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


Manga of the Month: Haikyu!!

Haikyu!! by Haruichi Furudate

narutaki_icon_4040_round While Haikyu!! is not the first manga focusing on men’s volleyball, it’s probably the first most of us American fans have heard of. The current season of anime just wrapped up so it seemed a perfect time to re-experience the series from the beginning with the manga.

From the start Haruichi Furudate’s detailed art caught my attention. Sense of movement, strength, and atmosphere are well-composed to capture the intensity of volleyball; a sport that many may have not considered so intense prior. The facial expressions and humor get an equal amount of artistic love, plus the comedic timing is great whether it is breaking up a moment, showing the bonds between comrades, or creating a rapport with other teams.

But one of Haikyu!!’s biggest strengths lies where is should: with the main character. Hinata’s exuberance is infectious. His moment of epiphany towards volleyball happened years earlier, and he is now pursuing his dream. He is not a total novice, he doesn’t need to be taught the basics, but he hasn’t gotten to experience a full team. He is the little guy who jumps with wild abandon in a sport that often prioritizes height. His ego is in check. He simply glows so much when it comes to volleyball that you can’t help but smile. Perhaps best of all is how quickly his rivalry sputters out when his rival ends up being on the same team.

That rival, Kageyama, is as sour as Hinata is bright. Once nicknamed “The King of the Court,” Kageyama has fallen from grace because of his attitude towards his teammates. Hinata and him make an unlikely but essential duo if they hope to see their team gain glory on the court.

And you really, really want to see their team regain their former title. The emotional hooks of Haikyu!! are the strongest I’ve found for the recent crop of popular shonen sports series. This is in part because so many of the other teams we meet are just as interesting as our main group. Do I ultimately want to see Hinata and crew stand proudly at the top? Yes. But that doesn’t mean I won’t shed some tears for the other teams along the way.

Reading the manga has served as an excellent reminder that the series has been strong from the get-go.

~ kate

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