Manga of the Month: Shojo Fight

Shojo Fight by Yoko Nihonbashi

I’m very glad that sports series have been gaining so much momentum in the U.S., but there still are too few women-centered ones to enjoy in English. But never fear because now we have Shojo Fight!

Neri is on an all-star middle school volleyball team, but even in her third-year she’s the lowest rung and barely putting in the effort to be there. However, she is more than capable and it comes out in small moments noticed by few. Turns out Neri is hiding a passionate devotion to volleyball and a sometimes belligerent attitude that isolated her in elementary school.

Like many sports series, Neri is having trouble moving past an unexpected death in her life. Her grief has driven a wedge between Neri and volleyball, Neri and her friends, Neri and herself. Just as she starts reconnecting, a fateful meeting with a coach gives her the final push she needs.

Shojo Fight has a classic sports setup while still feeling fresh. It has the passion, the humor, and the sadness it should. On top of that is Yoko Nihonbashi’s unique art style which has thick, graphic lines and detailed use of screentone has the feel of something more Western.

~kate

Manga of the Month: Ace of the Diamond

Ace of the Diamond by Yuji Terajima

I can go on for a long LONG time about how much I love Ace of the Diamond. That podcast is a spoiler minefield by the way. Yet, I haven’t put that love into writing here on the blog before. In fact, the only time I talked about it on Reverse Thieves proper, I wasn’t actually very taken with it. It is a series with a slow roll; after giving it a second chance, I discovered it pays off big time.

Eijun wasn’t planning on playing baseball seriously, he just wanted to spend time with his friends. But after he is invited to see a major high school team’s practice, everything changes. He gets to pitch a few, piss nearly everyone off, and gets recruited thanks to star catcher Miyuki and coach Kataoka.

Eijun, however, is not the ace of the Seido baseball team. He dreams it. He wants it. But he isn’t it. You might think it is obvious that Eijun will become the ace, but the series has a lot of uncertainty. As I see it, there are many aces of the diamond because this, as with all good sports series, is about a team and not a single player. Different moments have different aces.

At first, Eijun is hard to like. He begins the series as a sincere baseball lover but also a bullheaded jerk. More than likely you’ll be like me and become very passionate about the stories of catcher Miyuki, captain Yuki, injured Chris, the Kominato brothers, and the many other players. However, Eijun, for all his flaws, learns so much in the early parts of the series thanks to the stellar cast. It doesn’t take too long (but certainly more than a couple of volumes) for him to realize the error of his ways and start down his true path.

And finally what keeps me glued to Ace of the Diamond for the long haul is the emotional resonance. The series is top-notch when it comes to showing the determination and heart of the Seido team. I have cried harder, cheered louder, and raged more fiercely when it comes to Ace of the Diamond than I have for any other sports series.

So you may not like Eijun at first. And the series is more than 50 books and climbing (Ace of the Diamond is 47 book, Act II is 8 and ongoing). But I am here to tell you that it is absolutely worth the investment.

I’ve been beyond elated with the recent offerings of sports manga in English. Ace of the Diamond is another series that is getting a digital release which is a great way to go with these long-running series.

~kate

Manga of the Month: Giant Killing

Giant Killing by Masaya Tsunamoto and Tsujitomo

narutaki_icon_4040_round Ah, to return to Giant Killing is quite a thrill! And one I never expected to have for a long (43 books and counting) serious soccer manga.

I say serious not because the manga is terribly gritty but because Giant Killing is about more than just the players vying for a championship. The story tackles characters in every facet of the sport: coach, player, manager, owner, PR coordinator, reporter, fans young and old. This panoramic view of the soccer scene is what makes the series so intriguing.

Giant Killing’s basic plot sounds like a classic: washed-up team is revitalized by new unconventional coach who previously betrayed the team many years before when he was their star player. Coach Tatsumi brings a lot of baggage and drama into the lives he upends by returning to his former team. But he is good at what he does, is smart, and has enough charm to make it work.

Shifting the focus to the coach already makes Giant Killing feeling a little bit different from many other sports manga we’ve had the chance to experience in English. Then the series does one better and spreads the focus to so many other characters which makes it a standout.

~ kate