Monday, June 30, 2008

Whistle! (manga, vol. 19) by Daisuke Higuchi

This volume finishes up the (soccer) match between the Tokyo Select team and the Seoul Select team in South Korea. Although the game had a tense and rocky start, due to the general tensions between Koreans and the Japanese, by the end of it everyone has learned to at least respect the other side. After the match is over, Higuchi takes a quick break from soccer for a short chapter on one girl's attempt to show her love for Sho using homemade Valentine's chocolate. After that, it's off to the National Toresen, where players from different parts of the country train together until they finally have a tournament where the teams from each district play against each other. Sho, the hardworking main character of the series, is going, of course, and he's shocked when he finds out who one of the members of the opposing teams is. Here's a hint - he used to be one of Sho's teammates. This volume sets up some of the early relationships between the players from the different districts (rivalries, friendships, determination to be good rivals despite friendships) and lets readers know which districts are scheduled to play against each other.

I'm not a soccer player, nor am I interested in watching the sport - however, I like this series. Sho's a sweet character who somehow manages not to get annoying, despite having the kind of hardworking, cheerful attitude that could be seriously annoying in real life. This isn't really an exciting volume, since it's just wrapping up the events of the previous volume and setting things up for the next volume, but it's not bad. The Korea vs. Japan wrap-up is another one of the frequent examples of "sports could promote world peace" themes you'll see a lot in any manga involving competition in the real world environment. It's a bit optimistic, but still nice to read.

I enjoyed seeing Shigeki again - I like him, even though he can occasionally be hard to tell apart from Tatsuya, since they both have similar faces and light-colored hair. I also think one of the new characters from another district, Shoei Takayama, is going to be a lot of fun - his tendency to overreact is funny and he seems just as cheerful and good-natured as Sho.

I could list a few other soccer-related manga/anime, but, unfortunately, I don't think any of those titles are legally available in the US. That doesn't mean there's nothing out there that fans of this title won't like, however, so read on.

  • Hikaru no Go (manga) by Yumi Hotta (story) and Takeshi Obata (art); Hikaru no Go (anime) - When Hikaru discovers a haunted Go board, he gets stuck with Sai, a ghost who wants nothing more than to play Go. In order to appease him, Hikaru agrees to find people to play against, letting Sai dictate the moves to him. Eventually, however, Hikaru learns how to play the game himself and becomes interested enough in the game and in beating his rival to try to become a professional Go player. Sure, this is a series about a board game, but it's written and drawn in an exciting (but still very realistic) way - it inspired me to learn to play the game and join a Go club, so it might inspire others as well. Those who'd like an exciting series in which someone goes from being a terrible player to being amazingly good through shear hard work and strength of will might like this series. This series, like Whistle!, has quite a few adult characters and, at a few points, has Japanese characters and Korean characters playing tense games against one another. Hikaru's more of a whiner than Sho, but he's still a likable character.
  • The Prince of Tennis (manga) by Takeshi Konomi - Ryoma Echizen is a tennis genius and a new student at Seigaku High School. He soon becomes a member of his school's famous tennis team and proves that he's capable of beating 2nd and 3rd year students. Those who'd like another realistic sports manga might like this series - although a few of the characters have weird quirks and names for their specialty shots, the matches still seem to be pretty realistic.
  • Eyeshield 21 (manga) by Riichirou Inagaki (story) and Yuusuke Murata (art) - This manga about American football focuses on Sena, a new student at Deimon High School. He's been picked on for years and has learned to run really fast, both to get away from bullies and to act as a gofer for bullies. Hiruma, the president of the American Football Club, sees what Sena can do and forces him to join the club. Sena is reluctant and frightened at first, but he gradually learns to enjoy the game and improve his skills. Those who'd like another sports manga with a small main character who succeeds and improves as the story progresses might like this series. The humor is goofier than what you find in Whistle!, but the author does try to make sure the football strategies and rules are realistic and explained so that readers can understand things (American football is not a well-known sport in Japan, so there's lots of explanations in earlier volumes).


  1. Thought id say hi, how old are u? im 15 and im from the UK

  2. Hi back, and thanks for commenting on my blog. I'm 25, which just goes to show that you can like just about any manga, no matter what your age. It does mean, though, that I tend to be too old for most anime/manga clubs, lol.