Today, is the first day of my Spring Break. Actually it starts in about 20 minutes. Right now I am in class as we compare sexuality in Ancient Greek religion and Taoist religion (and whether or not they contrast in ethical substance). Anyways, yesterday I read a few manga that I really enjoyed, and I feel that I need to have individual posts for each of the really good ones. This particular manga is one of my absolute favorites (I would love to own them in English, but I am not sure if it has officially come out in English).
The story is about Ichinose Kimitaka. He is a first year high school student, who feels a little lost (he hates himself a lot). In middle school, he taught his friends how to play basketball and found his friends were getting more skilled (as he fell behind). He was frustrated and jealous and overheard his friends saying that they wished he would suicide. From then on, he blamed himself and his feelings of jealousy as having ‘polluted’ his life.
Upset, Kimitaka went to the bridge to throw away his red basketball shoes (in frustration), but meets a tall girl throwing away her dance shoes. He learns that because of her height (and large appendages, feet, and hands), she cannot become a flamenco dancer like she dreams of doing. She too feels frustrated and a sort of self hatred. Kimitaka trades shoes with her and tells her to try basketball out (since her size would help her).
As he enters high school, Kimitaka discovers that the girl’s life changed so much because of their meeting, and he suddenly realizes that he was the one that let his own life become sad and stagnant. Now he wants to go after his own dreams, and show to the girl how much his life changed.
The main character is Kimitaka. He is, like many of the young characters, just a man in his new found youth struggling within himself and socializing with others. Personally, he seemed a little pessimistic, but was still empathetic person. Like most shonen tend to be, Kimitaka is just in need of a push to reach for some goal, and in this case its through some soul searching that he realizes on his own accord that he needed to change. He ends up helping the other characters that become his friends. I really liked him. He seemed pretty normal, not ridiculously talented or extremely strong willed or even unrealistically happy.
Kimitaka meets lots of characters, but the most important would have to be his two new friends and the young girl. Ichikawa Tsubura is a young man in Kimitaka’s class who is on the heavier side. He has some self esteem issues, but is kind, understanding, and considerate. He is a sweetheart, and will go to any extent to help a friend. Kikuchi Hana is another classmate who is stoic and can’t be bothered most of the time. He also has self esteem issues that came about when he began puberty (and led to him losing his dream and even to an eating disorder). He is actually really kind and silly, willing to go any extent to be less pitiable and show gratitude for his friends. Lastly, there is Fujimoto (the tall girl who plays basketball). She is a tall and lanky girl, who also lacks confidence (due to her huge size and soft spoken almost stoic demeanor). Fujimoto is a hard working high school girl, who just wants to be able to be depended on by someone.
I love the art. Again the characters are mostly lanky, but in this case you can see the more ‘shonen’ like tone. What I like most are the really pretty covers on the volumes. They are super colorful and pretty and I really love them. Also, the parts where he dances are really cool.
At first, I thought that maybe this manga was going to be silly. Its weird that the author picked flamenco dancing, and Kimitaka and his friends all seemed to suffer from mostly minor problems (not so much the bullying, but the fact that small problems affected their personal view of themselves heavily). But I realized, that is what made them so sympathetic. We have all probably been there: one point in our lives where we give up because a bunch of small things add up, and we don’t feel like we are enough. And the simplicity of the story line also really helps. Sometimes the simplest plot can be the most touching, especially if its executed well. Here I really like the interactions between the characters. Its refreshing, even though its a pretty dour at times, and I really just want to cheer him on so he can meet that girl head on and with some confidence that their meeting meant a lot to him.
I found it weird, but I really liked this manga. I think this is definitely a favorite of mine. It felt weirdly sad while also very motivational in a not so loud way. Its almost whimsical in a way, while still being more realistic. I don’t know if that made sense, but mostly this just makes me want to work hard, even though things won’t always turn out very well (or even mediocre level of average). I especially feel a simple happiness. I mean, there was one point where he was crying and holding those ridiculously gaudy, red girl shoes. At that moment, I think he realized how much of his life he just let slip because he felt he wasn’t good enough. It was sad, but cute and really moving, but in a simple way.