Professor Kawato is the new Japanese teacher in the ill-famed Futagotamaga high shool, whose baseball club is composed by thugs and bullies who have been suspended for a year from all school competitions for causing a brawl during an official match. Now that the suspension is over, the only club's members left are interested only in women, smoking and doing nothing until, under professor Kawato guidance, they discover a new dream called Koushien. The road to Koushien is far from easy, as they have to get back in shape, to learn how to play baseball and to win everyone else mistrust, including the principal's and other professor's one, with only a few months available. Sweating and fighting, the baseball club will find his determination and strength, as they proceed towards their dreams, while Kawato's enthusiastic and non-conventional ways slowly change the attitude of everyone near them.
I have to say this manga really surprised me. I enjoyed it a lot more than I thought I would. I can't count the number of times I actually laughed out loud.
Story - The story was one of the better point of this manga. I could never predict what would happen. I would think one thing would happen, but I would end up being completely wrong. The only thing that drove me crazy was how many chapters it took for one game. I also felt the last chapter was a little rushed.
Art - I would have to
say the artwork was my least favorite part of this manga. The art was decent, but not as good as some manga I've read. It was clean though, it wasn't hard to read at all. The art kind of reminded me of Slam Dunk.
Characters - I think all the characters were amazing. I don't know how else to describe it, I really enjoyed every character. There wasn't one that annoyed me, or made me want to punch them. The uniqueness of each character and their personality was refreshing too.
Overall I really enjoyed this manga. I would read it again, and I would recommend it to anyone who is looking for a good sports manga. I like the whole whipping delinquents into shape scenario as well. There were some really good encouraging lessons in this manga as well about not giving up and really believing in yourself and the dreams that you have in your life.
I have seriously been following this manga off and on for about 4 years now (due to scanlation errors, time constraints, etc.), and I felt like that I grew up with these boys and Kawato-sensei....
This serious is what first got me into the sports genre, and I had originally picked it up because the baseball team consisted of a bunch of delinquents! All of the characters were enduring, and the struggles that they overcame were immense.
There were numerous times that I laughed, I yelled at the computer, and my heart couldn't and wouldn't stop pounding as I read through their games.
I actually find
myself incredibly sad to have finished the series; it was great in almost every way possible. And it might have been that I felt a strong connection to these boys, or that it took me so long to finish it, but I actually teared up as I read the last panel.
I encourage anyone to read this manga. Even if you aren't a sports fan or a delinquent fan, you still need to read it. You won't help but to cheer Nigoku on.
Go Nigoku go! Never give up on your dreams!!! ;;;____;;;
Some spoilers for the first 40 chapters of the manga:
Manga comes in many forms, from a realistic slice-to-life to the wildest fantasy, but the sports genre is the one that most frequently treads a path between the real and the fantastical. At first glance, Rookies seems to be an example of the first kind of sports manga, except it actually isn't, as it is a "sports manga that isn't a sports manga".
Rookies is a "sports" and drama manga written and drawn by Masanori Morita between 1998 and 2003. It was serialized in Weekly Shonen Jump and ran for 24 volumes, that is, about 230 chapters.
It also received a live-action television series and even a movie afterwards. Unfortunately, it was only officially released in Japan, Italy and Taiwan, which means the only way to read it in the rest of the world is through *ahem* shady means.
The deliquents main characters are a ragtag group, including Keiichi Aniya, a star pitcher in middle school, Toru Mikoshiba, a fan of baseball that forced by the group to be their gofer, Shuta Sekikawa, known for his speed, Kei Shinjo, a muscular and quiet man, Yuya Okada, the calmest one despite his dreadlocks, Tetsuro Yufune, the chicken of the group, Kiyooki Hiyama, the short-tempered one, Tomochika Wakana, the mood-maker, Taichi Hiratsuka, who thinks very highly of himself and is a life-long friend of Shinobu Imaoka, who is always together with his best friend. Despite the size of the main cast, the author takes his time and develops their relationships and personalities with care. The best confirmation of this is the fact I can remember all of them clearly, as well as their role in the team.
For example, Aniya, the ace of the team, was the leader of the gang and only interested in hooking up with girls, believing it all to be a good life. Also, at the slighest mention of either baseball or the Koshien, he would get physical. This leads the reader to believe that his care for baseball ended a long time before the start of the series, but light is slowly shed on his feelings, through small reactions, for example while he is watching some kids play, and his interactions with Toko Yagi, his childhood friend and future love interest. All of the lead up to the moment he returns to the mound is built to create a profound sense of empathy with the gang leader.
Still, his past is not easily forgotten. The reader, despite the humanity of the character, can't help but feel a bit angry at his earlier attitude. And that's only normal, so normal, in fact, that the author address this quickly, introducing the central pillar of the baseball of Nikogaku: "One for All", in this case, meaning giving it your all for the team. But baseball is a team game and one character only cannot be the focus of a sports manga.
So, Mikoshiba was the weak glorified servant to the rest of them, and this weakness makes him easily relatable. The feeling is further strengthened as the series progresses, when he is chosen to be the captain of the group that used to bully him but became his "partners in crime" and finally crystalized when his past as the "Lord ball-fetcher"is revealed, showing his true passion for baseball and the Koshien dream, despite not having the aptitude for it.
On the other hand, Seikawa and his mohawk are blessed with rare speed, which, at first, was used for crime and petty things, but finds new use when a dream is found. The way this is achieved is traditional: he discovers the truth about the him and sympathizes with his ideals, being also central to converting the rest of the gang, after being attacked by Shinjo.
Who was the strong-arm of the group, responsible mainly for their protection. But, as their members start to reform, he can't help but feel abandoned and lashes out, attacking his friends, which obviously paints him as the villain. But, instead of being thrown to out field, the author brings him back, telling a story of a comeback of friends and dreams, as he eventually becomes the "shield" of the team, partially because of Kawato, the protagonist of the manga.
I already talked a lot about Rookies, but almost nothing about its dreamer and goofy protagonist, Koichi Kawato. Very much like his students, he is seen as a rebel, because of his profound innocence, instead of violence. This is evident from the start: he wears white clothing, while the rest of the teachers wear black. And is further clarified when Kawato disposes of a tie, saying it creates a barrier between teachers and students.
Another central point of the protagonist is his tendency to get involved with problems around him, which is also shown in the very first chapter. During the course of the series, Kawato helps a student disillusioned with the world surrounding him, a teacher that "only teaches in classrooms" and even the principal and his hate for the baseball club. Always with the phrase "Glitter into your dreams, Flutter into tomorrow" as a guiding light.
This phrase is the center piece of the philosophy, even if a childish one at that, behind the philosophy of the manga. It is pure innocence, that everyone should have a dream and work their hardest to achieve it, but it is an innocence that is easy to get behind. Differently from most series with a similar theme, Rookies never shies away from its core, sticking with it through hell, but, at the same time, portraying it with care and realism.
I have written a lot about Rookies, but still haven't explained my initial statement: "a sports manga that is not a sports manga". Most manga of this genre talk about dreams and the like, however the main focus is always the Sport itself. On the other hand, Rookies is the exact opposite: the sport is merely the way to the dream. It could have just as easily been a soccer or basketball manga and the message would still be the same, whereas Hajime no Ippo would be intrinsically if it was about a Sport that is not boxing. As a result, Rookies would be better defined as a manga about dreams, but in a realistic way.
Which, likewise, calls for traditional paneling and a realistic art style. Panel-wise, everything is by the books, except Kawato, who is the only character that ignores the borders between the panels, making his status as the outsider visual. While the art itself, even in the most comedic moments, is faithful to reality, creating the impression that this story could happen, strengthening its impact.
One last detail that sets Rookies apart is its comedic sense, with both serious and stupid humor. The first kind comes from the crazy plays the team makes and how serious they act around it, such as the "Meow" batting by Yufune, in which he meows and, as a result, manages to bat even the fastest ball. On the other hand, the stupid side of the comedy comes mostly from Kawato and his carelessness and innocence, such as the time he takes off his pants in the middle of class. The comedic scenes make nice breaks between the heavier stuff and even in the middle of a game, without breaking the tension, surprisingly enough.
As a whole, Rookies is as impressive as it is motivating, which is to say a lot. Much like Kawato's teaching, there never is a dull moment in between practice, matches, explorations of human relations and education, as well as literary quotes and blatant innocence. After reading it, I can't help but feel hopeful, for the future and for others, as everyone, even the most wild delinquents can be good persons.
Baseball is a much loved sport in both the USA and Japan, and to a lesser degree in other countries. But Japan knows how to glorify this fascinating sport with a whole bunch of incredibly cool baseball anime, and even a few manga. Let's take a look at baseball anime through history!