Manga-ka: Mitsuba Takanshi
Publisher: Viz Media
Rating: Teen (13+)
Release Date: November 2010
Synopsis: “In an attempt to stop the vicious rumors spreading at Crimson Field High School, Nobara ended her relationship with the boys’ team captain Yushin. But when she runs into Haibuki, a talented boys’ team player who mysteriously left school when he found out about Nobara and Yushin’s romance, Yushin is the first person she calls. Can Nobara and Yushin convince their heartbroken teammate to return to Crimson Field?”
A good sports manga makes it so that the game scenes and character development go hand in hand. As the characters play they are growing and changing and finding out about themselves and others through how they play the game. In this volume of Crimson Hero, the balance is a little off. There’s a lot of the characters interacting, but not enough of them playing volleyball. While character development is never a bad thing, Crimson Hero has always worked best for me when the characters work things out on the court. Any scene where they’re just hanging out slows down the manga.
Since volume one there has been a love triangle between Nobara and two of the best players on the boys’ volleyball team, Yushin and Haibuki. Thirteen volumes later the situation has gotten even more sticky, and Haibuki takes off when he learns that Nobara and Yushin are dating. The Crimson High boy volleyball team is really hurting without Haibuki, so Nobara and Yushin separately decide to track him down and convince him to come back.
Nobara and Yushin have very different methods for trying to bring Haibuki back. Nobara tries (unsuccessfully) to talk him into coming back. Yushin on the other hand decides to convince Haibuki to come back…through the power of volleyball! He basically goes to Haibuki’s new school and plays a one man game of volleyball with Haibuki as the prize.
The scene between Nobara and Haibuki is really well done, but it also stretches on too long. There are lots of nice character moments throughout this book, but often times they drag down the pacing. It’s nice that the characters have other stuff in their lives besides volleyball, but this is a series about playing volleyball and that’s sadly lacking in this volume.
This is why I liked the scene where Yushin goes to Haibuki’s new team and plays his heart out in order to win him back. In it you see just how complex the relationship between the two of them is. They don’t like each other and have never been friends, but they respect each other’s skills and value each other as teammates. It’s great watching Haibuki’s reaction as he realizes just how far Yushin is willing to push himself for his sake. It’s a great scene that manages to marry the sports aspect with the overall plot. I wish there were more like it in this volume, and hopefully future issues will put volleyball back into the front and centre.
Mitsuba Takanshi’s art is good, but just good. Her anatomy is fantastic, which is always important when drawing a story where the characters are athletes. But there’s also a stiffness to her drawings, both in posture and in expression. It’s not as though she has a limited set of expressions, but more like each character has the same set. Nobody has any expressions that are really unique to them, making everyone look kind of bland. In the back of the book there’s a page of fan art from a manga-ka called Noriko Otani (who as far as I can tell doesn’t have any work out in English) and in her one page of fanart she manages to give the characters more physical personality than their original manga-ka ever does.
I do love Takanshi’s character design for Nobara though. Nobara is one of the most butch shojo heroines in a translated manga. She’s not just a tomboy but downright boyish. It’s a nice change of pace to see a heroine who is doesn’t fit the usual feminine model.
While I found this volume to be rather slow, I’m still a big fan of Crimson Hero. I like the characters and I don’t mind spending time with them, I just wish they would get back on the court already.