Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Sundome - A Manga Review

There are many things that could describe Sundome, but probably the first one to say is that is not a manga for everyone. Not only because it’s an adult manga, but because the theme that explores through the lenght of the series might be controversial for some and disturbing or  disgusting for others.

Certainly is a manga that you wouldn’t like anyone catch you reading if you want to prevent wrong interpretations of your persona, but on the other side, the story enthralls you in such way that once you grab it it will be difficult to stop reading. So watch out!

Okay, that’s cool, but what is it about?

Sundome tells the story of Aiba, a high-schooler belonging to the Roman Club, a club who seeks for traces of paranormal activities, UFOs and such other misteries.  

Graduated Ex-members of this club are notable members on Japanese society and will help club members to achieve their desired career after graduation with only one condition: they must remain virgin through highschool. To prove the members are worthy, the ex-alumni regularly send women to tempt the club members into giving their virginity (these girl´s are often refered as Assasins).

The story begins the day a new transfer student named Kurumi Sahana appears at Aiba’s class making him fall instantly in love with her. Sahana discovering Aiba’s interest in her starts to power-play Aiba into a master-servant relationship, allowing him to have all kind of sexual experiences with her, with one condition: under no circumstance, even if they were the last people on earth, she will let him have sex with her.

Sahana has some "peculiar" ways to show she cares.
Aiba, desperately in love with her, will accept everything and go to high extremes to satisfy her mistress while improving to be a better person as to better please her.

Uh… is this as weird as it seems?

Sundome in japanese stands for “the instant that precedes the orgasm” and this is the concept that is played around during all the story: while Aiba is always wanting a bit more of Sahana she is always managing to let him go only until when she allows it. This concept is further reinforced by the chapters, called “collars”, in reference of how Sahana is always in command of Aiba.

While this may seem at the beginning like she is getting advantadge of Aiba, as the story unfolds you will see that Sahana is in fact quite in love of Aiba too, and despite of her sexual preferences she cares a lot about him and helps him become a better person through their relationship.

Aiba will turn to be a reliable person thanks to Sahana

Why I cannot read this with people around?

To give you an idea: Sahana’s first request is to see Aiba masturbating himself... with a nail… from then on she will start to control when and how is he allowed to jerk off, and they will together go through various sexual experiences, from funny to completely kinky, going in some cases into various degrees of bondage and domination play, including breath play and even golden shower. As Aiba is negated almost all physical contact without Sahana´s permission, she starts to treasure every last bit of her like an invaluable thing. 

The fact that you have to read this in solitude kind of helps you to feel more into the atmosphere of the story. Sundome is about sexual discovery, is about secret encounters and love practices seen as devious from most people, even in the series. But also is a story about love, about people that holds secrets and specially about how we deal with confidence in our relationship.

You end up feeling like a silent voyeur of Sahana and Aiba´s peculiar relationship.
This looks like a dense story…

Fun thing is it isn’t. While the story about Aiba and Sahana is playing through secret encounters, the main day by day of the story follows the adventures and misadventures of the Roman club, a bunch of really pervy nerds while they scout for ghosts, ufo and other phenomena.

The typical chapter structure for sundome is always the same: The Roman club plans an activity, some comedy scenes will occur and then Sahana and Aiba manage to have some alone time which will lead to either some sexual encounter or some dramatic scene. This helps from keeping the mood either too gloomy, or too hilarious for two much, attaining a great balance.

The Roman club members and their relationships are hilarious on their own, and when a secondary love story emerges within the club (between Tattsun and the new girl Kyouko) you have one more story plot that will grab you to the book until you finish. In some chapters you will in fact be more thrilled with Tattsun’s story that Aiba’s.

Tattsun and Kyouko have a peculiar story on the background.

You kinda left me curious: What other things I should worry about…

The art may not be for everyone. While I personally loved it, the art style shifts from extremely detailed and dark on the heavy sexualized encounters or dramatic points, to caricaturesque plain characters with crowded panels on the more comedic points.

While inconsistent, I think it shifts well with the mood of the story so I gave it my personal thumbs up.
Also, as the story unfolds it progressively turns more dramatic. And while I personally didn’t cry over this one as i did in Ano Hana, I know quite a handful who did. So be warned.

From drama to terror to humor to fanservice... Sundome has it all.

If you really are a thoughtful adult and not shaken by out of the standard sexual practices (hell, you may even be into it) I would totally recommend you to grab this one. I devoured the 8 volumes in 2 days and certainly I consider it one of the best love stories I have read so far. 

The manga has been adapted into 4 live-action movies which suffices to say that it made quite a success on Japan. They have picked my interest so i´ll try to see if they live up to the magnificent story the manga is.

That said, there is only one thing left to do...