Taiyou No Ie (House of the Sun) by Taamo
Manga: 13 completed volumes
Run: May 2010 - January 2015

This series is an emotional roller-coaster that has you teary-eyed page one. As a little girl, Mao was always home alone because her estranged parents were working 24/7. Fortunately, her neighbors, the Nakamuras, had a loving household, who welcomed her with open arms. She becomes part of their family and a fixture in their lives: Hiro (the older brother,) Daiki (the middle brother,) and Hina (the youngest sister.) One day, tragedy hits, killing the Nakamura parents, leaving the three siblings orphaned. Since Hiro is unable to take care of his family, as he is underage, he is separated from his siblings, who will live with other relatives, and lives in their childhood home alone. During this time period, Mao's parents have a divorce; she decides to stay with her father so she can stay close to Hiro. Throughout the years, Mao checks on Hiro, so he isn't lonely; but, her home situation is not that great either - her father is very cold and distant; she feels that she is unwanted by her step-family. Hiro, upon discovering this, invites Mao to live with him. Naturally, when you live in close quarters with someone, you develop feelings. Mao also gives Hiro the strength to bring his family back together. Since it's a Shoujo, Slice of Life manga, expect love triangles, friendship, heartbreak, and drama.

This manga sits with Madoka Magica, Your Lie in April, and Ano Hana because it's so sad. When I read Mao's thoughts about feeling alone and unloved by her family, it broke my heart. She endures everything; she doesn't tell anyone about her situation because she doesn't want to burden them. Readers sympathize her backstory and cheer for her happiness: Taamo blends the sweet and bitter facets of life in this series. 

I think the art is adorable. Mao is drawn very cutely and doll-like: she's short, has long black hair, and a small, round face. My only complaint is she blushes almost too much-in maybe 90% of her depictions she is blushing. She's also a quirky and amusing character; she likes Japanese History and weird figurines called "chonmame"-it looks like a potato, chicken drumstick. There's a running gag about her terrible house-skills (no one ever taught her how to cook or clean.) Hiro is drawn rather simply and attractive, but he has lifeless eyes. He's a sweet character that cares deeply for his family. The other characters are also drawn very cutely. 

As much as I dreaded the ending, I do wish this series was shorter. Mao's multiple love-triangle plots took too long to develop, and I don't know why the side love-triangles had so much development because readers KNOW who she's going to end up with. It was unnecessary. I enjoyed the side relationships because they offered a refreshing break and a new point of view-Chihiro's such a great friend! Oh, and her step-mother, bless you! My biggest vexation was the online novel. When it was introduced, readers knew that it was going to play a big part in the story, but it was abandoned and mentioned on-and-off in the story to start more unnecessary drama. After being MIA, it suddenly makes a big comeback towards the end of the series. I wouldn't say 75% of the series was plotless per se, but it wasn't the most exciting. It felt repetitive, boring, and there were filler volumes. 

I enjoyed the heart of this series, but was disappointed with the storytelling. It had this extra, unneeded fluff. Without it, the story still shines because Mao's story will move readers, and her bond with Hiro will warm readers' hearts. I think the flow and pacing of the story could use more development and consideration. Friendship, Family, Love, Cute Dog... What more positivity can you ask for? 

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