Real 1Posted: April 10, 2009
This series is amazing. Hands down. The third volume was sort of a bad place to start, because it seems like the best thing that it has going for it is the friendship between Nomiya and Kiyoharu. Both are just guys that like basketball, and I loved that first chapter where Nomiya joins Kiyoharu for a pickup game and realizes that Kiyoharu is the equal of any of the rather mean-spirited guys he used to play with on the basketball team at his school, even in a wheelchair. Seeing the two of them work together to win two-on-two tournaments, sometimes for money, sometimes to take guys down a couple pegs, was one of the coolest things ever.
The best scene, though, was when some of their opponents were complaining that Kiyoharu was impossible to guard because of his wheelchair, and Nomiya told them that the wheelchair was just as much an asset as the various skills pro NBA players had, and then said that the game would really only be fair if they were all in wheelchairs too, since Kiyoharu was only half as tall as them. The balance between what was and wasn’t said was absolutely perfect, and it pretty much seems to sum up the series in the way it does and does not address (or rather, does not address directly) disability.
The main focus of the third volume was Takahashi, and his story sort of gets going at the end of the volume here. He was the captain of the basketball team at the school Nomiya quit, and yeah, he was a pretty big jerk. It seems like Takahashi, Nomiya, and Kiyoharu are the main characters, but Takahashi is the one that’s going through the hardest time right now. The series starts after Nomiya’s accident, which was briefly explained in the volume I read, so while he’s still dealing with the emotional fallout from that, it’s not fresh. And Kiyoharu has had time since his leg amputation to become the Vince Carter of Wheelchair Basketball, so his trauma is not fresh either.
It’s interesting to me that Nomiya’s life is so depressing despite the fact he has an eerie gift for dealing with people. He quit school and his extremely important basketball team after he was in a motorcycle accident that cost the random girl he had picked up the use of her legs. Even though he didn’t know her, he goes to see her regularly, but she doesn’t respond to anything he says or does. Eventually, she and her family leave without telling him, so he’s left saving money at his crappy job to go to Nagano in order to visit her. Even though she probably doesn’t want to see him and won’t talk to him. He also gets robbed after he saves up enough money for driving classes and the trip.
But I honestly can’t convey to you how well the characters are portrayed, how amazing these scenes are where so much is going on without a lot said aloud, and again, how disability does and does not affect the lives of these various people. It is just good in a way that very few series can be. After getting a taste of Slam Dunk and reading a good bit of Vagabond, it’s like he took all the good stuff from both and combined them into one truly amazing super-series. I have no interest in basketball, or wheelchair basketball, and thought the idea for this was kind of weird, but… it’s just good. There you go. A perfect example of a series that reaches outside its target audience.