Manga of the Month: Kuroko’s Basketball

Kuroko’s Basketball (黒子のバスケ) by Tadatoshi Fujimaki

narutaki_icon_4040_round Kuroko’s vision of basketball is pretty simple: create ultimate teamwork to defeat teams reliant on star players. Kuroko experienced the later during his middle school years as he played the mysterious 6th man on his team nicknamed The Generation of Miracles. Kuroko observed the crumbling of his former team before each of them moved on to rival high schools.

Now Kuroko has joined Seirin’s still fledgling basketball club with some talented 2nd years and a unique coach. There he meets the returned from America Taiga whose potential is palpable spurning Kuroko to make him a bold promise to “make you the best in Japan.” They vow to confront the Generation of Miracles as they make their way to nationals.

Tadatoshi Fujimaki’s version of basketball sometimes borders on magic, much like the escalation of shonen battle manga. And that is also reflected in the detailed artwork of the sports scenes. His character Kuroko adds a very unique take on sport as well.

At first, I didn’t know what to expect of a quiet, mild character like Kuroko. He is a fare-cry from the stoic or hot-blooded character you’d imagine in the lead role. On the basketball court, he plays a nearly invisible player whose strength lies in passing the ball. Still Kuroko is a genius-type, but he is such a genius that many times only the other geniuses can tell how good he is. That being said, at the beginning of the story he can barely make a layup or any other play beyond passing or stealing the ball.

Kuroko’s desire to create a team that works in perfect unison means he puts a lot of focus on the improvement of others, which mirrors his ability on the court to divert attention from himself. In most instances, he doesn’t seem concerned about himself at all which is shocking. But there is no doubt as the series goes on that this beautiful ideal of Kuroko’s makes him shine brightly.

The rapport between the Seirin members is exactly what Kuroko is looking for in a team and exactly what I want as a reader. I’ve never found myself more interested in basketball!

~ kate

Manga of the Month: Sweetness and Lightning

Sweetness and Lightning (甘々と稲妻) by Gido Amagakure

hisui_icon_4040_round If you have ever talked to anyone who licensed manga you know the holy grail of titles is a series that is getting an anime. Not every manga that gets an anime becomes profitable but any series that has an animated version will be more profitable than it would have been if it has to stand on its own. While manga has a distinct presence and fandom in the English-speaking world it could be argued that manga often acts as an add-on to anime which is the opposite of how it usually works in Japan. If nothing else, that is how I found Sweetness and Lightning.

While I regularly read several series on Crunchyroll manga I have found that I am slow to start new series. I check in every Tuesday to read Yamada-kun and the Seven Witches and The Seven Deadly Sins. When I remember I catch up with GTO: Paradise LostSpace BrothersPrincess Jellyfish, and The Heroic Legend of Arslan. With all of that, it makes it a bit daunting to start a new series. Sweetness and Lightning was a series that I was thinking of starting but I just never mustered the momentum to try it. After watching the anime I went back and have started reading through the archives. I mostly realized I should have started when I first had the chance.

This gives me a new way of reading a series. I often either read the manga before watching the anime or watch the anime and then use the manga to continue the story. This is the first time I am reading the manga alongside the anime. Every time I watch an episode of the anime I then go back and read up to that point in the anime. I am curious to see how this method changes the way I look at both versions.

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Manga of the Month: Chocolate Cosmos

Chocolate Cosmos (チョコレートコスモス) by Nana Haruta

narutaki_icon_4040_round I had been hoping for more of Nana Haruta’s romance manga to make it into English. I’m a big fan of her series Cactus’s Secret which was released by VIZ a couple of years ago. Chocolate Cosmos is part of VIZ’s fairly new and small section of digital only releases.

Sayuki is a sharp-eyed and sharp-tongued girl who is really a romantic at heart. While on a trip to the beach with friends, she meets and falls for a guy working at a chocolate banana stand. The feelings seem mutual. But it turns out that guy is actually one of her teachers.

Chocolate Cosmos is pure fantasy in regards to dating your teacher, one in which things can work out pretty OK without any consequences. But the extra touch that makes Chocolate Comsos a little special is actually Sayuki’s exploration of her own feelings and her relationship with a different boy completely.

Sayuki spends a lot of the manga examining what she wants and how to go about it. There is pretty much no question who she has romantic feelings for (and whether he has them for her either), even with her childhood friend Yushi in the mix. But what I found refreshing was the slow reveal of Sayuki’s past feelings for Yushi and how things have changed for her. Their final conversations about those feelings are very satisfying and tread a less familiar path.

The melodrama of the series is very low-key and interspersed with a lot of humor which is why I enjoy Nana Haruta’s stories so much. Chocolate Cosmos is just the type of romance manga one wants to devour in a lazy summer afternoon.

~ kate