I don’t actually think I’ve read a lot of sports manga. Or… maybe more like… I don’t think I’ve actually completed a lot of sports manga. There’re always the few I can remember off the top of my head, but for most of them I’ve only read a few chapters and then somehow forgot… about… continuing… um…
Well, here’s a sports manga I did manage to complete. HEHEH. Although, I never thought my favourite sports manga would be one on baseball.
Manga: Rookies 「ルーキーズ」
Rookies is a Shonen, sports manga written and illustrated by Morita Masanori. It features high-school baseball. It was published in Weekly Shounen Jump during its original run from 1998 to 2003 with 24 volumes and a total of 233 chapters. It has also been released in France, Italy, as well as Taiwan. The series was adapted into an 11 episode live-action Japanese drama series that was broadcast from April to July 2008, with the series finale in the form of a film premiering in Japanese cinemas a year later on 31st May 2009.
Kawato Koichi is the new Japanese teacher in Futakotamagawa high school. The school’s infamous baseball club is filled with thugs and bullies who’ve been suspended from all school competitions for a year as a result of causing a brawl during an official match. Now that the suspension is over, the remaining club members are only interested in smoking, women and nothing good. Rookies follows the story of amateur teacher, Kawato-sensei, who is faced with the challenge of guiding a high-school baseball club comprised of delinquents on the road to their dream of playing in the Koshien (Japan’s high-school baseball nationals).
WARNING: A little violence and gore in the form of (sometimes) brutal gang fights and beatings. Also some fan-service in the form of panty-shots and the like. But c’mon, what else can you expect from a shonen manga that consists of a bunch of guys in high-school, pfft XD
If you’re looking for an epic teacher-reforming-students manga with an onsen-load of inspiration and shounen-feels,
I admit in the beginning, I was comparing it to Great Teacher Onizuka (GTO) in the way that ‘the students were getting reformed by the teacher’. But even with definite similarities (in all teacher-reform-student-stories), Rookies is something all its own. I can even go as far as to say that I like Rookies more than I do GTO, but that’s just my preference. If you liked GTO, you’d probably really like Rookies too. If you have no idea what Great Teacher Onizuka is, its alright, all you need to know is that its a classic and I’ll probably do a post on it sometime in the future.
For how much I love it and how great it is, Rookies honestly started out pretty slow and took quite awhile to build up. It’s not the kind of shounen manga where it captures your attention right from the start. You’re going to have to keep at it. Had a little bit of trouble following at the beginning due to the fact that I had trouble remembering each character name and their face when they were all introduced at once. It was a little overwhelming while still getting used to the series. The start of Rookies wasn’t amazing in anyway, but still kept enough of my interest for me to continue reading.
After persevering through a number of chapters, watching the team slowly come together under Kawato-sensei got pretty damn exciting and I couldn’t put the manga down even if I wanted to. It just kept getting better and better. You slowly see each individual character making a part the team. Whether they’re encouraging or shouting insults at one another, their team dynamics shine through and you end up cheering them on.
Rookies is a hell lot of fun.
Morita-sensei’s art style isn’t pretty. It’s a realistic style that’s devoid of anything pretty. And since it’s such an old manga, the oddity might not appeal to a number of you. Considering the story though, I think it really fits. The art brings out the realism and how gritty it is. The characters are rugged, tough, dirty-looking high-school students (that don’t look like their age), but the way they’re portrayed is immensely realistic, with their clearly defined quirks and character personalities.
I was never a baseball fan, nor am I going to have any interest in it in the future, but this manga isn’t just about baseball. Even though its considered a ‘sports’ manga, I would have to say that this manga’s focus isn’t on the sport. You do kind of get to know the basics of the sport as the story progresses because the characters themselves have to learn it, but its more like the sport is a catalyst to be able to tell the story and development of the characters, more so than a lot of other sports manga. There’s no out-of-this-world talent (there are talented players though), nor is there crazy skills like inhuman playing or fantastical moves. It’s all very real.
Rookies gets you pumped up like a sports manga should and with a humongous dose of slice-of-life, you cant help but be able to relate to all the characters (even if you’re not a violent, crude baseball-loving-delinquent going for your dreams).
There’s so much more I could say about this manga, but I would probably be repeating almost the exact same things just in more words than necessary, and unfortunately, I’m out of time for the day.
EDIT: I JUST FOUND OUT THERE’S A SPECIAL 233.5 CHAPTER TO COMMEMORATE THE 30TH ANNIVERSARY OF YOUNG JUMP. HELP. I’M GOING TO READ IT NOW. BE STILL, MY KOKORO.
EDIT 2: /INTERNALLY SCREAMS AT THE EXTRA CHAPTER UWAAARGGHHHHHH ALL THE FEELS