One Pound Gospel 4

April 20, 2009

Here’s the last volume, which actually does wrap up with a conclusion.  The conclusion is a recent addition to the series (2007, I believe), but it’s always nice to see a writer going back to finish an old work.  It also gives me hope that she’ll one day conclude her fantastic Mermaid Saga series.

There aren’t really any surprises here, but again, it’s pretty awesome that she finished it.  One thing that bothered me was Sister Angela’s meddling relative.  While I can understand Kosaku’s stubbornness in accepting the fact that a nun isn’t allowed to have a romantic relationship with a man, I don’t know why the relative keeps trying to set her up.  Sister Angela can be Kosaku’s friend and keep going to his matches as long as she keeps shutting him down like she does, but that relative had no excuse to take her to host clubs and out on dates and stuff.  And to add insult to injury, she would force Sister Angela to go, then blackmail her by saying she would tell the Mother Superior where she’d been.  It was… bizarre.

Kosaku and Sister Angela’s respective choices in the final story segment were most heartbreaking.  Kosaku’s because you knew he understood Sister Angela’s position after all this time, and Sister Angela’s because… well, just because.  That’s hard.

A fine ending, truth be told.  I’m always pleased when my Takahashi series have a concrete conclusion.

This was a review copy provided by Viz.

One Pound Gospel 3

April 17, 2009

The announcement that Viz is going to release Rumiko Takahashi’s new series simultaneously with the weekly Japanese chapters has caused me to break out a celebratory volume of One Pound Gospel.  And if that weren’t enough to celebrate, apparently Inu-Yasha is being released in a VizBig edition starting at the end of the year, which is as good a reason as any for me to start it.

Anyway.  One Pound Gospel continues to deliver exactly what you would expect from it, which is sort of its charm.  The first story is about Kosaku trying to lose weight and Sister Angela giving him a string with a hair in it tied around his finger in order to get him to keep his resolve.  Kosaku, of course, assumes it’s Sister Angela’s hair. To keep things interesting, there’s also a little kid staying at the gym who gets to stay in Tokyo and train to be a boxer only if he can land a punch on Kosaku (there are no real ulterior motives for this, he has to land a punch on the strongest guy).  This is a pretty typical Takahashi gag where things keep interfering whenever the kid throws a punch.  The last punch is pretty awesome, though, if only because this series is never serious.

The second story is about Kosaku getting all wound up about an eight-round match.  He makes Sister Angela promise they can spend Christmas together if he wins, so he trains extra-hard for it.  Amusingly, Kosaku bonds with his opponent as the only person that will eat the opponent’s (apparently terrible) cooking.  Their friendship was pretty neat, actually.  A complication comes into play just before the match when the Mother Superior finds out the opponent has a gigantic Virgin Mary tattooed on his chest and says Kosaku can’t spend Christmas with Sister Angela if he hits the Virgin Mary.  So no body blows.

The last story is about a girl that looks like Lum who comes to stay with Kosaku, very much to his chagrin, when her boyfriend kicks her out for over-eating.  But her story isn’t quite what she thinks it is, or what anyone else thinks it is.  Sister Angela gets the wrong idea about Kosaku and the girl, the girl’s boyfriend is jealous and turns out to be Kosaku’s next opponent… you see where this is going.

The stories are once again quite charming and subtle, but they are of a particularly mature and definitely acquired Takahashi taste.  If you liked the first volume, you’ll probably like all of them, but if you read it hoping something more would develop as the series went on… well, that just doesn’t happen.

One Pound Gospel 2

November 9, 2008

I still like this series okay.  It’s an understated kind of good.  Not fantastic, just kind of a good read.  It continues as expected with more tales of Kosaku sort of… well, trying his best at training for boxing.  I like that the stories in this series are longer with multiple chapters.  In Ranma 1/2, the stories were usually only 3 chapters long.

Though it was brought up frequently, the weight limits weren’t really the focus of this volume, at least for Kosaku.  The first story in the volume was about a rematch with a boxer that Kosaku beat when he was first starting out, and the opponent has had a grudge ever since.  He was actually a surprisingly great character. He had a good reason for fighting and a bunch of interesting personality quirks, like having a really nice customer-pleasing smile in place at all times at his job, then turning into a somewhat surly, angry young man other times.  A lot of the story focuses on his problems instead of Kosaku’s, and I liked it a lot.

The second story… well, apparently Kosaku thinks he can get Sister Angela to leave her convent if he wins his next match, as he’s totally smitten with her and apparently doesn’t understand what being a nun means.  We do get to see Sister Angela out of her habit, and she looks unsettlingly like Akane from Ranma 1/2.  Tied into this, Kosaku is fighting a boy who is terrified of boxing and likes to run away.  The relationship between his opponent and the opponent’s girlfriend is contrasted with Sister Angela and Kosaku.

Both stories offer a view as to what Kosaku’s life would be like without first his trainer, then without Sister Angela.  I liked the stress both situations put on Kosaku.

It’s an enjoyable read, and I think a lot of people who enjoy old-school kind of manga would probably really like it, especially given the bizarre premise.  Unfortunately, it can get a little repetitive since a lot of plot elements can repeat themselves.  I like it a lot, and am very much looking forward to the last two volumes.

This was a review copy provided by Viz.

One Pound Gospel 1

October 9, 2008

You know, I should really, really read Maison Ikkoku.  I like Rumiko Takahashi a lot, and this has put me in the mood for a longer series, but I don’t really want to embark on the 50-some volumes of Inu-Yasha just yet.  Plus, I hear that Maison Ikkoku is just awesome.

But for now, I was really surprised to see that One Pound Gospel got re-released this year, which pleases me to no end since it finally wrapped up in Japan last year and now I can read the whole thing beginning to end.  This has always piqued my interest given the really bizarre plot (nun roots for somewhat weak-willed boxer), and a relaunch was quite unexpected.

It’s been so long since I read anything by Takahashi I forgot how 80s her art looks (and is, in this case).  Her art is actually just… well, her art, and can’t be mistaken for anyone else.  I… wouldn’t say that Inu-Yasha looks particularly 80s, but you can definitely see it in an actual 80s Takahashi series like this, which is full of rounded faces, long hair (though there are surprisingly few females here), the style of the eyes, and just… well, the way she draws everything.  I like really retro-looking art, and Takahashi is not exempt.

The plot is about as bizarre as I’d hoped.  A naturally gifted boxer winds up being sort of a screw-up when he can’t stop himself from eating and being overweight for all his matches.  He often loses due to having to resort to crash diets frequently before fights, and whenever he over-eats when in training, he confesses his “sins” to a local nun.  The nun winds up belittling him and urging him on to beat his control issues, and even roots for him in a fight or two.

The nun and main character have a somewhat tentative romance in place.  I feel that this probably won’t go anywhere, seeing as how she’s a nun, but it’s still cute the way they react to one another.  There’s nothing overt or anything about it, it’s just a healthy relationship that seems to help the main character stick to his goals and become a success.  The nun prays awful hard about boxing, and there are some jokes about this (often she receives bad omens, like her crucifixes breaking, when she prays for the main character’s success), but her devotion is somewhat touching.

The plot of the series, that the main character struggles to stay in his own weight class, would be somewhat uncomfortable if the practicality for boxing hadn’t been addressed near the end of this volume.  I recall my pity for my high school’s wrestling team, the members of which were constantly in a state of losing weight.  The last story in this volume deals with allowing the main character to gain enough weight to jump up several weight classes to welterweight.  He does this with relish, but then the story goes on to explain that if you weigh more than your build allows, any extra weight will simply feel like dead weight and will slow you down as you’re trying to fight.  This cleared up most of my misgivings on the subject since that makes a lot of sense, but… you know.  I still feel bad for the wrestling teams across the nation.

There’s some comedy, but it’s mostly a story about the coach being disappointed with the main character, the main character screwing up again and again, and then being pushed to do his best in the end by both the nun and the coach.  It’s simple, but it stays pretty positive throughout, and I think I can pretty much unconditionally love anything by Rumiko Takahashi, so yes, this was a great read for me.

This was a review copy provided by Viz.