Real 6Posted: September 15, 2009
Takehiko Inoue – Viz – 2009 – 8+ volumes
This volume focuses mostly on Hisanobu rather than Kiyoharu and Nomiya, though the story takes a brief look at both of the latter boys. Nomiya seems to be spending a lot of time with Kiyoharu and his basketball team, and acts as their loud, semi-unwanted cheerleader who also manages to raise their spirits and give them good advice from the stands. Kiyoharu seems to be in a good place right now, and Nomiya has found peace with the fact that he should hold down a job and save money until he figures out what he wants to do with his life, since that’s all he can do. The realization seems to make him happy, as do the basketball games that Kiyoharu’s team are starting to play, so you can see how Hisanobu is the one that needs all the TLC right now.
Last volume, he basically told his poor mother off when she tried to convince him to go back to school. This doesn’t sit all that well with her, and Nobu’s father shows up to care for him when she falls ill from overwork, malnutrition, alcoholism, and stress. Caring for Nobu isn’t all that difficult since he refuses to talk, go to his therapy, or even really leave his bed. The doctors decide that spending time with his estranged father might somehow provide the emotional catalyst Nobu needs in order to find some sort of meaning in life. We get a long flashback where we learn how much being with his father meant to young Nobu, and… well, nothing really conclusive about his present state happens, just a lot more sad and terrible things.
On one hand, you could look at it as if the character isn’t progressing and the pace of the story is slow. But the truth is, I am extremely touched by the treatment of Hisanobu since suddenly being rendered disabled like that isn’t something anyone would take well, let alone someone who thought as much of himself as Hisanobu. There just isn’t anything I can think of that would make Hisanobu want to go on living, quite frankly, which sounds a bit worse than what I actually mean (he’s not contemplating suicide, but his thoughts are always negative and never really move towards just how he’s going to live the rest of his life, only how others will see him in the present). I’m sure it will be a long time before Hisanobu can begin to come to terms with what happened to him, which is more realism than I would credit any comic with. I wonder if we’ll ever really see him happy, but I’m curious to see the catalyst that will bring him back to his therapy.
The other interesting thing about Hisanobu’s situation is that triggers that would inspire characters in other series only serve to bring him down. Notably, at the beginning of the volume, his girlfriend shows up in tears complaining of how he didn’t tell her he was transferring hospitals. He doesn’t really consider her his girlfriend, and seemed surprised to see her since he’d told her off rather harshly last time she’d visited. She says some nice things, and then reveals that she’s working a lot of hours in order to afford a surgery for her dog that would require it to have its back legs amputated and replaced with wheels. She complains that the vets wanted to have the dog put down, but she couldn’t see why not using its legs meant it wasn’t allowed to live.
Rather than taking that to heart, Nobu asks himself if he should really be allowed to live. It’s rather disturbing.
And that’s why everyone should be reading Real. It’s not at all about basketball, but about these wonderful characters dealing with difficult things in their lives more realistically than you will see in any other manga series.
This was a review copy provided by Viz.