Crimson Hero 11

July 10, 2009

Ooh, here’s something novel: a sports manga starring girls.  There are two things we were missing for sports manga in America: baseball and girls.  Here’s one of them, and apparently it’s been running in Shoujo Beat for years.  I’ll ‘fess up and admit I only ever bought two issues of that magazine (the first and the one with Princess Knight in it).  I’m more fond of graphic novels, but never let it be said that there’s not something to being able to sample series you wouldn’t normally read.

In addition to being about a girls’ sports team, it’s also about volleyball, a semi-unusual sport, and that usually makes for a better read.  There’s also a boys’ volleyball team, which wasn’t so much covered in this volume, but I assume the focus pops in and out depending on what’s going on romantically.  I’m looking forward to a sports manga with romance in it, something that I, as a girl, say that all sports manga could use a little more of.  I’m looking at you, Prince of Tennis.  You really could do something other than play tennis over there, you know.  Not even romance, necessarily.  Just… anything.

This was a good volume to jump into, because it’s got just about everything I would imagine this series having.  The volume starts somewhere at the beginning of a semifinals match.  One girl on the main character’s team (Crimson Field) is fighting against an injury, and the other team is exploiting her weakness as much as they can.  Of course, the Crimson Field team rallies to help this girl, and there’s lots of displays of support and friendship and whatnot.  We also find out that the opponents are subject to a horribly competitive coach, and the ace on that team struggles with friendships she left behind in order to become a star.  Her team has to fix their friendships if they hope to put up a fight and unite on the court.

The short girl pulls off the winning play in the end, and the injured girl is rushed to the hospital amidst a forfeit and general worry and angst.  We find out that the boys also won their semifinals match.  But now that the match is over and the next one is a ways off, it looks like the series is looking to shake things up in the romance department.

I can see the formula, but I don’t enjoy it any less.  I loved seeing a competitive, team-oriented sports manga about a group of girls for a change, and it doesn’t hurt that there’s romance mixed in, though it’s hard for me to enjoy it jumping into the series this late.  I also liked seeing a volleyball manga, because of the inherent confined, scaled-back nature of the sport.

About the only thing I didn’t like was when Crimson Field criticized the other team for playing dirty when they started targeting their injured player.  It didn’t make much sense to me when the coach failed to substitute another player when the first girl began having trouble (apparently Crimson Field didn’t have any girls to spare, but I didn’t find this out until later), but it also seemed like sour grapes to call out the other team on an obvious strategy.  It’s not the other team’s fault that the injured girl couldn’t play, after all.

I like what I see, but this strikes me more as a casual read than something I’m going to follow with great interest.  It was definitely a wonderful choice for the now-defunct Shoujo Beat magazine (and I do realize that I say this as someone who never bought the magazine and was thus part of the problem).  I may pick up a few more volumes from here just to see if I get to liking the story or characters any more.

This was a review copy provided by Viz.