Monday, September 14, 2009

Crimson Hero, vol. 2

Sorry I didn't have time to post reviews each day this past weekend, but things got a little (unexpectedly) hectic. But, here I am, back to regular posting!

The story: Nobara's found two other players to restart the girls' volleyball team, but they need at least six people to play. Not only that, but the boys' team is making life tough for the girls by calling them names, making it nearly impossible to recruit. Sick of it, Nobara challenges the boys to a game. If the girls score one point against the top-ranked boys, the guys have to lay off them. But, if the boys win, the girls give it up. Will Nobara and the other ladies be able to eke out a point, or are they doomed to lose out to Nobara's dormmates?

Reaction: This was a well-rounded volume, with plenty of action, emotion and even a hint of romance. I loved the plotline involving former junior high volleyball star Tomoyo. She severly injured herself when she was younger, giving up on playing for the past two years. While she's got feelings of inadequacy related to her lack of playing time, Nobara is persistent in her pursuit. I also liked the new characters introduced; they're all different and are determined in their own ways. But, Nobara is the pull for me with her absolute passion for volleyball. She really gives it her all.

Deep thoughts: At the end of the volume, mangaka Mitsuba Takanashi shares the research she did of girls' high school volleyball. She shares an anecdote and does some realistic sketching of a match; it's interesting to read her layman observations. I'm not very well versed in volleyball, so I could relate to Takanashi's viewpoint. And her hard work paid off by adding another valuable layer of depth and realism to this great story.

Artwork: As I've mentioned before, I started reading Crimson Hero midway through its run in Shojo Beat, so it's entertaining to see the characters so young here. There are a couple of mis-steps, like a panel where Nobara's face is squished up, making her look even younger than usual, and all of the similar-looking guys. But, the art is very realistic here with the usual shojo use of screentone and appropriate sparkliness. Lastly, I'm still enjoying the running gag of Nobara being mistaken for a boy -- Takanashi draws her as such a tomboy, both in body type and fashion.

The verdict: Highly recommended. This volume has a lot going for it and I liked the underlying moral to this story, as well as the end scene between Nobara and Tomoyo. It's also refreshing that this shojo manga isn't entirely focused on romance. Crimson Hero is available in the U.S. from Viz.

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