A sports manga about soccer!? Sign me up!
Writer/Artist: Ryuji Gotsubo
What They Say
Elementary school soccer whiz Rakuichi Nagahama drew national attention a few years back with his impressive athletic skills. Now, after disappearing to Italy for three years, Rakuichi reluctantly returns to the remote town where he grew up. The local high school soccer team can't wait to get their hands on the prodigy, despite the fact that he was obviously a failure in Italy. But Rakuichi's not sure he's ready to get back on the field.
Sure, his best friend from elementary school (now a hot babe) can't wait to see him play again... and his childhood rivals are eager to have another go against him... and the entire school is counting on him... but how can Rakuichi live up to their expectations when he's sworn off the sport for good?
Another sports manga, another omnibus edition! The first volume Sasameke is, from what I can tell, an omnibus of the first 2 ½ volumes. A little odd to not just round it up to three volumes but it’s better than a single volume release! The presentation of the material is pretty standard here and not a whole lot of bells and whistles. The beginning of each contained volume starts off with a couple of color pages which is always nice but there just seems to be something missing....that something is inherent in the overall artwork of the series. I was pretty disappointed with the artwork as it never seems to stay on model and the overly smooth features of the character designs made it very tough for me to keep straight who many of the characters were. The series mostly stays on the comedic side of things and the artwork changes in the more extreme circumstances but doesn’t come off as humorous but really ugly instead.
But it’s not all about how pretty or un-pretty the art is right? The story is always key and here the story makes a lot of difference. The plot focus on Rakuichi, a high school student who just moved back to Japan from Italy with a history as a soccer ace. At his school he meets up with his old friends and acquaintances who all, coincidentally, have some level of involvement in the school’s soccer team and want the child prodigy to join the team. For a good portion of the book we don’t really understand what happened to Rakuichi in Italy but we get the gist over time and it adds an interesting character aspect as his motives turn out to be anything but what we expected.
Rakuichi eventually starts playing for the soccer team but remains reluctant and threatens to quit at any moment. This is where the series starts getting really fun! It doesn’t play off the game aspect as well as other series but the new characters introduced are all a bunch of bizarre people that add a lot of interesting personality quirks that make it fun. Matsuri was the real star here for me as he the captain of the soccer team but possibly the strangest out of the bunch. I enjoyed how the team, while extremely disfunctional, were able to get behind Matsuri and work together. It adds to the sports part a lot because it is quite clear that the team probably isn’t going to become a success story over night which is an aspect I always enjoy.
The other really interesting parts of this manga involve Maiko, not so much because she is interesting but because she is totally insane! The omnibus ends with an introduction to Maiko’s mother and it was really fun seeing just how crazy everyone is. That I thought was the real strength here; the soccer games are good enough in this volume and the artwork was not to my liking, but all the characters are extremely unique and bring a lot to the table that is very fun because of the sheer craziness that surrounds them.
Getting past my issues with the art and the extremely cluttered panel text, Sasameke turns out to be pretty entertaining because of the characters. This isn’t the kind of sports manga like Cross Game or Eyeshield21 where the actual sports plays a lot in the foreground with the characters. Soccer does play a prominent role but is simply more of a backdrop for events to play out in a character driven story. More comedy than drama, I really enjoyed it even if it isn’t the greatest overall.