Oct 11, 2020
Bungo (Manga) add (All reviews)
Est (All reviews)
I feel I should prefix this by saying that I’m not a fan of baseball. I think it’s dull to spectate and, despite its prevalence in the medium, I don’t think it’s a great fit for the conventional sports manga formula. Due to the nature of the game, the only players who really receive focus in a match are the catcher, the pitcher, and any particularly notable batsmen. This can have the effect of making the world of the series feel a little small and insular, and it doesn’t feel like it explores the sport as best it could.

The reason I bring this up is because I think Bungo is a very pure example of how to make full use of a sport's strengths to tell an enjoyable story. While I did say that baseball is a poor fit for a conventional sports manga (where the focus is always on the team, the tournament and overcoming all odds together), it functions pretty well as a lens through which to tell a small-scale story about a few key characters and their relationships, and that’s exactly what Bungo does.

So far, Bungo is a relatively small-scale story. Its characters have big aspirations, but the driving force behind the story is definitely the interpersonal relationships of the core cast. I care far more about Bungo’s relationship with Noda than I do about his long-term goals as a player. This might be a turn-off to those who feel that "plot" should take priority above all else, but I actually think that not prioritising plot lends it a level of unpredictability that sports series sometimes lack. Because the relationships are front and centre, the sequence of events doesn't really have to conform to our expectations of a sports series. It can skip large portions of matches (important when portraying a sport like baseball), or even entire matches if it wants, because the matches aren’t as important to the story as the characters are. We’re only really shown what is necessary for the characters, and that results in a story with very little fat, which I think will serve the series well in the long run, as sports series are quite susceptible to bloating, especially as they start to get longer.

Despite being 118 chapters in, I still feel like Bungo is in its very early stages as a story, and that it could be taken in any number of ways from where it is now, so I am incredibly excited for whatever comes next.