Smash! is about two childhood friends (Shouta and Miwa) who share a common love for Badminton. Miwa, who's in love with Shouta, tries to persuade Shouta to apply to the same badminton school as her but the latter being of a carefree, easy-going and dense nature, brushes her away and states that he only plays badminton for fun.
However, Shouta's perspective of badminton quickly changes after a fateful encounter with Yuuhi (a mute girl). In his search for his badminton goddess Yuuhi, Shouta met Anan and thereafter, decides that he's going to pursue badminton more seriously...
Romantic subplot, is a term you some may be familiar with. The manga, to me appear to have the sports themes as the sub plot. It seemed like the mangaka was trying to write a romance story line and a sport story line at the same time. As a reader I felt that the "gears" in my reading were going up and down as the story transferred between the romance aspect to the sports aspect of the story line. At one moment you are focused on the main character improving himself and then having another romantic interlude.
If i go in depth I would almost
say this a series of romantic one-shots cobbled together through a story about badminton. In some cases in the beginning is seemed almost too much romance and toward the end almost too much sports.
One thing I will never understand is the random appearance of the main character's sister in one page of the manga yet through out the story she is never once mentioned before or after that page. In context it is served as a fan service nothing more. It also feels like the last volume was rushed, even the last chapter, however it was a decent enough ending, quite surprising too considering.
If you like sports or romances skip it. If you like sports and romances, read it.
Romantic sports mangas are hard to find. Generally it is either a sports manga with a very mild romantic sub-plot, or a romance manga with sports as a backdrop. One of the only other mangas I have read that actually tried to combine both was Suzuka, so there will be some comparisions between the two.
The story has a good flow to it and progresses well. When the MC improves, a few times the author uses the same explanations as to why he did, so it feels like a cop-out. However,
overall almost every characters improvements feel natural. This manga is the first I have ever read to blend the romance almost seamlessly. The author of Suzuka, in comparison, seemed to write two seperate mangas and tried to fit them together. In the second half of Smash! the author does create unnecessary drama when everything is going too smoothly for the romance. They also change focus onto the supporting characters when the MC resolves his romance. The ending had a few things (which are spoilers) happen, which cheapen the end, but it is a solid conclusion nonetheless.
The art is nothing to write home for, but it is pretty good. The panel layout is nice. The action does have its intense moments and nothing stood out as poorly drawn. Almost all the characters are distinct from each other without needing an "identifier".
I really loved some characters, and I didn't dislike any of them. However there were quite a few out of character moments from multiple characters. At some points people will say that certain characters changed, but it really doesn't read or feel that way. Also, some characters seemed created to be forgotten, even in the "main" cast.
It doesn't have the intensity of haikyuu!, or the action of kuroko no basuke. The romance doesn't have the drama of kimi no irumachi, nor the constant cuteness of horimiya. But by combining the two it is able to constantly catch your attention, making you want to know what is coming next.
There will always be better things out there, but I would recommend this one without hesitation. For everything it does wrong, it does three right. I never felt like I wanted to stop reading, and a few times I couldn't wait to read what was coming next.
Saki Kaori's Smash! is one of my favorite manga series because it meshes the sport of badminton, one that is near and dear to my heart, with a realistic and charming romance story. While I enjoyed Prince of Tennis's unbelievable exaggeration of tennis mechanics and the godly bishie's that populated the series, Smash! strays much closer to the realm of shoujo than Prince of Tennis ever dares to, and it does so in an extremely down-to-earth fashion.
The story, in terms of the main character Shouta, is one of love; both for the sport of badminton as well as for his 'badminton goddess' Yuuhi, a
young badminton prodigy who, despite her age, is about to rile up a storm on the international badminton stage. Shouta's and Yuuhi's great respect and admiration for each other leads to a budding and beautiful romance. Yuuhi's muteness forces her to convey her feelings for Shouta in ways other than speech, and as a result she is one of the most innocent and sincere heroines I have ever seen in a manga.
Other important characters include Anan, Shouta's proud and skilled doubles partner who always seems to possess a scowl on his face. Then there is Miwa, Shouta's childhood friend who initially pushed him to get better at badminton before Yuuhi came along. In terms of development, Miwa and Anan are the characters who change the most throughout the series. Shouta's single-mindedness to catch up to Yuuhi doesn't leave much room for development on his part, and in more recent chapters, he is left to deal with the growing harem of girls that vie for his attention.
On that note, Shouta is not a player-type personality. He is wholly devoted to Yuuhi and is an all-around nice guy, whose intense focus, willingness to work hard, and position as the ace of Toujo Daini's badminton team drives many girls absolutely head over heels for him. Thus, his interactions with various girls in the series serves for the occasional comedic reaction as well as romantic angst, which is quite prevalent in this series.
Indeed, Shouta's romance arc begins to take a backseat to Anan's and Miwa's, a pairing that was and still is in the works after many many chapters into the story thus far. Both their personalities bounce off each other quite well thanks to Anan's stubbornness and pride, and yet at the end of the day, one certainly wishes that Miwa will one day finally pierce through that rock-hard facade of Anan's to reveal his caring inner personality.
Smash! does not place a heavy emphasis on the mechanics of badminton. One definitely is not able to learn about the workings, strategies, and rules of the sport through reading this manga and nothing is really explained outright. Emphasis is placed more on the mindset and willpower of the players. We see them go through inner struggles as they practice and compete; they emerge as stronger players. Badminton is used as a device to drive the characters to better themselves as well as their team. There is a strong sense of camaraderie amongst the characters, which is a great thing to watch. No matter what the characters go through, at the very least, they are all tied together by their love of the sport.
The art of the beginning chapters left something to be desired. In the aesthetics department, there really isn't a sport quite like badminton. Illustrating the form and movements of the players accurately took some adjusting on the part of the mangaka, but the art has improved greatly over the course of the series, and now, the subtleties of the players' shots and footwork are conveyed quite accurately. I highly doubt anyone would read this series for its art, however.
Smash!'s potent combination of sports and romance ought to garner a large following. Initially I began reading this series because of my interest in badminton. Now I read it as much for the sports aspect of the manga as the romance aspect of it. Smash!'s portrayal of the landscape that is competitive badminton is as earnest as can be in a sports manga without exaggerating too much. This series really is a great one that will captivate both lovers of sports manga as well as romance fanatics.