Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Ookiku Furikabutte and Why it Might be the Best Baseball Manga

For those of you who don't know, baseball might actually be the all Japanese sport.

Let me explain that statement a little bit. If you have ever lived or traveled in Japan, you would be very aware of how popular baseball is in this country. Every major city has a major league team and with those teams come HUGE cheering sections who have songs for each player on the team. Indeed, in the last several years Japanese baseball players have been infiltrating the American Baseball League ranks and receiving MVP trophies; which was huge in Japan. Ask a young kid in Japan who their favorite baseball player is and they are very likely to tell you Matsui or Yuu Darvish, who both endorse everything from baseball equipment to socks. Those who make it into the MBL are huge stars in Japan and they are the players who legitimize Japanese success in the sport.

Now you might be asking yourself, 'Why is baseball so popular in Japan?' and the answer to that question would fall to the strategy, team yet individual play, and manga. Yeah, you read that right. I said manga is probably a major reason why boys want to play baseball and girls want to be managers. You only have to look so far as to Adachi Mitsuru and his baseball manga to understand this statement. Touch was a phenomena in Japan, and it still plays a part in Japanese high schools. The opening theme song for the Touch anime is still played at koshien (the baseball stadium that holds the high school baseball tournament) every year and all brass bands can play that song. There were even news segments that were titled, 'Looking for the Real Minami' because her character became the scale for the female ideal in this country. There is not a single person over the age of 30 who did not read the manga or watch the anime. Now that Adachi has serialized a semi-sequel to Touch, the manga is being republished with original covers and is undergoing a revival of sorts.

Contrary to what you might be thinking, this post is not about Adachi Mitsuru and how he can be claimed by some to be the best baseball mangaka. In fact, it is about and completely different type of baseball manga and my argument that it is the best baseball manga that has been produced in the last 20 years.

Ookiku Furikabutte.