Crimson Hero Vol. #01 (Mania.com)

By:Jarred Pine
Review Date: Saturday, December 17, 2005
Release Date: Thursday, December 01, 2005



Creative Talent
Writer/Artist:Mitsuba Takanashi
Translated by:Naoko Amemiya
Adapted by:

What They Say
Nobara's family wants her to inherit the role of "young mistress," serving rich patrons at her family's old-fashioned Japanese restaurant. No thanks! When Nobara transfers to Crimson Field High School, known for its top-notch volleyball team, it turns out that her mother will stoop to dirty tricks to keep her off the court. With assistance from her feisty Aunt Momoko, who's got some connections at Crimson Field, Nobara decides to start playing offense.

The Review
In a market where sports titles are dominated by shounen manga, the shoujo volleyball manga Crimson Hero presents a different yet just as enjoyable take on the genre.

Packaging:
VIZ uses the original cover artwork from the Japanese tankoubon release, adding their own graphical elements that I believe flow with the cover much better than the JP tank. There is a lot of pink, but the colors definitely are bright and shiny. The logo has a nice volleyball graphic integrated with it. The “Shojo Beat Manga” imprint sticks out a bit much and I couldn’t help but think that there must be a better way to stylishly mix that in with the volume number and artist swoosh.

The print reproduction is good, with some smaller distortion or fading problems, and it looks actually slightly better than their Shonen Jump counterparts. Unfortunately, there are no color pages. Inside there are a few freetalk bits in the margins and some illustrated comments on how Takanashi did her volleyball research in the back of the book.

Art:
Takanashi’s artwork is very lush and warm, flowing all over the page in interesting panel alignments and screen tones. What I really appreciate most about her work is how she is able to perfectly get emotions across Nobara’s face. Slight changes in the eyes, lips, cheeks, and there are an array of different expressions that shine on her face. The boys are pretty, some effeminate, with wide shoulders. All the characters have a lot of style in their clothing and hair that helps distinguish their personalities. There is a decent amount of background work, but when it’s not there the layout of the panels keeps everything flowing without becoming a distraction to follow.

Text/SFX:
SFX are translated and retouched very cleanly. I really enjoyed the translation as I felt it captured each of the characters’ personalities, especially the mother with her very proper and refined speech. Grades also remain in the Japanese school system style rather than changing to Freshman, Sophomore, etc.

Contents (Watch out spoilers ahead):
To call Crimson Hero a volleyball manga would only begin to scratch the surface of this high school drama. The story so far is less about on the court volleyball action, but rather the love for the game of volleyball is what drives 15-year-old Nobara Sumiyoshi, the future seventh generation “young mistress” of the Seiryu Ryotei--which is a traditional Japanese dining establishment. Nobara wants nothing to do with being the young mistress. She’s not graceful or refined, but rather is a tomboy who would rather get sweaty and rough it up on the courts. The hostess business is better left to her younger, more elegant sister Souka. Nobara wants to compete, not serve tea and act ceremonial.

Nobara enrolls in Crimson Field Private High School, who she was led to believe boasted one of the top volleyball teams in the nation. However, that notoriety belonged only to the boys’ team. To make matters worse, soon after her registration the girls’ volleyball program was shut down for lack of participation and other outside influences. Determined to not give up, Nobara tries to recruit a new girls’ team and moves out of her house to get away from her overbearing mother. Her Aunt Momoko, a sultry and free-spirited nurse at her school who is the black sheep of the family, decides to pay for her living expenses as long as Nobara takes over the job as dorm mother at the Crimson Field volleyball dormitory--currently inhabited by members of the boys’ team. With the pressures of doing chores for the four boys as well as trying to recruit reluctant girls for the new team, Nobara is put through the ringer and it is her will to create a volleyball team, where she can play the game she loves, that will keep her on her feet and moving forward.

Going into this title, I had a few concerns about the possible direction of the story relying on gimmicks, like Nobara cross-dressing to join the boys’ team, or becoming a trite dormitory romantic comedy that was a reverse harem of sorts. So far I am extremely happy that Mitsuba Takanashi has shattered my preconceptions and created quite an enjoyable story featuring a protagonist that I could instantly relate with and root for. Nobara’s punk attitude and perseverance is not unlike a lot of shounen sports manga underdogs. There are plenty of obstacles and hurdles in the way of her dream, and it is her will to keep pushing through them that makes this title so enjoyable to read.

The irony of Nobara’s situation is that she may refuse to be the young hostess at her mother’s ryotei, but her position now has become the “host” at the boys’ dormitory. She cooks their meals, does their laundry, and cleans the rooms, with varying degrees of success. She couldn’t be a ryotei hostess and play volleyball, but maybe by being dorm mother her dream will come true. I was a bit annoyed with the boys of the dormitory at first, as their attitudes were quite bratty and obnoxious. Thankfully, as the story progresses a couple of the boys begin to change and their personalities underneath the rough exteriors begin to shine through. There are also the obvious hints at love triangles ahead, which will no doubt complicate Nobara’s life and quest as she is still completely clueless and uninterested in boys at the moment--only volleyball!!

Comments
While it is yet to be determined if Crimson Hero will be as volleyball-centric as say Attack No. 1--the granddaddy of all shoujo sports manga--so far Mitsuba Takanashi seems to have all the right pieces in place to create a solid drama with the punk-ish tomboy Nobara in the middle of it all. She’s fighting against the pressures of family tradition and smashing the state of lady-like elegance to see her own dreams come true with playing volleyball. The story has its angst, but so far it is not the result of complicated love triangles or other relationship problems--most likely that will follow pretty soon. Nobara’s fresh and kinetic personality along with her perseverance, which is illustrated wonderfully by Takanashi, makes it easy to root for her right from the start. I admire her character and I cannot wait to see her complete her dreams of playing volleyball at Crimson Field High.



Mania Grade: A-
Art Rating: B+
Packaging Rating: B
Text/Translatin Rating: A-
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Released By: Viz Media
MSRP: 8.99
Pages: 192
ISBN: 1-4215-0140-6
Size: B6
Orientation: Right to Left