Just some thoughts on some manga I’m reading. Warning: not guaranteed spoiler-free (though some important spoilers are in white texts; highlight them if you want to read them anyway)
Ao Haru Ride ch. 47
I used to ship Kou x Futaba during the first 15 chapters or so. But ever since the Narumi arc and seeing an indecisive Kou, it was hard for me to root for him and Futaba. That’s how I got into the Touma x Futaba ship. Kou’s harshness towards Futaba and his acting as if he doesn’t have feelings nor care for her anymore made me cheer for Touma all the more in the next chapters. This drama went on for over 20 chapters. Even now, my heart goes for nice-guy Touma. I know their first meeting wasn’t that good, or rather was an embarrassing moment for both of them that they’d rather forget it. But what was really the saving grace of the story at this time (while Kou was being wishy washy, and what the Sakisaka Io really had in mind is Kou x Futaba pairing in the end) was the highlight on Kikuchi Touma’s apparent progress with his feelings for Futaba. Although it was obvious even during those excruciating 20+ chapters that Futaba was not serious about her relationship with Touma (even if she tried to be), it was made clear 2 chapters ago that she had no real affection towards the poor guy.
So reading the latest two chapters left a somewhat weird feeling, like I was not reading the same work. Even though Futaba found courage to deal with her inner desires, like we wanted her to, Kou’s sudden character change was rather too drastic. Sure, I enjoyed reading this chapter and it’s been a long time since I had real enjoyment from reading this manga. It’s just that this lovey-dovey development happened way too fast and seems rushed, because the story, as a whole, was more lax in pacing (remember the 20+ painful chapters?). Other than that, I’m glad that the main conflict has finally been resolved. Anyhow, I’d like to commend the mangaka for her art that always improves, and the color page looks like she has mastered watercolor. But in this particular page, the colors are more spread out, making the characters look fresher.
Let’s toss aside the main story, since it’s been settled. I’m interested in Kominato’s subplot, since things are more serious now than I thought it’d be. I don’t want Kominato to have an unhappy ending. He’s always been there for Kou, giving his insights that weren’t intrusive. I really like his characterization, and he deserves to be recognized as one of the best friends shoujo manga male MCs could have. What about Murao? Eh, she hardly left an impression, so I just hope she ends up with Kominato, and not Tanaka-sensei whom she loves.
Angel Voice ch. 45-46
Ichiran High’s soccer team was famous for their bad reputation. Their members are reckless fighters who could be mistaken as gangsters. Because of that, the school is also suffering from the bad name, pushing the principal to seek help from Kuroki-sensei, who was asked to be the team’s coach, to get things right, or so we thought.
It was great to see the newly reborn Ichiran soccer team actually get motivated after discovering they have greatly improved by the time they had their first practice match with a well-known soccer powerhouse, even though they lost by a huge margin in the end. Who would’ve though that a bunch of misfits would pour so much passion for the sport and get good results after months of hard work?
But since the time has come for the inter-high preliminaries, things have been different as the real condition for Kuroki to keep coaching the members spread among the members through gossip. It was a truth that’s so important but to be kept hidden from the ones truly involved: the team has to make it to the Top 4 in the preliminaries, otherwise the team will be disbanded. In other words, the principal laid out the fastest way, using the inter-high as an excuse for formalities, to get rid of the soccer team.
For a rookie school like Ichiran, whose soccer team hadn’t been taking the sport seriously, it was too high a hurdle for them to overcome, even after experiencing a fresh rebirth. It is inarguable that the team right now is too inexperienced and even the team spirit isn’t very strong yet, not to mention that the late discovery of the condition created a wall between them and the coach. The members were enemies in the beginning, and they only started playing together recently. It’s not that simple for them to play together without much friction, also because they’re easily irritable that they’d start punching each other over trivial matters.
Even as a reader, I doubt that their current skills and abilities will take them as far as the Top 4. But this is a manga, and anything could happen, so I’m looking forward to how they would rise against the limitations set before them, even before they could do anything and try to prove their worth.
Rikudou ch. 5
It’s a 7-year time-skip! The snot-nosed grade schooler is now a high school student!
This is one of the new sports (boxing) manga I happened to discover last month. From the first color page, I sensed that, aside from the standard boxing matches, it wouldn’t be anything like Hajime no Ippo (I’ve only seen the anime and I loved it). Rikudou has a darker atmosphere that, so far, has been consistent. Not only does the atmosphere make everything look darker or more serious, thanks to the thorough shadowing with several pen strokes. The manga is blatantly filled with themes such as domestic violence, child abuse, sexual harassment, bullying, and the list might get longer as this manga gets longer. Basically, you don’t read a chapter without seeing even one bit of violence. Well, of course, I’m talking about physical violence outside boxing itself.
What I also like about the series is that it does not try to discuss what justice is or, unlike most standard shounen battle manga, make the protagonist appear that he needs to become stronger because he has things or people to protect. No, it doesn’t do those things. Albeit Riku is already born with the talent to pinpoint and attack the vital points in the human body with alarming accuracy, he becomes involved in boxing out of the desire to become stronger for himself. That is justifiable, too, because he had been through many events we can regard both dark and traumatic.
In this chapter, I particularly liked how Riku’s entrance was drawn: the bigger panels of the close up to his nonchalant and unscathed face and his fists that indicate he had just been into a brawl, and the smaller panels where the random thugs cower in fear at the sight of this strong fellow. Although a lot may have happened in those 7 years, this page was all it needed to tell us how strong Riku must have become that he seems confident enough to take the pro test, which we may be able to see in the next chapters.
I know manga/anime, in general, like keeping their characters look a little bit young even after a time skip, but… really, Tokorozawa? You didn’t even change, let alone age a bit!