Masaya Tsunamoto’s 2010 KMA-winning professional soccer manga Giant Killing is a very unique piece of material. Unlike most sports manga, it follows the development of a team in a professional league over the course of a rather realistic season, where losses and draws are as common as wins. It also stands out for putting the focus of the narrative not just on the athletes and the disgraced ex-player returning from England to coach the team, but also on the team’s fans (from the 40-something fair weather fans who don’t travel well to the 20-something hooligans who cheer loud and riot louder) and its front office (who have to deal with bad press when things aren’t going so well).
Indeed, the story of the manga opens with staff from the front office on a trip to England, trying to lure the team’s former ace Tatsumi back to Japan as the team’s manager. And the very next story deals with the negative light in which the fans view Tatsumi, who quit the team at the prime of his career. Only after these two dynamics are introduced does the manga start playing any kind of soccer. It’s a three-pronged approach to soccer which gives the reader a much deeper understanding of the layers of culture within professional sports.
The series has recently been in the middle of an extensive gaiden arc, telling the real story of why Tatsumi left the team. It turns out that decision was less selfishness and more the fault of a system that forced him, albeit somewhat willingly, to the breaking point.