Manga of the Month: 87 Clockers

87 Clockers (87超频者) by Tomoko Ninomiya

hisui_icon_4040 There are several web sites devoted solely to telling you if Abe Vigoda is alive or not. He has been reported as dead by several major news sources over the years to the point that is has become a running joke. In a way I feel 87 Clockers needs the same sort of treatment. I swear I keep thinking this series is getting canceled. When Nanatsuya: Shinobu’s Jewel Box was announced I assumed it was because 87 Clockers was over. It turns out  Tomoko Ninomiya is just doing two monthly manga at the same time. Then recently that Jump Kai, the magazine that 87 Clockers runs in, was announced to be ending in October. 87 Clockers will probably be moved to another Shueisha magazine but that is still something that was me worried. Overall it is not a series I ever hear anyone talking about so it is easy for me to assume it has gone the way of the dodo. With the latest Jump Kai scare I decided to talk a little about the series in hopes of changing that.

If nothing else 87 Clockers stands out in the realm of competitive sport manga. And this is a field that has titles like Chihayafuru and Yakitate!! Japan it is not simple to do.

Competitive computer overclocking. 87 Clockers is about competitive computer overclocking. I could drop the mike here but I feel I should sell the series a bit more than that.

Kanade Ichinose is perfectly poised to be a very content loser. He is a college music major whose violin playing is skilled for him to be a major competitor but his meek personality allows him to get by in a competitive school without any greater competition. In fact any time he might be forced to challenge himself life allows him to avoid confrontation. He seems destined to drift through life never doing poorly but also never doing anything special. That all changes when he meets the beautiful woman name Hana standing outside in the cold. She is his gateway into the world of competitive overclocking. Will he finally find something worth fighting for?

Tomoko Ninomiya is definitely an interesting artist. She really made a name for herself with Nodame Cantabile. Nodame was this runaway success with an anime in the Noitamina block that ran three seasons, a series of live action adaptations, and even several orchestras formed just because of the series. The thing is that the series never caught on over here. Del Rey Manga released most of the books in English but it was one of the series Kodansha Comics USA chose not to finish when they took over many of Del Rey’s titles. Heartbreaking.

I could talk about Nodame Cantabile forever but that is not the point. The point of this post is to talk about 87 Clockers. But I bring up Nodame for two reasons. The first is I really want Crunchyroll manga to license recuse Nodame digitally. The second is that all of Nodame’s strengths shine though in 87 Clockers.

87 Clockers is about a fairly esoteric subject. Even most people who build their own computers don’t delve that deep into overclocking. It is the realm of the truly hardcore. But like any good sports style manga the subject comes alive even if you would never care about the subject normally. Ballet and karuta generally both have a fairly high barrier to entry but Swan and Chihayafuru make those subjects approachable. With some wit and charm even the hard technobabble of computer architecture can be interesting. Tomoko is also doing this competitively. If he were just overclocking as a hobby this could easily fall into boring slice of life territory. Since he is trying to claw his way to the top of the scene he has to engage in some good old fashion PC vs PC battling. Also it is interesting to see them overclocking PC to play FPS generally considering how Japan is far less excited about them as Western audiences are.

But Tomoko Ninomiya’s greatest strength is always her characters. They are quirky and vibrant drawing you into their lives with humor and wit (and some goofiness). But they are adults with adult problems. It is very easy to make a story like that dark, brooding, and depressing. I love Honey and Clover but the end of that series is mostly tears and heartbreak. It is a bowl of drama covered in a rich pathos sauce. 87 Clockers always seems to be marching to an uptempo beat. There are serious problems and setbacks but the humor and shinning nature of the narrative is always present. No matter what is happening each chapter will leave you smiling.

Also in many ways this is Hana’s story as much as Tomoko’s. At first she is this ethereal beauty who is the assistant and possible paramour of Tomoko’s rival. Tomoko plans to beat Mike in hopes that it will gain him the affection of Hana. As the manga goes on we see she is just as brilliant a technician as her partner. She just lacks the confidence of Mike. In many the manga is equally about Hana learning to step out of Mike’s shadow and shine brightly on her own. It is a nice twist on the boy impresses girl with his mad skillz plot.

The only thing is I can’t see anyone licensing this. Tomoko Ninomiya already bombed in the US with a title with far more conventional appeal. But this series really stand out as shows you another face of manga that you normally don’t see. If you see a better competitive computer overclocking let me know. But I doubt you will find it. Tomoko Ninomiya has a golden touch. Read this manga and experience it for yourself.

– Alain

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One thought on “Manga of the Month: 87 Clockers

  1. psychobuddha says:

    Awesome review. I’m currently reading this series and was wondering where it was serialized (Ninomiya writes josei but I can’t see 87 clockers’ audience falling in the josei demographic) for it to last as long as 29 chapters now. It takes a really unconventional topic and makes it very interesting.

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