Hiro has two loves: baseball and porn. But due to an elbow injury he gives up baseball choosing a school with no baseball team. His childhood friend Hikari attends a different school with baseball ace Hideo and the two wish Hiro had not given up baseball. Hiro joins the soccer team but meets Haruka, a very clumsy girl, who is manager of the unofficial baseball club. When the soccer team challenges the baseball club to a game, with hopes of humiliating them, the baseball club nearly loses until Hiro, disgusted by the soccer team`s arrogance, switches to the baseball club.
Adachi Mitsuru's "H2" is a delightful and simple tale of two young men finding their place in the game of baseball. It is also a testament to why the sports genre is one of the most powerful in storytelling.
Known for his work on "Touch", "Katsu", and more recently, "Cross Game", Adachi Mitsuru has rightfully earned his place as one of manga's most influential artists. People may complain that his stories are merely copy-pasted from one another (just how many baseball manga has he created so far?) but there is a reason for why he rarely strays from the usual: nobody else can combine the
slice-of-life and sports genres as elegantly as he can. H2 is just another reason why the Adachi Mitsuru brand of storytelling is so damn successful.
The story follows the rivalry between ace pitcher Kunimi Hiro and his best friend, Tachibana Hideo. After receiving a medical diagnosis and realising that his shoulder is about to break, Hiro begrudgingly gives up on pitching and moves to a high school without a baseball team. A sudden turn of events brings back his interest in the sport, and a story in the newspaper reveals that the doctor who made him give up on playing was recently arrested for being unlicensed. Hiro's shoulder had no problems to begin with-- he can pitch again without worry. Rather than transfer away to another school, he decides to turn Senkawa's weak baseball club into a full-fledged team, resolved to meet Hideo in the Koshien.
The real battle is not in the sport itself, however. The girl who Hiro loves is also Hideo's girlfriend, and the three of them all know it. While Hideo trusts Hiro enough to not cross a line, Hiro still regrets not falling for her earlier. As childhood friends, weren't Hiro and Hikari the two that were meant for each other... ?
Where H2 succeeds most is in its characterisation. The two players, as talented as they are, are never defined by the age old format of 'good guy vs. bad guy'. Both of them are inherently flawed people. The relationship between Hiro and Hideo feels natural and believable, and their skill in the sport is never justified on the basis of superhuman ability and secret moves. Even characters that are initially antagonistic (Kine) are developed into likeable characters by the end of the story. One of the hardest things to accomplish when writing a character is to turn an enemy into a friend, but Adachi goes a step further by making this development feel natural, too.
Considering the massive size of the cast (dozens of players per team, and many more in between), it isn't a surprise that some of them are overlooked. Several members of Hiro's team are sadly forgotten as soon as their story arc has ended. Fortunately, the matches are kept interesting as each opposing team is given a distinct personality. In the case of Senkawa's main rival, Eikyo, the opposing coach and starting pitcher provide a conflict that cleverly contrasts the nature of Hiro's pitching. You grow to despise Eiyko over time - you want them to lose, you want them to fail and eat the dirt. There is an actual reason to care about the matches beyond the usual "protagonist-dude must win".
There is a sense of suspense to each match that is so rare in other sports manga. Matches will be lost when you fully expect them to win, and matches will be won when you are prepared for a loss. You cannot ever fully predict what will happen. Adachi carefully foreshadows and places red herrings throughout the manga, though never enough to result in a sudden plot twist.
H2 also has a... unique sense of humour. Many times the characters will break the fourth wall (i.e. complaining about only being given one panel to talk) and Adachi will often make references to his previous works and his current state of mind. He even made himself a character in the story, which is... utterly bizarre. The most hilarious moment in the entire story occurs as Hiro mentions his perfect vision, then squints into the lazy blobs drawn in the stands and makes a shocked face. Yeah, the author actually made fun of his own artwork. The self-deprecation is comedy gold.
The artwork of H2 is simplistic yet graceful. The mute panels of the scenery effectively immerse the reader in the setting, and the story is carefully told through imagery rather than infodump. Even during the dramatic scenes, the mangaka respects the audience's intelligence by allowing them to understand what happened through the artwork. The action scenes during the baseball matches are also made easy for the eye to follow as a result of the simplistic art style. There is never a moment where you must pause and think "Huh, how did that happen?"
At 34 volumes long, H2 is the longest manga I have ever read. But it almost felt as if it was too short. There are no filler arcs, no unnecessary chapters. Every panel in the story has a meaning and purpose, whether it be to develop the characters or to simply make the reader laugh. My only complaint is that it all ended too suddenly. Considering how perfectly-paced the entire manga was, it's a bit strange that everything was wrapped up in a single chapter. It needed a few more than that, or better yet, an entire volume. We are left with assumptions rather than conclusions. It shouldn't have been that way.
Regardless of whether you are interested in the sports and slice-of-life genres, H2 is a must-read. It is an absolute joy to read and perfectly harmonises entertainment with quality. I had to purposely slow myself down because I didn't want the story to end, and that is perhaps the greatest compliment I can give to a manga. Adachi Mitsuru can confidently continue to do what he does best-- delight his audience.
I recently finished this manga only a few hours ago and really wanted to write a review immediately after finishing it up, as so it would be completely fresh in my mind. However, after reading it through, I could not help but to dedicate a few hours to think over what I had just read. Let me begin by saying that I had not read any of Adachi Mitsuru's works and after hearing positive things about this manga-ka, decided to go for one of his completed, yet somewhat recent works, H2. With Touch receiving many of the accolades of being a great
story way ahead of its time, H2 is a beautiful example of the exquisite style that that Adachi is able to create in his stories, a style which blends sports and a true, emotional romance story into one.
Don't let the surface of the story fool you. Even though it's prominently a baseball themed sport story, what drives the plot is the romance. There are two integral parts of the story in H2. One is the baseball aspect. Hiro Kunimi and Hideo Tachibana are childhood friends who met in middle school and as customary of close friends in these situations, both of them end up going to different high schools. Hiro is your ace pitcher while Hideo is your powerful clean-up batter. One aspect of the story depicts the relationship between these two characters and the friendship shared between two, which is tested on the baseball field as both vie incessantly to win the championship.
However, as I've stated previously, although the baseball aspect of the story is important, it would be nothing without the romance. And this is where I believe Adachi truly shines. He is able to flawlessly weave in an extremely strong and touching romance story within the sports world. Normally, you encounter sports stories with simple comedy and hints of romance that is never developed. However, Adachi's stories are unique in that romance takes center stage prominently in many instances. So a love square is seen between Hiro, Hideo, their childhood friend Hikari Amamiya and Hiro's baseball team manager, Haruka Koga. Adachi not only uses romance strongly in his story, but masterfully interweaves it with baseball.
A point to argue about is the art style Adachi implements in his works. While not the most attractive of styles, it does get the job done. It's not detailed and not pretty. A lot of the minor characters (and even some of the major ones) look oddly similar within the story. This is also the case within Adachi's different works, as characters from one manga look very similar to H2's. However, because his art style is simple, its not overly complicated and is extremely easy to follow, which is very nice when reading through the baseball games. You actually know what's going on in every panel.
Though the focus of the romance sports story is mainly between the four aforementioned characters, Adachi has introduced a very adequate set of minor characters (again, a ton who looks the same) to not only develop the main characters, but truly helps them shine. There are a lot of unique situations that occur which makes the romance square so much more interesting between the four. Aside from all of the minor characters, Adachi has also done well in developing the two main protagonists in Hiro and Hideo. Even though the personality of both never really undergoes a drastic overhaul, you still get a sense of a truly different character from what was seen in chapter one in comparison to what we end up with in chapter 338.
With all of these basic elements set up, it was up to Adachi to bring them all together and ultimately produce something enjoyable. And let me be the first one to say that when I tentatively picked up this manga in the beginning, after reading the first bunch of chapters, I was easily hooked. I spent hours at home - and during work in the spare time - to see what happens. Who do Hiro and Hideo ultimately end up with? Who are going to win the championships? And the beauty of it all is that just when you think you have everything all figured out, Adachi literally throws you a curveball that you wouldn't be expecting, and everything is thrown into disarray once again, captivating you all over again as well.
There are a few downsides to this story. One in particular is the completely abrupt ending. Don't mistake that with the fact that there isn't a complete ending, because there is one. It's just the most abrupt thing in the world, that it makes you wonder after spending 337 chapters building up the suspense to the final showdown between Hiro and Hideo - and ultimately, who ends up with whom - the author suddenly got bored and wanted to end things quickly. Either that or he became busy with his other manga works. It really puts a damper on things.
Adachi writes about Hiro's and Hideo's three years in high school baseball, so you have a great sense of the years flying by and you literally get to watch them develop as baseball players, and develop romantic relationships with their respective ladies. And just when you think you have the pairs matched up correctly, little emotional situations changes things, for better or for worse. I guess what I'm trying to say here is that if you are sports fan, and have been dying to have something where sports and romance meet in earnest, H2 will be right down your alley. Alternatively, if you're a simple romance fan, chances are H2 will also be something that will satisfy your needs. Adachi truly brings you on a rollercoaster of emotions following the lives of these young adults.
It is difficult to succinctly express the brilliance of H2. On the surface, H2 appears to be yet another generic entry in the overcrowded list of high school baseball manga. Yet, it slowly reveals itself to be so much more than just that - featuring both breadth and depth in its characterization, powerful character dynamics, and a range of emotionally resonant arcs - all of which are bolstered by its impeccable sense of style.
As with any Adachi work, H2 differentiates itself with its bizarre sense of humor. A master of comedy, Adachi employs a wide repertoire of tools to create many hilarious moments. He constantly
has his characters break the fourth wall, uses many self-aware puns and double entendres, and is always looking for the next opportunity to insert a shameless advert for his other works - going as far as to dedicate an entire chapter to a ‘Adachi Mitsuru’ gallery exhibit! And that doesn’t even cover a fraction of what he does. It is impossible to capture in words just how hilarious this manga is - I have easily laughed more at the silly little jokes that are littered throughout the series than other series which label themselves as a comedy. H2 is certainly one of the most entertaining series out there.
But H2 is not all style. Whilst the unique humor is undoubtedly one of the series’ strongests suits, it would be a folly to deem it ‘style over substance’ - it certainly does excel in other aspects as well. H2 features a very large cast of characters - easily one of the widest out of the series I have read. Yet, there is never a single character that is neglected. Each character receives due development and growth, and each of their individual arcs is a joy to read. This extends to the entire cast - including even characters which you will initially hate, or characters which seem to exist only for the sake of comic relief.
For instance, one of the highest points in the entire manga comes from the culmination of a side character’s growth throughout the series. Most will initially dislike said character, but his true character and motivations are slowly built up and revealed throughout the series, resulting in a extremely well developed and grown person that is completely different from the shallow ass that he seemed to be. It is also worthwhile to note that this isn’t a sudden shift or turn in character. Unlike some series which attempt to give their casts, especially villains, depth through sudden reveals or extreme shifts in character, the process here is a very slow and subtle one. We are given small hints frequently about what our characters truly feel, and observant readers will be able to tell what a character is really thinking - even if that contradicts what they openly say. Humans are complex creatures who aren’t always completely honest - and H2 does an exceptional job of capturing that. Beyond anything, H2 feels human - and that’s what makes it great.
The side characters aren’t the only ones that shine - the main plot is exceedingly well done as well. What is is about? Well, at the simplest level, it is a love triangle. But leaving it at just that depicts a rather inaccurate picture. It isn’t the typical love triangle wherein two love interests vye for the affections of the protagonist. Instead, it is one between three very close friends, and one wherein there is already a pre-established relationship. It is not a story about courtship, but a story that deals with many interesting themes. It is difficult to go into much detail without spoiling things, but it is one that explores facets of growing up and the potentially painful side of friendship and relationships.
H2 is also a stellar sports series in its own right. Matches are often filled with tension, results are often difficult to predict, and opposing rivals are often very well fleshed out. It has all the great markings of a sports series, but frankly, in my personal opinion, that takes a back seat to what I deem to be the true meat of the series - the complex and highly captivating character dynamics and development. Baseball serves as the vessel which Adachi uses to tell a greater story, serving to unite the characters through their shared passion and love for the sport. It is used to bring out who they are and what they stand for. To me, that is much more exciting when compared to seeing a great play or scenes filled with tension. That is not to say that H2 isn’t good in the sports department - it clearly holds its own. My point is that this is a series that surpasses and goes past the line where most others stop at - being much more than simply a sport manga. This is why I think that you can and should read this even if sport manga isn’t your thing - it is a very different experience that I think almost anyone can enjoy.
To conclude, I think that H2 is a masterpiece. Any follower of Adachi’s works knows about his unique style - his ability to effortlessly use sports to tell a fun and enjoyable tale that is layers deep at the same time. This is his longest work - spanning a total of 34 volumes. It has given him the space to truly develop the story to its fullest, filling it with all sorts of ridiculous little jokes and using it to create a collection of masterful and strong character arcs that fit together seamlessly. That is why it is in my opinion his strongest work, and one that any Adachi fan will enjoy. If this is your first exposure into the world of Adachi, you should definitely give it a go as well - there is nothing like the Adachi brand of storytelling in manga.
Out of Adachi's 3 big baseball mangas, H2 is the worst.
The flaws include bad pacing, and an unrewarding ending after beign dragged over 300 chapters. This is a tricky read, like some of Adachi's other works it has a drop of quallity near the end, and obviously some very bad humor and filler pages.
The pros are that the side characters are nice and had some nice back story, even if they are forgetten after their respective arcs.
But the biggest flaw is that you feel like Hiro and Hideo don't evolve a lot during the manga, you don't see a real development, Hikari and Haruka you
can see some development, but Hikari is just near the end.
So the final judgement is 6, by no means this is a bad manga, but when you have Cross Game this is not a read i would recommend.