Shinobu Kaitani’s One Outs, the story of ace player/owner of the Saitama Lycaons, Tokuchi Toua, is without question the best in an increasingly long list of baseball series I have read to date. It’s set in a professional level, and much like Giant Killing, it features everything that makes pro sports so interesting; contract disputes, arcs of victory and defeat over a long season, and players who are all at least nominally in the top 5% talent-wise (even if the Central and Pacific Leagues are kind of a few miles below the AL and NL). The difference between the two is that where Giant Killing chooses to attack pro sports with realism, One Outs chooses to fight with showmanship. Toua forgoes all the traditional principles of baseball, getting opponents out at a historic rate with only a slowball/slider and a heaping helping of quick wit in his arsenal. Eventually, a combination of his dominance on the plate and his harsh but performance-based contract makes him filthy rich, and puts him in position to buy out the team his contract bankrupted. And that’s where the real fun, him leading his lackluster team to the pennant, starts. The chapter in question is a part of the Lycaons’ quest for the pennant, as they duke it out with a hilariously top-heavy first-place Mariners team.
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.
Recently, I’ve been taking on a major item that’s been on my checklist of must-read manga, Adachi Mitsuru’s Touch.* Though it’s not as popular in the States, it’s widely regarded as a classic in Japan. As usual, the conventional wisdom was dead-on and this classic has been a joy to read, bursting with old-timey summer atmosphere, gradually-blooming romance, and dust-covered baseball. I also noticed that several newer works I’ve read before this draw heavy inspiration from it.** Picking just one chapter from the thirty I’ve blazed through so far was difficult. I ultimately settled on this one because, among other things, it rolls out a musical montage to no music.
I’ve been writing about shonen for the past 2 weeks of this competition, and Keima only knows if I’ll make it out of the first round, so I might as well use the freedom I’ve got to coin a term that’s been percolating in my head for a while and talk about seinen (and some shonen, as well) while people are listening. I’ve taken to calling some manga Mid-Major because they’re great in a way that screams “improbable” and “unsustainable”, but because of that are even more fun to watch than consistently great ones. Clearly not top-tier, but clearly blessed with enough potential to make a little legend, like Dunk City FGCU demolishing Georgetown in this year’s NCAA Tourney.* There’s an appeal to watching the little engine that could suddenly transform into a giant robot and dropkick a galaxy, and nowhere (other than sports) does this phenomenon happen more often than in the world of monthly manga.
Early on in this episode, it seemed like Hibiki was inching a bit closer towards the position of “win by default” protagonist – one whose ideals are upheld because he happens to be the one not to die off. Systematically killing off the supporting cast (even more of them this week) has served to increase his chances of winning without him doing anything. Kind of like how Russel Westbrook’s season-ending injury cleared the Western Conference field for the Spurs this year. However, it’d be a lie to say that Hibiki’s done nothing, and that’s not the only narrative surrounding him heading into the finale.
I’ve talked about Ace of the Diamond before. It’s my second-favorite baseball manga of all time*, and it is so because it a) is not about a team of scrappy underdogs, which allows for b) one of the most interesting dynamics in any sports manga – 4 highly skilled pitchers with alpha dog personalities competing for one starting spot on an elite baseball team. When that dynamic gets folded into competitive baseball matches, the result is a fantastic two-level narrative. This week, we were reminded who was alpha dog prime, and why. Before I go any further into how amazingly unique Tanba is as a character, here’s his “I logged a K against the other team’s ace with the tying run on third and two outs” face.**
Which might as well be the rest of my column, but I like to write