Hi, I'm a figure skater.
This manga is incredible and I can attest to that. (TL;DR at bottom)
It's a simple premise, a journey of Inori's way to an Olympic medal, but that's what makes the story so great. With such a simple plot, there's no limit to what you can do with it if you know and care for the sport. (Which, the author absolutely does, considering nearly everything to do with actual figure skating is factual.) For example, they incorporate actual skating culture into the manga, which unfortunately is a culture of classism and superiority complexes, but the culture also attributes to the plot as well, oftentimes becoming a wall for Inori to climb over. A story about a bullied kid aiming to be the best is nothing new, but nobody has ever done it like the author of Medalist has.
The story is Medalist's strongest point, in my opinion, with how well done and versatile it is.
Now, the art is absolutely something unique, but specifically, the paneling is what I enjoy most. In figure skating competition, you have the whole rink to yourself, and it seems like the author is trying to replicate that feeling of freedom with their use of panels. Characters often break the boxes, sometimes there are no boxes, there's so much dynamic movement that multiple panels are used to not only emphasize the highlight of a trick, but also to show every part of a given trick; it's creative and fun for skaters and non-skaters alike. To me, seeing this paneling felt like standing in an open rink by myself, and I can only hope everyone else gets that same feeling, because I loved it.
The author's expressions are... well, expressive! Extremely so! But it's not a bad thing at all! Sure, the lines can sometimes get scratchy and a little hard to make out in a few cases, but their use of scratchy lines really makes for fun art to look at! The character expressions themselves make me laugh because they're so exaggerated and funny looking. It's amazing how the author can switch between drawing a realistically accurate skate, to adorable characters, to those same adorable characters bawling their eyes out obnoxiously because they're kids. So great!
Oh my god, I honestly don't know where to start. It's amazing.
Inori is your typical lovable underdog, and (in the 6 chapters I've read) she has so much room for development and has even already had some. Her development isn't even cliché, it's actually seeming to be very original and something known only to Inori. She's fun and hilarious with her interactions with everybody, her dedication and drive to skate is so carefully crafted, and her other traits are unique and make her character to be easy loved.
I mentioned clichés before, and, yes, some of the characters do fall into clichés. But, they're not limited to only the cookie cutter mold they were (Or weren't, I don't know the author's characterization process.) molded by, they have good development and reason for falling into a cliché, it's never for no reason.
My favorite part of the review, all the personal sappy bits!
Reading this manga was so much fun, like recognizing technique practice and tricks and *coughs* falling on your ass a lot. But I especially loved seeing the passion the characters had and the passion the author must have in order to put that into them. It's not easy to write a story from the beginning of a sports career, there's so much that goes on under the surface of what regular sports enjoyers see, but this author clearly did their research and made sure that the whole process of figure skating, from getting a coach, to competing for the first time, was as accurate as can be.
Of the sports series I've seen, there isn't much figure skating representation. Yuri on Ice!!! exists and I love it, but that's about it, and it's a sports-romance anime as well. Nothing that's purely figure skating, which is odd considering how popular a sport it is.
I adore Medalist because it's figure skating for figure skating's sake. A child with a passion who chases that for as long as they can, and isn't that what every successful figure skater stared out as? That's what I started out as, and seeing myself in these characters was something I've never felt before. (In the lens of a skater, at least.) Medalist, despite only having read 6 chapters, means a lot to me, personally.
But for the non-skaters, I know that they can love and appreciate this manga as much as I do too. It's given so much care and attention to detail that, you don't have to be a skater to read it. There are explanations for complicated things, enjoyable moments outside of the skating and amazing art as well. It's an experience for everyone.
The story is amazing because the author takes advantage of the freedom they've given themselves by having a simple plot.
The art is unique and extremely fun to look at in every way.
The characterization breaks expectations and gives a reason to appreciate almost all the characters.
My enjoyment is very biased because of my history, but this manga is very easily enjoyed by others who don't share that history.
Thanks for reading if you did! I really hope this is all concise and easy to understand, but I just had so much to say about Medalist T—T