I say “still”, but this was actually written before Orange, the series for which Ichigo Takano became best known (as of right now) . Orange was a deadly serious lightly-SF shoujo tragedy romance type of thing. It’s excellent, and is the kind of thing I’d wholeheartedly recco,mmend to sappy teens. Dreamin’ Sun (published in English by Seven Seas) seems pretty fuckgn far from that, at least right now. It’s maybe a touch less refined than Orange (which also wasn’t flawless, but this isn’t a fucking review of Orange now is it?) but it’s still a fun read and very good in it’s own way.
Quick summary: It’s about a girl named Kameko Shimana. She doens’t like her name, for reasons that the book fails to make entirely clear (at one point it states that Kameko means “tortoise child” but she seems to hate Shimana more and they never say what that means) with a slightly complicated home situation. Her biomom died in an accident, biodad remarried, and now she has a six month old half-brother. She feels sort of cast aside, and being a moody high schooler she takes the most dramatic approach to solving her problems and runs away. While skipping school and not really trying that hard to find a place to stay, she conveniently runs into a kinda hot drunk guy in a park who offers to let her stay at his place, on 3 conditions: 1: that she tells him why she left her home. 2: that she finds his keys for him because otherwise they can’t actually get in, and 3 that she “have a dream and fall in love”. SHe meets his conditions, and learns that she’ll be living with two other hot dudes in a single family home. They already have this sort of found family thing going on and she is the interloper in their house, but everyone takes to each other quickly (albeit to very different degrees) and romantic shenanigans ensue.
Dreamin’ Sun is billed as a “heartfelt comedy”, and it’s sort of that. The heartfelt part is what it misses the mark on the most. That’s not to say that it feels inauthentic. Kameko is an adorably doofy, awkward, moody, very believable teenage girl. She runs away for reasons that seem extremely petty and steretypically teengirl-y at first, but are later revealed to be more nuanced. She has low self-esteem and habitually compares herself to other girls, telling herself she’s not attractive enough. imo she’s pretty cute but she can’t hear me lol ;( She falls in ‘love’ with Asahi, the friendly, nattily dressed one of the pretty boys, ludicrously easily, and it’s seems like it’s mostly because he was nice to her. She’s refreshingly proactive about trying to get him to like her and then panics and flees when she think’s she’s blown it. What I’m getting at is that the emotions at play all feel real enough, but they’re also super low stakes. Maybe it’s just my perspective as a grown ass man who had a dull but loving family situation, but even the stuff later in the volume, where she and Taiga the hot landlord try to convince her dad to let her live with her new found family, comes off as some drama queen shit that ends up being resolved too easily. If treated with a bit more gravitas it might have hit harder. It does need to be gotten out of the way before the story can really start though, so take that criticism with a grain of that delicious pink Himalayan salt.
Kameko is particularly well developed, but the boys don’t get quite the same authorial love. Taiga and Zen, the alcoholic, perceptive, unusually-young-for-a-landlord-at-21 landlord and the hyperactive, childish, slightly tsundere jerk with a heart of gold, respectively, are fairly well developed for guys who probably won’t really be the focus in the end. Asahi is the one that’s really hurting for character development. He can be boiled down to “hot, nice, already likes someone else”. He has no hobbies (zen likes pandas, watches anime, likes sports) or any sort of life history that might shape who he is (Taiga has some connection to a sexy widow who apparently visits frequently to try and bed him, and is also the son of a prosecutor who “helped” [the most loaded use of the word i have ever seen] Kameko’s dad a few years prior). He’s just there, and hot. You can take this criticism with a big honking generous ass grain of road salt, because he’s so transparently set up as the main boy that I suspect his development will be laid out more gradually over the course of the next 9 volumes. But it’s still kind of a mark against this volume.
As for the “comedy” part of it, I ws honestly worried. The first chapter is a fucking dud and a half. It really just wasn’t funny. I don’t know what went wrong. Luckily the other 3 chapters make up for it. The comedy is mostly of the manzai-ish type common to slice of lifey stories like this, but it’s bolstered by some excellent expression work. Ichigo Takano has always drawn really detailed and expressive faces, with a particular focus on the eyes, and there’s more room in this story for that to shine than in Orange, where the characters were only ever sad, worried, or lovestruck in varying degrees. In Dreamin’ Sun they’re sad, worried, lovestruck, scared, angry, confused, grossed out, happy, lonely, desperate. Takano’s character designs have always had a slightly different feel to them from your average soft-edged shojo design, a touch more realism, closer to something you might see in a seinen manga, and I really dig it. Kameko is adorable, the dudes are hot i guess, I’ve never really been into dudes, and everyone is realistically proportioned (absurd spaghetti legs are often a problem in shojo art).
The rest of the art is perfectly fine, if a little workmanlike. Shojo rarely has time for detailed backgrounds because it spends so much time zoomed in on faces, but I feel like Dreamin’ Sun had almost no backgrounds at all. Orange at least had a few panoramic shots. The closest this book gets to that are two horror movie-esque fisheye lens scenes, both used to humorously evoke dread. The backgrounds are at their most detailed in these scenes but they’re still barely more than doodles That’s not a dealbreaker when the characters are as appealing visually as they are here, with their variety of outfits and reaction faces, but it’s worth noting.
The panel work is best described as ‘excitable’. When the emotional action ramps up, the panels start to be split along diagonal lines, which makes the pages look as fracutred as Kameko’s headspace. The best example of this is near the beginning, when she find’s Taiga’s keys dangling improbably from a tree over the edge of a cliff. As she reaches for them she starts to fall. Throughout this sequence, there are tons of diagonal panels. But then out of nowhere Asahi shows up and grabs her from behind (oooh baby) and stops her from falling. Almost as soon as he touches her the paneling calms the fuck down. it’s an interesting choice that sounds good on metaphorical paper but on actual paper in can be a little confusing. Otherwise this book is very easy to follow (compare it to Honey So Sweet, for example, especially vol. 1, which as much as i love that comic was god damn BAFFLING to read sometimes.)
There is of course the expected abundant sparkles, hearts and assorted crap that pervades the empty space in so many shojo comics (do they do that shit so they don’t have to draw backgrounds?). At it’s most extreme word bubbles get filled up with music notes, although I figure that implies that they words contained within are said in a singsong voice. They never get totally out of hand (like they do in Honey So Sweet, mayb I’ll review that one someday) and aren’t particularly distracting if you’re expecting it, but there are are definitely a lot more here than in Orange. Butthen Orange wasn’t supposed to be fun.
The book itself feels oddly bare bones. The cover art is cute, the binding is pretty standard manga binding, and there’s a short preview gag manga at the back. But there’s no table of contents which bugged the bujeezus out of me for some reason, and there are only four chapters which feels really short. It ends at a logical place, but still, only 4.
I feel like I keep coming back around and comparing this to Orange, but really they’re nothing alike. It’s the apples to Orange’s oranges (fuckin end me lol) It’s just my only other touchstone for Takano’s work, so hopefully you the readster feel like I evaluated Dreamin’ Sun effectively as its own work. I also feel like this comes off as me being really hard on it, but I atctually liked it a lot. It’s not as obviously special off the bat as Orange was, but like it’s main character it has plenty of time to grow into itself and figure out what it wants to be, but it’s already plenty fun and totally adorable. That’s the most embarassing fucking sentenced I’ve ever typed. It may not be life-altering or -affirming yet but it looks like it’s on its way. Recommnded reading, if only so that you know what’s going on in the upcoming, likely better volumes.
Tonight’s booze was Moonlight Meadery’s “Sensual” Mead, here to help me get even more in touch with my feminine side than normal. Moonlight Meadery is local to me, and I drink their shit all the time. They have a lot of different varieties, but “Sensual” seems to be the closest to a traditional honey wine mead. It has a kinda fruity undertone that differentiiates it from your bog standard mead, and it’s pretty tasty by itself. I had it with some Generel Tso’s chicken and a slice of leftover pizza. Paired well with both but what the fuck do I know. I accidentally threw the cork away so I had to finish the whole bottle because I’ve earned from experience that Moonlight’s mead skunks out fast. I tried mixing it with some things, including apple juice, which was delicious, and DEW. S. A., Mtn. Dew’s insane new blend of Code Red, Whiteout, and Voltage. That one just tasted like Dew for the most part, but now my guts are boiling and I’m sure I’l have the mingin’ shits at work tomorrow. Drink Moonlight Meadery mead if you can find it. Just be smart about winging homemade wine coolers with it.