While sports manga is immensely popular in Japan, otaku here just can’t seem to warm up to it. This both saddens and puzzles me. Especially considering the wonderful SJ titles released here like the legendary Slam Dunk and the hilarious Eyeshield 21. The only reason I can guess as to why these series aren’t super popular is otaku may have some misconceptions about sports manga. And with the lacrosse manga Cross Manage starting in SJ Alpha, I want to dispel these myths. In my SUPER IMPORTANT OPINION, everyone should give sports manga a chance!
Misconception: You have to like sports to like sports manga.
WRONG: Manga is really about characters! Most stories are character driven, and the fun comes from watching them grow and try to overcome the many obstacles in their way. These obstacles may be on the field or off. In fact, some of the best stories have nothing to do with the games, like in Slam Dunk when Sakuragi’s delinquent past comes back to haunt him and threatens his status on the team.
Misconception: You have to know something about the sport to like the manga.
WRONG: That’s one of the greatest things about sports manga—it teaches you all about the sport. And little by little, so won’t feel bogged down by too much information. You’ll learn right alongside the characters all the way from the basics, up to the finer points. Even if you know a lot about the sport, chances are you’ll still learn something.
Misconception: Learning about sports will be boring.
WRONG: This is manga, people! It’s larger than life! It has outrageous characters, super moves, outlandish scenarios, humor, drama, love, etc. Although some sports manga like Slam Dunk play it more serious, others like Eyeshield 21 are quite hilarious! Regardless, this is one of those rare instances, where learning actually can be fun.
Misconception: It’s just going to be a bunch of games.
WRONG: In most sports manga, there are a lot stories that take place outside of the game. In fact, that’s often how you get to know the characters. You get to see their lives and what drives them to want to compete. Sometimes there are sizable story arcs where they’re not playing the game at all, like in Eyeshield 21 where they go to America to train by running from Houston to Los Angeles!
Misconception: All the games are going to be serious.
WRONG: In some manga, there’s often quite a bit of humor in the games. I’ve literally laughed out loud at some of Sakuragi’s in-game antics in Slam Dunk. And some of the funniest moments in Eyeshield 21 come from the games.
Misconception: I’m afraid if I start reading them, I’ll start to like sports and turn into a super buff dude-bro.
NOT WRONG: That could happen! But it’s entirely unlikely, and even if you’re a dude-bro, you can still love manga!
So give sports manga a chance! You may discover some great manga you’ve been ignoring. And give Cross Manage a chance when it starts in SJ Alpha! I don’t know anything about lacrosse, but I’m looking forward to learning!
URIAN BROWN’S SJ Sports Manga Breakdown:
Eyeshield 21: Super wacky, and really funny! Everybody has some kind of super move, the teams have hilarious names (Deimon Devil Bats! Bando Spiders!), and the games are very intense. Probably the easiest to get into if you really, really, really don’t like sports.
Hikaru no Go: While go is technically not a sport, it’s still competitive. The story’s got a cool twist, as the main character can communicate with a long-dead go master. They develop an interesting student-mentor relationship. Personally, I find games like go and chess to be insanely boring, but I was absolutely riveted by this manga.
Prince of Tennis: A fairly serious sports manga, with some eye candy for the girls. These are some handsome lads! While the tone of the manga is serious, the tennis moves are often quite outlandish, making matches more exciting.
Slam Dunk: A legendary manga. Considered by many to be the greatest sports manga (and for some, just plain manga) ever created. It has a lot of humor, and some funny characters, but gets more serious as the series continues.
Ultimate Muscle: This manga is just plain silly. It takes the wacky nature of professional wrestling and totally goes bananas with it. It has lots of absurd wrestlers, body humor and great gags. Fun stuff!
Whistle: Probably the most straightforward of all the sports manga. The main character is determined to get good at soccer, despite his small size. His crazy optimism is quite infectious.
Cross Manage: You’ll find out Monday when the issue comes out!
by Urian Brown