Manga Village

Sasameke Volume 2

November 6, 2012

For once, it looks like the Chikubushima High soccer team might heave a shot at the national tournament (provided all their players actually show up to the matches)! Rakuichi may have the raw talent that makes him an invaluable asset to this bizarre mess of a team, but his enourmous ego interferes with his ability to make good decisions on the field. (Seriously, dude. Just pass the ball.) As Rakuichi continues to irritate the heck out of his teammates, the foundation on the team, Azuchi, is out of commission, and captain Matsuri is losing interest as teh power of the principal’s bribes wane. With even tougher opponents to come, will the stars and supporting players of Chikubushima manage to pull together and secure victory?

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

I’m not a masochist by nature, but I am a skeptic. So when I saw so many reviews reviling the first volume of Sasameke, I had to see the horror for myself. I was given such a chance when I received volume 2 for review. Let me just say, the reviews of volume 1 were not exaggerating. If anything, volume 2 was worse with what has to be the worse ending of any manga. Ever.

One of the most important thing a manga needs to have to hold readers is good characters. If you don’t like the characters in a story, it doesn’t matter how great the writing or art is, it won’t hold the reader’s interest. Sasameke‘s first yellow card comes from having absolutely no likable characters. Rakuichi, the protagonist, is arrogant and obnoxious. There is absolutely nothing about him that makes want to cheer him on, or care one iota about his struggles. He only thinks about his personal achievements and never of the team’s. The team captain, Matsuri, doesn’t seem interested in playing other than the bribes he gets in toys from the Principal, and neither does Azuchi, who seems to just be passing the time. The rest of the team is just comedy relief. While I do feel some sympathy for the team having to put up with these jerks, it’s nowhere near enough to make me care about any of them.

The majority of this volume is taken up the game in the finals against Kusatsu Hidari, the second best team in the nation from the year before. For the most part, this wasn’t too bad. It really showed Chikubushima’s weakness by relying on individual core players instead of as a team as a whole. Azuchi shows his intelligence by finding a way to turn that weakness into a strength, and everyone is pushed to the limit on both teams, with the winning goal coming down to a penalty kick. For this part, that title actually felt like a real sports manga, with the serious underdogs struggling against overwhelming odds to come out on top. The only problem is that even though it was a hard-fought battle, it really doesn’t feel like they deserved to be there. They were lackadaisical in getting to the semi-finals, and didn’t even have to play the game to get into the finals, so the hard work they do in the finals is meaningless, and this is Sasameke‘s second yellow card.

And that ending. What the hell was that? The team is in Tokyo for the championship. The smack talk between Chikubushima and their rivals is running high, it’s the night before the big game…and then it’s two months later! The end of the volume explains what happened and shows the fate of everyone, and is quite possibly the worst ending I have ever read. All that hype for the final game is wasted. While Chikubushima gets what they deserve, the way it’s done just leaves you with your jaw agape, wondering what just happened. I had to go back a page or two to be sure I didn’t miss something. I really couldn’t believe the mangaka did that. And it’s that ending that gives this title its red card.

Do I wish I could get back the time I spent reading Sasameke? Oh hell yes! But I was warned, and knew the job was dangerous when I took it, so I won’t complain too much. But take this as your own warning, avoid this title like the plague. I’m sorry Yen Press, but this was just a bad title. It wasn’t funny, it wasn’t entertaining, and the art wasn’t that good. Not every title can be good, but one can only hope they won’t all be this bad.

Review copy provided by publisher.

About the author

Lori Henderson is the writer and reviewer for the manga blog, Manga Xanadu. She also keeps a personal blog at Fangirl Xanadu, and a writing blog at Muse of Xanadu. She contributes to the Good Comics for Kids blog at School Library Journal. As the mother of two teen daughters, she needs all the escape she can get, which reading and writing about manga gives her.

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