It’s a quiet week this week with only one title coming out. Jason Thompson gets all the attention for his second volume of King of RPGs. So, with no real competition, our reviewers take a look at a genre of manga: sports.
King Of RPGs Volume 2 GN, $10.99
John’s Pick: Sports manga is a hard genre to talk about. So few titles make it into English because many of them seem to have a different appeal. The memories of one’s high school volleyball team or baseball team seem richer and deeper to Japanese readers. The reason for this is that “team” was often a way of life. Students in some school clubs live, breathe, die by the team, and graduation of sempai often brings as many (if not more) tears as smiles. Maybe it’s an easy pick, but the most moving sports manga of recent memory is Slam Dunk. Obviously a basketball-themed book, Takehiko Inoue makes the court into a battlefield and the action off the court is just as vibrant and charged. One not need to be a baller to fall for Slam Dunk.
Amy’s Pick: I’m not a sports person. Whenever my coworkers at various jobs I’ve had talked about sports I’d get dizzy trying to keep up with the conversation (or just zone out.) The first sports manga that I have ever encountered and was unable to put down is Bamboo Blade! This kendo sports manga doesn’t heavily focus on the sport which ultimately is why I didn’t hesitate to pick up this title.
Justin’s Pick: What’s amazing to me is that the sports genre is so fixed, so strong a genre in manga, that there’s lots of tropes and elements of the sports manga genre that appear in the manga that gets translated into English. As far as what we’ve seen, it’s these hybrid manga that I like the most, probably. Titles like Cross Game, or even Club 9, which take place in and around sports manga, but use the structure and the character types and the setting of sports manga to get at something completely different. However, my absolute favorite sports manga is unquestionably steeped in everything that makes a good sports genre manga. Unfortunately, it hasn’t been translated into English. Ping Pong is a tabletop tennis manga by the great Taiyo Matsumoto, who is most famous for Tekkon Kinkreet (or, as it was originally released, Black & White). He gets at the action and the gesture and the blood, sweat, and tears of the athletes better than any artist I know. Now that would be a great series to bring to English!
Alex’s Pick: After spending a whole week discussing and praising the series for its greatness, I thought I would have a week or two to rest from the Cross Game praise, but apparently not! But that’s okay, because, like Justin, I like the action that surrounds the game of baseball – the interpersonal conflict and the character development that makes the series such a joy to read. Add that to the fact that Adachi can also illustrate a great baseball game, and it’s not hard to see why I would pick Cross Game for this week’s list.
Lori’s Pick: I haven’t found a lot sports manga that appeals to me. I’ve sampled a few through previews and random volumes, and only one series has impressed me enough that I would consider further volumes, and that’s Slam Dunk. Inoue really knows how to portray the action with some really dynamic shots. And unlike a lot of shonen titles, this title is true to the sport, using real plays, and explaining them for the clueless (like me). Anyone can enjoy Slam Dunk, and might even learn to enjoy the sport of Basketball because of it!