Review: Dreamin’ Sun, vol.1 by Ichigo Takano
Ichigo Takano is building a reputation in the United States as a mangaka of note; her comic orange was published in two omnibus editions by Seven Seas Entertainment and was nominated for an Eisner this year in the Best U.S. Edition of International Material—Asia category. This is Seven Seas’ first Eisner nomination, and the series garnered quite a bit of praise from both critics and readers. Now Seven Seas has licensed Dreamin’ Sun, a 10-volume shojo manga that originally ran in Shueisha’s Bessatsu Margaret. This is the same magazine that has published comics like Strobe Edge and Dengeki Daisy, both of which are popular Shojo Beat manga.
In Dreamin’ Sun, Shimana Kameko is a high school girl who is dealing with the recent death of her mother. Her father has married a younger woman and there’s a 6-month old in the house; Shimana feels like a stranger in her own home, and in a tense introductory moment, decides to pack her bags and run away from home. After running away, she runs into a 20-something lawer, Fujiwara Taiga, who runs a boarding house, and he offers her a room in exchange for $100/month rent and for meeting three conditions. She agrees, and moves in with Fujiwara and two high school boys her age, the feisty, rude, and bratty Nakajou Zen, and the cool, collected, and kind Tatsugae Asahi.
Dreamin’ Sun bounces between a traditional shojo style and a more sketchy, cartoony style that’s played for laughs. The book looks like it’s setting itself up to be a love-triangle comedy, although during the first volume it’s basically introducing all the key players and establishing a mood. Despite the book’s dense layout and panel structure, it at times feels empty – there are plenty of panels with a single figure staring into the distance, with some small screentone effect applied, and the result is that there’s quite a bit of empty space in the book. The panel structure isn’t as inventive as some of the recent comics I’ve seen from Bessatsu Margaret, and at times the screentone and other effects feel like filler rather than emphasizing the emotional heft of the book.
Throughout Dreamin’ Sun, Takano explores the grieving process, and focuses on building family. Shimana isn’t really that bad off at home, and she loves her step-mom and little brother. She leaves not because she’s abused, or because her dad ran out on his debts, like so many other runaway manga, but because she’s afraid accepting this new reality will betray the memory of her mother. Takano’s depiction of altered grieving here is especially keen, and while the comic is mostly fun and games, making lunches, and doing silly exercises,
Shimana must confront her parents after she runs away, and she is never allowed to hide from her problems for too long.
There’s an element of family and responsibility that runs throughout the manga that gives it some stickiness and some weight.
I think Dreamin’ Sun succeeds most in its writing; Takano’s characters are strongly realized, and while they slot into some familiar territory, they aren’t cookie cutter shojo. Most love triangles have a clear favorite, and while Shimana starts out liking Asahi, it’s not clear to me that he’s the favorite to win the long game. While the art and panelling of Dreamin’ Sun’s first volume is probably best described as workmanlike, its strong writing, thematic heft, and clean pacing make it a strong debut volume, and hopefully a sign of things to come.
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