Masahito Soda – Viz – 2002 – 20 volumes

So this came into the store I work at, and I grabbed it. Because it’s about firefighting, which is an unusual topic, and it was one of the worst-selling manga in the US, apparently, so I had to know. I have no idea what the difference is, but the one I have is labeled “Special Collector’s Edition.” I assume that has something to do with the orientation, this one is unflipped, perhaps the other is printed left-to-right?

It is certainly unusual. It starts out normally enough, with Daigo getting rescued by a fireman as a kid, then a few pages later, we see him on his first day on the job as a firefighter, having been inspired by his hero all those years ago. He is initially very angry that the company he is assigned to has few fires to fight, but then he is sent out on a few calls and freaks out a little in rescue situations. As the book continues, it becomes clear that there is an arsonist at work.

So, there are a few weird variables here. We have a rookie fireman who is rooting for fires and people to save, because it would be less boring. The other firemen call him out on this anomaly. Then, we have to wait for the inevitable arsonist, because really, what would a firefighting manga be without a lot of fires? It might be okay to spread a huge event out to a volume or two, but… it was pretty obvious that Daigo was going to face an arsonist at some point in the series. Might as well be volume one.

One of the other strange plot elements is that he is “competing” with another rookie firefighter in another city. The rival frequently baits him about how he does everything poorly, how he nearly passed out from smoke inhalation while rescuing a victim, and brags about beating Daigo to the water supply. There are a few things wrong with this… first and foremost that someone should never be baited after saving a life. Also… firefighting isn’t really a competition. Right? Third… fire hydrants in Japan are hidden, and only have one hose hookup? Is this a real thing?

But it is interesting, despite some bizarre formula adherence in this volume. Daigo is super-excited about being a hero, and unlike most shounen manga, he is doing real-life hero things rather than more abstract fights against vague evils. I’ve heard it gets way more abstract and ridiculous in later volumes, but for now, seeing Daigo rescue people after he’s grown up wanting to do it his whole life is pretty cool. I also liked the part where he was humbled after insulting all the other firemen for being lazy.

Basically, I like that this series is rooted so firmly in reality and is still an exciting read. Daigo and the other characters aren’t all that interesting just yet, but the premise is, and if I happen across more volumes of this, I’m definitely picking them up.