December 19, 2014
Takehiko Inoue – Viz – 2011 – 13+ volumes
It never fails to impress me how much I absolutely love every volume by Takehiko Inoue. I mean, absolutely none of the subject matter interests me. I don’t like basketball, chanbara, or, really, wheelchair basketball. Sometimes, I have to psych myself up before I read a volume. But it’s always a pleasure, in the end.
In the case of Real, I know I love it, and I held onto volumes because they come out slowly and read very quickly.
There wasn’t even a whole lot going on in this volume, I read it in 20 minutes, and I haven’t touched this series since practically 2010. But I was able to dive right back in, and I loved every page.
One of the major pitfalls with Real is that the volumes can be depressing, particularly the volumes that deal with Takahashi. But even Takahashi’s story is beginning to look up here. He’s still got a long way to go (for instance, we learn that he has to keep himself carefully balanced in his wheelchair, because his abdominal muscles no longer support his torso), but being in a gym again is getting to him. And the last few pages of the volume introduce him to wheelchair basketball.
My favorite part here was Kiyoharu’s annual exam. Inoue perfectly captured the mood of Kiyoharu, his father, and his nearly-girlfriend. Kiyoharu wakes up, and tells himself the entire day that there’s nothing wrong. But the dark thoughts keep intruding. What if the cancer comes back? Is the test taking too long because they found cancer? Does the doctor want to look at his last x-ray to compare because he sees cancer? It’s scary, and hopeful, and somehow Inoue also makes it feel like a regular day. It’s rather odd how well it works.
Meanwhile, we also get a lot of Nomiya, who’s all ready to go pro. He’s very optimistic, and spreading his optimism around. Which is great, because after his ups and downs, I’m so glad to see him on his feet again. Which, admittedly, is ridiculous, because I’m only ten volumes into this series, and I haven’t read it in four years. But that’s how Real is. Empathetic characters, and their difficult struggles, are what it does well. Wheelchair basketball is just a bonus.
Luckily, I’ve got the next two volumes here, and 13 comes out tomorrow (I’m writing this on the 17th). I’M READY.