House of the Sun Vol. 1 - Manga Review

Mao spent all her time at Hiro’s house as a child, and even as a teenager she can’t forget the warm feelings she felt there.

The Lowdown

Mao’s house is cold – as a child, her parents often left her by herself to cold meals and lonely nights until they divorced. The only time that Mao ever felt at home was at Hiro’s house across the street, and she would spend all her time there playing and eating until Hiro’s parents died one day. Mao is a teenager now, and after feeling isolated at home when her father remarries, Mao finds herself at Hiro’s house again rediscovering the same warm feelings that she once felt there.

How Was It?

Two leads living together and striking up a romance is the premise of many series, but House of the Sun’s first volume is one of the few that gets it just right because of the way that its first volume provides a compelling picture of the emotions underlying this living situation to tell an adorably warm and understated love story. This volume gives us the story of Mao and Hiro as they begin to live together, and at its core, this is a story about two people trying to cope with their loneliness in a relatable way. This is based in their mutual sense of nostalgia for a time long-past, and this volume does a great job highlighting the way their memories colour their attempts to fill the gap inside themselves as they spend time together.

One of the ways that House of the Sun stands out compared to other similar series is the way that it makes the personalities of its lead character feel fully formed from the outset. This is most clear with Mao, who is a bit of a brat at times during the story, but what makes this work is the way we see the way her loneliness stemming from her family situation fueling her difficulty conveying her feelings. We are never left wondering why she ends up feeling a certain way, and the manner that we see the disconnect between her core desires and the defensive way she acts is continually, yet subtly, given context through her memories of her childhood. It’s amusing to see something as simple as trying to make a curfew give Mao joy, and moments such as this are given simple yet poignant meaning from the context about Mao that we learn even from this initial volume.

Just as Mao’s past is used to set up the events of this volume, we also see the way that Hiro’s memories of the past influence the way he acts in his daily life as well as towards Mao. There are a couple sequences which do a great job fleshing out the way that Hiro’s own sense of nostalgia for his family affect his actions in his arrangement with Mao, and this helps to give a sense of meaning on Hiro’s side to the moments they spend together One of the special things about the way that Mao and Hiro’s relationship is built in this volume is that it comes out of the same core desire to fill their nostalgic sense of loneliness without feeling contrived because of the way that they attack this from angles that differ while feeling true to the bits of their memories and personalities that we see. This made the development of their relationship feel completely authentic, and this volume moved at a perfect pace in developing their feelings with care while avoiding becoming bogged down at all. It’s a great combination, and I’m impressed with how well this was all balanced at the outset in making the beginning of their romantic story resonate with me.

One of the things that really struck me when reading House of the Sun is how well the feeling of warmth felt by Mao at points in this volume are conveyed, and this is in large part due to the art. Although backgrounds are not particularly detailed, the art succeeds in pleasingly depicting the proceedings in a way that complements the nostalgic nature of this story. This stands out most clearly in the way that Mao’s memories of Hiro’s house in the past are depicted with lighter shading and softer edges to emphasize the contrast between those moments and her lonelier ones in the present, and this begins to bleed into the moments she has with Hiro in the present to signify the feelings being evoked effectively. The characters are also not the most detailed in design, but I liked that they were clearly expressive – their faces never felt stiff, and their expressions fit the emotions being portrayed accordingly. The art is simple, but it works, and I found that it complemented this story nicely.

Final Thoughts

House of the Sun succeeds in telling the beginning of a warm and meaningful romance, and it was a pleasure seeing the way that Mao and Hiro begin to be drawn together in their attempts to make up for the loneliness they feel. This volume does a great job making both leads feel like fully formed characters with emotions that draw meaningfully upon their backstories to inform the way they act. We really get a strong feel for the sense of warmth they each felt in their past thanks to the way the art complements this aspect of the story, and this made their story in the present resonate. This is a well-paced beginning to a story which looks to have plenty more meaningful moments in store as Mao and Hiro move forward, and I’m looking forward to being along for the ride.


House of the Sun Vol. 1 was published by Kodansha Comics digitally on February 28th, 2017. Authored by Taamo, the series ran for 13 volumes Kodansha’s Dessert magazine.

Verdict:

A-

Date of Publication: February 28th, 2017

Author: Taamo

Translator: Tania Horowitz

Editor: Jesika Brooks

Publisher: Kodansha Comics




Matt

Matt is a broke law student by day, broke law student by night, and one of the co-founders of Taykobon in his dwindling spare time. Although his favourite series tend to be shonen adventure series, he also has a soft spot for slice-of-life shojo romances. He enjoys following the manga industry, and is a fan of the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Toronto Blue Jays in other nonexistent spare time. 

Favourite series: Bakuman

Favourite author: Io Sakisaka