takaya-sensei develops feelings between people slowly in series like "Twinkle Stars" and "Fruits Basket" and then compare it to the: "Oh he's hot and nice therefore I love him forever" type story, "Dreamin' Sun" seems to fall into the later trope.

HOWEVER, I'm hopeful that this pairing is only a small placeholder and that Kameko will actually come to realize that a guy named Zen, who also lives in the house, is actually a better match for her. He's silly and weird, and kind, and goofy and I just like his character so much more. Also, Asahi is crushing on a girl who already has a boyfriend, so there's the whole "I like a guy who likes someone else who likes someone else" trope that I'm pretty tired of too. I bet Takano-sensei knows this and I have a good feeling the Kameko x Asahi thing isn't the real meat of this story in the long run. We'll see.

Kameko is a more-or-less ordinary high-school girl. The time in the house with the two boys and the landlord is basically domestic comedy. It's fine, nothing special or unique, but that's okay. Overall, the only real plot is: Kameko runs away, decides to live with three guys, makes up with her family but stays living with the guys. Oh, a lunch is made, a kick-boxing class in the living room happens, Zen wears a panda outfit, etc... but nothing happens that we can call plot. All of that is okay too. I just can't get a handle yet on what type of series this is. Will it be a coming of age? Is it a romance? Is it a slice of life? Is it a deep introspective, torturous emotional journey? Dunno.

The art is great. Very much the style I like for shoujo with more or less realistic people with long thin limbs (not the moe stuff that seems to dominate a lot these days). Also, lots of screen toned sparkles in the air (that's my JAM!). If you liked the art in "Orange" you'll like this, but also, it reminds me quite a bit of Io Sakisaka's art in "Ao Haru Ride/Blue Spring Ride" which I love.

AND... there in lies the heart of what I'm feeling about "Dreamin' Sun" volume 1. Whereas "Ao Haru Ride" presents a strong emotional core right from the beginning, hooking you on its two main characters and their eventual journey, "Dreamin' Sun" volume 1 is just sort of...nice. I don't care one way or another. If I don't pick up the next volume, I'll probably forget about Kameko in a day or two. That's not a great start if it's meant to be a character piece. I get that for comedy series or slice of life series that we may not have that deep emotional attachment to the characters, but given the narrative excellence and character development in "Orange," I was expecting more here.

I'm a bit heartbroken to give "Dreamin Sun" volume 1 only a 6/10 for the first volume. There is nothing wrong with it. It's just made of a couple simple tropes, with great art, but characters that don't create immediate interest or empathy with the reader. I'm really torn about investing in future volumes. It certainly won't be a purchasing priority over other series I'm currently reading. It's perfectly pleasant though, and if the basic story I've described seems like what you're jonesing for, then by all means, go for it. I'll keep you posted if I decide to read more volumes.


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