Dec 23, 2022
If you wanted free criticism on a highly acclaimed artist, look no further than Buzzer Beater (1996-1998).
Buzzer Beater is Takehiko Inoue's 3rd work, following Slam Dunk (1990-1996) and Chameleon Jail (1989-1990). It tells a story about some homeless NYC brat gunning his way through the intergalactic B-ball league for some insane amount of dosh.
It sounds cool in theory and I would imagine that you'd be able to find a way to enjoy it. No problems there.
The real problem with this manga is just how disjointed everything is. From the artwork to the story, all of it lacks any sense of cohesion. It's an intergalactic abject
Let's start with the unimaginative artwork. It's basically more drawing practice for Inoue without the brevity of the linework. In place of the linework is a fully coloured manga, which also sounds cool but lacks the depth from his previous works. The colours felt flat in comparison to the highly detailed panels of his previous works. When Chameleon Jail can look more detailed and stylized in comparison, Buzzer Beater feels like a colouring book.
The story is an incredible mess. You're left with more questions than answers. Even though manga ran for 4 volumes, Inoue still felt the need to be completely serious with this. As serious as Slam Dunk or Vagabond. But not Real, because Buzzer Beater doesn't challenge the human condition.
Basically, Buzzer Beater is Discount Slam Dunk Lite. The homeless NYC brat is the underdog, and his quest is to represent humanity in the intergalactic B-ball league. He magically qualifies, goes through a training arc, and then plays some B-ball. The B-ball happens with hints of weird alien gender identity and questions of character motivation, but that's it. That's the end.
None of the critical questions it asked amounted to anything because of the lack of flesh. The ending amounted to nothing, since the plot twist of the manga is the brat being an alien. And in a story where humanity was trying to prove itself, having an alien singlehandedly cheat the system AND carry the team in OT... what the fuck is this? He undermined the premise and potential of the story by becoming an icon for aspiring humans! That's promoting fraud my guy!!! How creatively bankrupt.
Not only that, the intergalactic B-ball premise isn't finessed in the art style nor story. At first you're lead through some abstract representation of B-ball tryouts, but then things quickly degrade back to realistic depictions of B-ball, court and everything. The most alien things get are basic humanoid with horns. More specifically, the shape of generic horns, generic male body, no hair, and the horns have the same skin texture connected to the rest of the bod. Plain. Unexciting. No mega alien with 6 arms, no 6-legged mega alien, just an unimaginative generic "male" alien.
The other alien that has weird gender vibes is simply a generic male body with longer limbs and duck lips. But then she suddenly screams "I'm a girl!" and then proceeds to explain how she wants to sex everybody in the arena for the rest of the chapter?!?! Make of that what you will. I'm not even going to bother.
You are shown a spaceship only once and the ending shot is one of a clear blue sky. So yeah.
Intergalactic abject failure.
If I had a single criticism for Takehiko Inoue, it'd be that he cannot write good, satisfactory, interesting endings. Buzzer Beater is the worst case so far. Chameleon Jail doesn't count, because Chameleon Jail. In Slam Dunk, it understandably ended with a tonal whiplash. Vagabond is on hiatus until Inoue figures out an ending, and Real?
At the time of writing, the problem with Real's story is that it has no creative direction. Of course, I could easily be refuted much later down the line. But would the ending be good, satisfactory, and interesting? I'm not convinced it would. Not yet, anyways.
But it's not like this criticism matters, right? I'm sure Inoue is at least having fun producing this stuff. Why bother tying things up with neat bowties when you're already that successful? Well... I just want things to be as artistic as they can be. But that's just me.
Buzzer Beater is an unforgettable and painful sting. It has the potential to highlight an artist's inherent foundational flaw. That's something nobody wants. Most certainly not the artist, nor its fans. 1/10.
Until next time.
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