Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Crimson Hero, vol. 3

The story: Tomoyo's agreed to join the team, so Nobara finally has what she wants -- enough people to play with. Unfortunately, it seems like that's all Nobara cares about as she's ignoring her teammates and completely focused on playing. When Rena has a trip to the nurse's office, Nobara gets a reality check. Meanwhile, Yui, the team captain, has arranged a practice game against Shoei High and Crimson Field must get its act together. Of course, playing isn't free, but Nobara doesn't have any money to spare. When she calls home for funding, she eventually learns of the burden her younger sister must bear. How will Nobara balance the responsibility to her family with her love of volleyball?

Reaction: There was a lot to get through in this volume, including the practice game, Nobara's selfishness and how it affects her sister, and learning that the boys in her dorm are her friends. While the action breaks up the melodrama of Nobara's life, there's a familiar feeling for me when I read this manga. It reminds me of how much more desperate and complicated things seem when you're younger, and Nobara eventually makes a big decision that shows her character growth from her short time living independently. The end of this volume also leaves on a bittersweet moment involving Haibuki and Nobara.

Deep thoughts: According to researcher Geert Hofstede, Japan is a very masculine country, meaning that gender roles are more rigid than they are in feminine countries. I was particularly surprised to read in this volume that in Japan it's customary for women to control the pocketbook. While I was surprised that women are in charge of the accumulation of wealth -- an oft-considered masculine trait -- it was nice to see all of the powerful women in Nobara's family, including her mother and grandmother. In many ways, the ryotei, or fancy family restaurant, has created a matrilineal inheritance, passing along the restaurant to the eldest daughter.

Artwork: Again, this isn't the best art I've seen from Mitsuba Takanashi, but it's certainly better than many mangaka. There are a few more babyish faces here than I'd like, especially since it seems to be inconsistenty applied. There are also a couple of panels where the character appears cross-eyed. It may be the angle or the nature of the profile, but it did look rather awkward.

The verdict: Highly recommended. Out of the first few volumes that I've read thus far, I especially liked this volume. We see a volleyball game, Nobara growing up and the team succeeding in small ways. It's simultaneously reminiscent, motivating and a little emotional, making it perfect for the well-rounded manga reader. Crimson Hero is available int he U.S. from Viz.

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