Friday, September 4, 2009

More Manga Catchup (Rookies and Homunculus)

Where did summer go? Why the hell did I only wait until two weeks before school to start catching up on my backlog? Anyway, finally got back to two series I last read two years ago, Rookies and Homunculus.

Rookies was first recommended to me way back by longtime AOD user Jarred, who touted it as a must-read. Indeed, it turned out to be pretty darn enjoyable. I highly recommend this, especially for any fan of sports manga who's looking for a more realistic depiction of a sport. At this point, as delightful as I've found Rookies, I still can't elevate it to my tier of absolute favorites just yet, despite its plausible coverage of baseball, its impeccable art, and appealing array of characters. At its heart, Rookies, in spite of a somewhat more "mature" art style, is still very much a shounen series. This isn't bad. I'm not saying anything shounen sucks, as I've eaten up my share of it. There's just certain tendencies that come with works directed at that audience demographic that I've grown less tolerant of. One of these tendencies is the emphasis on the power of dreams and belief. Some of you know may know that I am not a big fan of grand idealism. Well, Rookies is flooded to the brim with it. I do get that you need dreams, and they can be powerful shit. They motivate, empower. Masanori Morita very effectively demonstrates how Koshien dreams can transform lazy delinquents into driven ball players. My problem begins when these dreams can allow an undermanned, under-talented team to repeatedly defeat established powerhouse teams. In Rookies, Nikogaku does practice their asses off after they change their ways, but this comes after a long time in which even their elite players have done shit. Short term practice, no matter how intense, can only do so much. Besides, it's not like these elite teams are lacking in effort. Miracles do happen in real life. George Mason defeated a string of favored teams, culminating with UConn and advanced to the Final Four. But then they got crushed by Florida. I like Ping Pong as much as I do because, fuck, all-around talent does matter in addition to mere drive. Where are all the fictional Friday Night Lights? Nitpicky criticism aside, Rookies is as good as underdog sports stories come. And who knows, there's still a few volumes left, so maybe it'll surprise me.
Don't have much to say for Homunculus. For better or worse, continues to be one of those few things that's fairly distinct from everything else in its medium. I have no idea why the series is rated so abysmally low on Amazon Jp. Granted, the conclusion to the Manabu/Nakoshi arc in volume 9 was significantly less satisfying than the one with Nakoshi and the girl. However, things are still reflective and oddly fascinating. Yamamoto manages to temporarily alter your perception so that seeing a man and a crossdresser go to dinner together is a striking sight, instead of a naturally unsightly one. It's a pity Homunculus is released so inconsistently. Makes it hard to build any sort of flow.


  1. Agree on Rookies. As solid a draftsman and storyteller as he is, there's something fundamentally conventional about his work that makes it hard to really get excited about.
    Homunculus is amazing; don't be too concerned about low ratings on, since only internet trolls rate things on unless the title in question is a genuinely mainstream hit.

  2. I'm now somewhat interested in the reviewing culture. Is there any particular reason that that occurs?

  3. Nobody orders from Amazon in Japan except shut-ins.
    There's a fucking bookstore on every corner; why order online?

  4. If it's an indicator of anything for the US, damn, there are no fucking bookstores in the town of 250,000 that I live right next to.