I don't really read tons of sport manga, but when I heard that Masashi Kishimoto, the creator of Naruto, would be doing a baseball manga I could not help but wonder how that would all turn out. Well the result is good sport One Shot that sometimes reminds you of Naruto, but still manage to have a life of its own.
If there is one thing in this manga that definitely remind me of Naruto, then it's the art and that's not really a bad thing. I was always a fan of the art style in Naruto and I guess that if both manga are drawn
by the same guy, then it's bound to look alike so there is nothing wrong there in my opinion.
So what that art style give us is a strong emphasis on the character, their facial expression and the way they move. We also get a background that is full of threes and other natural elements mix with building just like in Naruto. Some of the character design look similar too, but not so much that you would think he just took a character from Naruto and put it in Bench.
If I had one bad thing to say it would be that the characters have strange nose and haircut, the haircut I can do with because in most shonen manga the characters have weird haircut, but the nose really are a little weird. I realize he drew them like that on purpose and that he probably just wanted to make the characters look different from those in Naruto, but I can't say I like it. It kind of remind me of the nose of the Who in The Grinch and I never liked those either.
Apart from that minor detail the rest of the One Shot looks great and it's drawn well enough that we don't have any problems figuring what's going on.
Being a One Shot it's sure that Bench will not have the most detailed or complete story, but that does not mean it's not a well-made and interesting tale. As a matter of fact I loved it so much that by the end I wished that it would have been made into a full-fledged manga.
A group of Baseball player that are laughed at by the rest of the team because of their poor performance, but there is more to those young players than what you would expect. It's not the most original setting, but it works. The story is well-developed and picked my interest in more than one way. The flashback here and there reminded me a lot of Naruto, but the tale itself is quite different from Kishimoto's hit manga. Of course you will find a few elements that are shared by all shonen manga, but apart from that Bench is a manga that can stand on its own without looking too much like Naruto.
Not only did I care a lot about the tale by the end of the One Shot, but I also cared about the characters and wanted to know what would happen to them after.That's all because those characters are quite likable. They have goals of their own, strong and different personalities and actually make sense when they talk. Too often you see a manga with characters that are total wuss or that don't face the situation and would rather flee, well that's not the case here.
Even if sometime you can see a little bit of Naruto, Sasuke or other characters from the ninja world in them, they still manage to differentiate themselves from those popular characters and make an impact on their own.
So overall Bench is quite a good manga and even if you can't help but compare it to Kishimoto's other manga you don't really need to because the two of them are different. The art might look alike and some character design too and they are both shonen, but at the end of the day you're reading Bench for what it is, an interesting sport One Shot and not just a manga made by the guy who did Naruto. So for those who are still hesitating, I say read it, you won't regret it.
For more about Bench: http://www.squidoo.com/bench-manga-review