Manga Village

Sasameke Volume 1

February 13, 2011

You have to give a book publisher a little credit, at times. It is often hard to pick out winners in the English language – having 100% success with all the titles you print seems absurd. I would even be willing to admit that it seems that it might, at times, be doubly hard to pick out a winner that’s printed in Japanese.

By: Ryuji Gotsubo
Publisher: Yen Press
Age Rating: Older Teen
Genre: Sports
Price: $20.99

Still, my open-mindedness about publishing wins and losses does not extend so far as to include the travesty that is Sasameke.

To put it frankly, and not all that delicately – this shit is horrid.

The introduction of the book seems fine, if a little slow – Rakuichi Nagahama, a soccer whiz in elementary transfers to Italy because of his dad’s work (everyone around town thinks it is for a soccer scholarship) and then comes back from Italy in junior high. Now everyone wants him to play soccer, and he just wants to hang out. Mix in some goofy antics from a few weird students, a soccer field that doubles as a graveyard, and some childhood rivalries, and you’ll get a fun soccer shonen manga!

Except, that’s exactly NOT what Sasameke is. The reason? The characters. They come in two different flavors, incomprehensible or boring, and neither is very pleasant. Some characters are both boring and incomprehensible.  Their trials and tribulations are dull at best and bizarre at worst. At one point Rakuichi is in the library avoiding soccer practice, and gets accused of stealing someone’s gachapon toys. Violent chase scene occurs. This is one of the more “normal” events in the book.

To make matters worse, later on in the book, characters are added that make it go even further off the wall. Why are you adding ninjas to this soccer story again? Oh, right, because you’re bad at it. Instead of building a story around the basics of sport and competition, or even around the emotional state of the main character as he learns to love soccer again, author Ryuji Gotsubo just throws in random crap, passes it off as funny, and moves on. In the midst of the bizarre, we find out that, well, it’s pretty hard to connect with a main character that doesn’t give a crap about anything or even want to play soccer in a soccer manga.

The plot is a mix of dull and tedious, which is mostly due to the fact that all the characters are poorly written, and nothing feels natural at all. Things that happen throughout the book just seem surreal, not necessarily because that was the point, but because there was never any time to originally suspend your disbelief. I found myself in multiple parts of the book asking, what the hell just happened? Even more disturbing, half of those times, I couldn’t figure it out.

Additionally, the art is just as lazy as the writing. The characters are illustrated very poorly, and scenes are constructed haphazardly. The comic flows like a river of molasses, and is difficult to read. In addition to all the main text, there are 3-4 multiple side conversations or comments going on in each panel. Why are these even there? Have you ever heard of self-editing? This by itself would make any book hard to read, but add one of the dullest plots I’ve ever seen on top of that, and you will be able to see why I was dragging myself through the last 75 pages to finish so that I could write this review.

To summarize: Bad plot, horrid writing, bad characters, poor illustration, awful pacing, and disappointing panel construction. That’s like the hole-in-one of things not to do in comics.

Yen Press, there is still time. You have until June to pull this from your publishing line up. Sometimes we need to recognize when a loss is a loss, and when it’s time to give something up. Publishing Sasameke volume two is one of those times. You didn’t pick a winner, but don’t waste your hard-earned money by finishing this series. It is absolutely terrible.

This review is based on a complimentary copy provided by the publisher.


About the author

Alex is a comics critic and writer at the blog Sequential State. His previous writing has included work for Manga Village and for the now defunct Manga Widget.

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