Crimson Hero Vol 10 by Mitsuba Takanashi Manga Review

Title: Crimson Hero Vol 10

Author: Mitsuba Takanashi

Publisher: Viz

ISBN:  9781421523637

May Contain Spoilers

Now that Nobara knows how Yushin feels about her, she can concentrate on volley ball again.  Since they are keeping the fact that they are a couple under wraps until after the Spring Tournament is over, she has something to work towards.  Nobara wants to win, so she can claim a double victory.  Why, then, does she feel flustered every time Haibuki speaks to her?  Doesn’t she love Yushin?

Aw, why does Mitsuba Takanashi have to go and put a little niggling of doubt into Nobara’s heart?  After all of the effort that she put into winning over Yushin, even making a fool of herself by publically declaring how she felt about him?  Now she’s getting confused whenever Haibuki is around.  He’s the guy who would have treated her like a princess, but she bluntly pushed him away.  I like Haibuki, at least when he’s not being an arrogant jerk and trying to steal kisses from Nobara.  One of the conventions that can be so frustrating about shoujo series is the yo-yo effect as the heroine is torn between two really hot guys.  Just pick one!  Don’t be greedy and go after all of the cute guys!

Nobara also learns a lesson in teamwork.  Again.  When a team doesn’t play as a cohesive unit, they are not as strong as when everyone is on the same page.  Volley ball is a team sport, but when players are out only for their own personal glory,  team dynamics are compromised.  When an entire team is made up of glory hounds who fight to be starting players, they are a fundamentally weaker unit.  Nobara witnesses a practice session of their upcoming opponents, and she’s appalled.  The spirit of team unity doesn’t exist with them, and when players are willing to injury their teammates, Nobara vows that Crimson Field will never lose to the likes of them.  Too bad the team, Aiyu Gakuin, has made it to the semi-finals ten years running! 

Crimson Hero isn’t as fun as Prince of Tennis, but that’s probably because there aren’t as many hot guys.  The series does suffer from some uneven pacing, but overall, it’s a pretty solid title. Like the volley ball, emotions are batted about, usually with some very entertaining results.

Grade: B-

Review copy provided by Viz

The Prince of Tennis Vol 12 by Takeshi Konomi Manga Review

Title:  The Prince of Tennis Vol 12

Author: Takeshi Konomi

Publisher: Viz

ISBN: 9781421503370

May Contain Spoilers

I love this series, and this volume is a great installment of Takeshi Konomi’s highly engaging and intense sports manga. The showdown between Ryoma and the very scary Jin gets underway, and all I can say is “wow!” The art is one of my favorite aspects of the titles, and it just zips and zings with excitement and barely contained fury.  Jin is a physically intimidating individual, and you get such a believable sense of action that you can almost hear the tennis ball thrum off of the racks.  For Ryoma and Jin, this isn’t a game of tennis, but a brutal battle to thoroughly humiliate and dominate the other player.  There is no room here for even a sliver of cowardice, because that tiny spark of fear will be instantly sensed, nurtured, and exploited. 

Jin is like a lithe and sinewy lion,  while Ryoma is like a clever and cunning coyote.  Jin smashes forcefully at the ball, thinking to overpower his smaller opponent, but Ryoma isn’t going to roll over and let Jin close in for the kill.  The match between these two gifted and passionate players was breathtakingly exhilarating.  Both of the boys have something to prove, and they aren’t going to quit until they have achieved the utter annihilation of the other.

While the match between Momo and Sengoku wasn’t anything to sneeze at, it lacked the cut-throat atmosphere of Ryoma and Jin’s confrontation.  I really love the tennis tournaments in PoT, as much for the illustrations as for the changes that always occur between the players.  Both Jin and Ryoma have lessons to learn, about themselves and about each other.  Pure talent will only get you so far in the game, and without a dedication and a love for the sport, true excellence will always be elusive.  I don’t even like tennis, and The Prince of Tennis is fast becoming a favorite read of mine.  When rackets are wielded with the ferocity of swords, both sweat and blood flow, sucking the reader into this impossibly addictive title.

Grade: A

Prince of Tennis Vol 10 by Takeshi Konomi Manga Review

Title:  The Prince of Tennis Vol 10

Author:  Takeshi Konomi

Publisher: Viz

ISBN: 9781421500706

May Contain Spoilers

Oh, goody, another guy to despise!  When Ryoma spends his day off antagonizing the competition,  he steals the thunder from the ruthless Jin Yamabuki.  Jin is trouble with a capital T, and he quickly pushes all of Ryoma’s buttons.  Jin loves picking on everyone, and he’s tough enough to not get his butt kicked by bullying the wrong person.  He and Ryoma quickly come to an understanding – they can’t stand each other, and each is eager to bring the other guy down.  Who will win this war of intimidation?

The scenes with the troublemaking Jin were awesome.  He is going to cause some major problems for Ryoma, and I can’t wait for their tennis match.  Both of them are masters at intimidation, though Jin is willing to injure other people to prove just how strong he is.  Ryoma just thrashes them in a cold-blooded game of tennis.  After being a victim of Jin’s game of manipulation, Ryoma changes tactics and gives back a little of the grief that he’s received from Jin.  Ryoma is much more subtle and calculating when he dishes out a little of the bad attitude that Jin throws his way.  I’m not quite sure who one-upped the other here, but I think that maybe Ryoma has the advantage.  Jin isn’t used to anyone fighting back, and he gets thrown for a loop by Ryoma.

The last half of the book doesn’t deliver as compelling a story.  The Seishun team is training for their next match, with their usual grueling practice methods.  Sadaharu whips up another noxious concoction that nobody wants to drink, and the usual team dynamics are at play.  Tezuka is finally going to play another match, and I hope that it take up more than the few panels given to his previous outing.  I like him, a lot, but with so many other charismatic characters to compete against, I don’t feel that he gets a fair shake when it comes to getting his share of plot time.

Grade: B

Crimson Hero Vol 9 by Mitsuba Takanashi Manga Review

Title:  Crimson Hero Vol 9

Author:  Mitsuba Takanashi

Publisher: Viz

ISBN:  9781421515663

May Contain Spoilers

Oh, my!  What have we here?  Is there finally going to be some progress in Nobara and Yushin’s relationship?  Maybe!  Then again, maybe not.  There was the typical relationship tease, and the shojo fangirl in me was doing a little dance part way into the book.

Nobara has earned a temporary place on the Eagles volleyball team, and they are battling it out against the Sokai team to prove that sheer will and determination can overcome physical disadvantages.  Ryo has been mocked for wanting to be an attacker, all because he hasn’t attained the magical height of more than six feet.  Nobara wasn’t even given the time of day by the arrogant Sokai team, so they both have something to prove.  Athletic ability and heart have more to do with winning or losing than a person’s height or gender, but will they be able to show the haughty Sokai players that there’s more to winning than they think?

Nobara earns herself some much needed self-confidence, both with her playing and with herself.  She learns to deal with the pressure of competing against physically stronger opponents, and even when the Eagles are struggling, she never gives up and doesn’t second guess herself.  That is the best thing she could have learned by heading off on her road trip.  She’s not going to let other players intimidate her, and she’s not going to quit.  She’s learned a killer attack, and she’s going to continue to perfect it, and more importantly, she’s going to go down fighting.  Keeping a positive attitude and staying in the game, even when it seems unlikely that a victory will be gained, is something that Nobara was lacking.

Yushin shows up just in time for the game, and Nobara is able to put her feelings aside and concentrate on the task at hand.  Yushin, on the other hand, is having a tough time dealing with his emotions.  It’s about time he gets to sit in the hot seat and squirm about how he’s feeling.  Now, if I was Nobara, I’m not so sure how I would deal with Yushin’s sudden change of heart, after being so bluntly rejected not so long ago.  It’s a good thing that she is so forgiving.

This volume of Crimson Hero managed to reel me in more than previous installments.  Nobara has a lot to think about, from rivalries on her own team, to trying to keep the peace in the dorm.  Not everyone is going to be happy that Yushin’s attitudes have softened, but will it be enough to cause conflict for the boys volleyball team?  I’m interested in what is going to happen between Haibuki and Yushin, and I think that they aren’t going to stay buddy-buddy for long. Theirs was a contentious friendship to begin with, and Nobara’s presence is not going to make it any friendlier.

Grade:  B

Review copy provided by Viz

The Prince of Tennis Vol 8 & 9 by Takeshi Konomi Manga Review

Title:  The Prince of Tennis Vol 8 & 9

Author: Takeshi Konomi

Publisher: Viz

ISBN: 9781591168539 & 9781591169956

May Contain Spoilers

The  City Tournament continues, and the carefully crafted strategy of St Rudolph’s Hajime seems to really be paying off.  Seishun is on the run, and each player’s weakness is being capitalized on.  When Ryoma is up against the lefty killer, Yuta, even he is on the defensive.  Will Seishun be knocked out of the competition?

Having just returned from a weekend sports competition, I thought it would be fun to sit down with a few volumes of PoT to unwind before real life starts again tomorrow morning.  That first day of work after a show is always kind of rough.  Then I started wondering what would happen if someone from a rival barn was cut-throat enough to  observe each of our weaknesses.  The thought isn’t pretty – there would be baby strollers, umbrellas, and golf carts trundling about the warm-up rings, all with the sole intention of unnerving high strung horses and higher strung riders.  The dust would get kicked up with all of the bucking and spinning, and  riders eating dirt.  I will have to make sure none of our opponents ever discover the wonderfulness of this comic series.

Seishun is down and out when Ryoma has to face the intense Yuta.  Yuta is Fuji’s younger brother, and this guy does not like to be reminded of that fact.  He wants to be acknowledged for his own playing ability, and he has had it up to here being compared to his talented brother.  So determined to be free of his brother’s shadow, Yuta transferred to another school and started taking lessons somewhere else, all so he could craft his skills for his ultimate goal – defeating Shusuke.

First, though, he has to make it through a tough match with Ryoma.  Yuta is lugging around a lot of excess baggage, which is only slowing him down.  He thinks that his burning ambition to defeat Shusuke is giving him an edge, but in truth it’s a drag on his game and worse, his life.  He can’t can’t get over his jealousy of Shusuke and he feels like he’s trapped by his brother’s phenomenal skill.  It’s like he’s only playing the game to get back at Shusuke.  Still, his determination is giving him an incredible energy and has helped him to perfect his lefty killer move.  Does Ryoma have a chance against all of this pent up resentment?  

Grade:  B+

Crimson Hero Vol 8 by Mitsuba Takanashi Manga Review

Title: Crimson Hero Vol 8

Author:  Mitsuba Takanashi

Publisher: Viz

ISBN: 9781421515656

May Contain Spoilers

Nobara has set off on a road trip, and she’s headed to Central Sokai University.  Coach Shima has sent her there to drill with the university’s volleyball team, which is one of the best in Japan.  When she arrives, her greeting is less than encouraging.  The team has no intention of letting a girl train with them, and they quickly dismiss Nobara as nothing but an uppity pain in the rear.  What was Coach Shima thinking, sending her all this way?  Will her journey be in vain?

Of course it won’t be!  What Nobara learns is that Coach Shima’s younger brother, Ryo, is on the CSU team.  Sort of.  While the coach thinks he shows some promise, the rest of the guys diss him because of his small stature.  Ryo wants to play attacker, but he’s too short to play that position on the CSU team!  Now both Nobara and Ryo have something to prove, so the two of them dive headlong into training.  Ryo has been working hard, practicing on a beach volleyball team.  With the support of the other team members, Nobara struggles to push her skills to the next level.  

I didn’t get completely caught up in Nobara’s adventures in this volume.  Some of the events felt a little stale, and new plot points that were tossed in to the story didn’t seem convincing.  Still, I’m a sucker for underdog stories, and it was hard not to be charmed by Ryo’s dusky good looks.  He recognizes that she doesn’t have anyone to confide in, and he tries to impress upon her how important it is to let your guard down enough to make friends. He was so accepting of Nobara and her dreams to play volleyball that I think she should consider giving up on Yushin and just stick with Ryo.   Though it looks like Nobara’s absence has possibly made Yushin’s heart grow fonder?

Grade: B-

Review copy provided by Viz

The Prince of Tennis Vol 7 by Takeshi Konomi Manga Review

Title:  The Prince of Tennis Vol 7

Author: Takeshi Konomi

Publisher: Viz

ISBN:  9781591167877

May Contain Spoilers

The tennis battles continue!  It’s Kaoru and Momo, and Eiji and Shuichiro playing doubles against St Rudolph.  Personally, I didn’t think that a team named after a reindeer with a brightly glowing nose sounded very intimidating, but these guys are good!  They did their homework, and they have developed fool proof strategies to take down Seishun Academy.  There’s always that unpredictable human element that gets tossed into the mix, but it seems that St Rudolph’s manager didn’t take that fully into consideration.  But will the Seishun guys adjust quickly enough to get back into the game?

What I want to know is what the heck was Coach Ryuzaki thinking??  She puts Kaoru and Momo together for a doubles match, but they hate each other!  Merely breathing near each other sets them on edge.  They can’t stop bickering amongst each other, so how can they ever settle down and start playing tennis?  Their fierce rivalry has even the St Rudolph players taken aback.  They came to play tennis, not referee a boxing match.  While Kaoru and Momo never actually came to blows, it got darned tense a few times.  Once again the Seishun team is at a disadvantage because two of their players just can’t put their differences aside and cooperate! They are playing singles on a doubles court again, and things are looking ugly.

Eiji and Shuichiro get along better, and they have their game honed.  Their problem is that St Rudolph manager!  He’s studied their moves, and he’s devised a sure-fire way to win the match.  He did make a tactical error, though, by putting Akazawa in the doubles match against them.  He may have a magic swing that makes the balls look like they are multiplying, but Akazawa’s more of a snake than Kaoru.  Teamwork isn’t a word he’s familiar with, either! All of these athletes and their gianomous egos are getting out of hand.  They need to lose a game or five so their big heads will fit through doorways again.  It’s a good thing that they spend so much time outdoors, so they probably haven’t noticed that they are now a bunch of fatheads.  Eiji’s having some serious concentration issues, though, so I wonder – will Seishun lose the match?

It looks like Ryoma is in for some trouble in the next volume – he’s going to play against a lefty killer!  But he can play with either hand, so maybe this won’t be a big challenge?  Nah, then it would get boring.  Ryoma has to be on the edge of defeat, find his inner strength, and pulverize his opponent.  That is the magic ingredient in PoT.

Grade: B

The Prince of Tennis Vol 6 by Takeshi Konomi Manga Review

Title:  The Prince of Tennis Vol 6

Author:  Takeshi Konomi

Publisher: Viz

ISBN:  9781591164401

May Contain Spoilers

The team is training hard in anticipation of the upcoming City Tournament.  Even Ryoma is showing a new intensity after his match with Tezuka.  He’s all fired up to improve and to stretch his skills, much to his father’s delight.  Will Ryoma’s new enthusiasm carry him to victory in the City Tournament?

Man, the art just keeps getting better in this series.  The book is chock full of attractive, athletic guys, posing in dramatic, eye-catching illustrations.  They sweat and move and attack the ball with a ferocity that borders on obsessive.  The motion is convincing and exciting, and I can’t help bringing it up every time I review this series.  Like the story, the drawings of the characters sizzle with energy and barely contained excitement.  I just love the art.

Ryoma gets to taste a little humble pie in this volume, after his match with Tezuka.  I was disappointed that the match was shown only through fleeting flashbacks.  It had the desired effect that Tezuka was seeking, though, and it’s got both of them full a renewed determination to give their all to the game.  Tezuka is itching to get out there an play with everything he’s got, and he’s been given the all clear to do it.  He’s been chafing at the bit, and he’s been given free rein to get out and bash the ball at his opponents to his heart’s content.  Nursing an injury was obviously a very difficult thing for him to have to endure, and I can hardly wait to read about his matches later in the tournament.

Seishun has breezed through the opening round of the City Tournament, and now I’m worried that they will be overly confident as the matches continue.  There are a couple of teams poised to knock them down a peg or two.  Will they succeed?  All of these guys take tennis very, very seriously, and they are not going to go down without a fight.  Bring it on, St Rudolph!  Seishun doesn’t shy away from any challenge, and it’s going to take more than your cunning and clever manager to derail this team!

Grade:  B