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.
Some time ago, I ragequit on George Morikawa’s long-running boxing series Hajime no Ippo. It had been on a low streak for a long time, and my favorite character of the series had just gotten cold-cocked in just about the cruelest way possible. I was angry, and, more importantly, kind of just tired. So I closed the book on what was then one of my 5 favorite manga.*
It looked something like this
Recently, with the announcement of a third season for the anime, I resolved to get back to it. Last night, I actually did. Suffice to say it was a 45-chapter marathon session that left me eff-all motivated. Chapter 1008 was the high point of that session, reminding me why I like the main character of this series as much as I do.
One of the big appeals of this marathon is that I got to watch an intense title fight by Vorg Zangief, while watching the main character Ippo and rival Sendo get worked up over it. That’s where the picture above comes from. Now, chapter 1008 picks up after the fight is done and Vorg has taken the title with some very impressive heroics. So what do Ippo and Sendo do to cool off? If you guessed “fisticuffs”, you’d be on-target.
There’s just something really appealing about guys who love what they do enough that watching something exciting motivates them to get right to work. Welcome back to my weekly lineup, HnI.
*Since then, Natsu no Zenjitsu pushed it just out of my top five. It’s still a fantastic manga.
So I’ve been reading Adachi Mitsuru’s Touch in the past couple of weeks. My opinions on it are more or less publicrecord. The original reason I got started on it was to do a serious rundown of all the baseball series I knew of (since talking about baseball manga without mentioning Touch would be like talking about great basketball players and not mentioning Bill Russell). However, an interesting theme constantly showed up in that manga that I’ve seen in another series, Space Brothers.* Namely, both series focus on a relationship between two talented brothers who take their talents in different directions. And both do a fascinating job of exploring what caused those brothers to walk their separate paths.
I’m going to belabor this point, but Touch is an amazing, timeless classic manga. It’s also wildly unpopular in the states, something I kind of knew, but became much, much more obvious in my marathon sessions this week. Something I did not expect happened, and I had in no way been spoiled on it. The impressive thing isn’t so much that it happened, but how Adachi Mitsuru gives the audience the inside scoop. Suffice the man is a genius who’s madder than he lets on.
Warning: This article spoils a somewhat important twist in a manga that’s 20+ years old, but one that’s virtually unknown to western audiences. If you don’t want to be spoiled, don’t read this and do read the manga.
There are few things I treasure more in manga than the ability to surprise me on a page-by-page basis. I love Yuuji Terajima’s Ace of the Diamond, and this chapter did a pretty good job reminding me why, building tension around a straightforward confrontation using clever Eyeshield 21-style visual feints.