Crimson Hero Book 1

Sampling works. I never would have expected to enjoy this sports manga about a teen tomboy, but I read the first chapter in Shojo Beat magazine, and it had immediate appeal, based on the single-minded dedication of the heroine.

At the age of 15, Nobara has come to an acceptance that she’s never going to be a proper young woman. As the oldest daughter, she’s supposed to become the old-fashioned hostess of the family restaurant, but her younger sister, Souka, is the pretty, well-mannered one, with long hair and a self-effacing manner.

(I hope we see more of Souka’s inner life later in the series, because she’s either very happy with her stereotypical role, and I’d like to understand more about that type of personality, foreign to me; or she’s a great actress, and I’d like to know more about what she really wants.)

Crimson Hero Book 1 cover
Crimson Hero
Book 1
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Nobara’s first day at her new school doesn’t start well, as she’s mistaken for a boy because of her short hair and gender-generic clothes. She chose the school because of their championship volleyball team. Her only interest is playing the sport; it’s the only thing she does well, and the only time her behavior doesn’t disappoint others.

After receiving several pieces of bad news, Nobara becomes convinced that she must go out on her own in order to follow her dream. With the aid of her Aunt Momoko (the school nurse and a tight-skirt-wearing party girl), she winds up as the housemother for four of the members of the school’s boys’ team, because she’s going to do whatever it takes to play volleyball.

These plot twists are standard to the genre: teen strives against family wishes and traditions to follow her own interests, slightly racy situation results involving her with several attractive boys, she unexpectedly meets again a childhood friend she doesn’t recognize at first, and the most important quality is determination to do one’s best, regardless of whether one succeeds.

At times, the actions of her mother err on the side of outrageousness, turning her into a two-dimensional villain, but that’s typical of how frustrated teens may see their parents. Her mother has laid out a life for her daughter that will make her successful and connect her to a long-lasting tradition. I suspect she means well, although we never know anything of what’s behind her mask.

The center is Nobara and her drive. Volleyball is the only thing that makes her feel good about herself, the only time she doesn’t feel clumsy and ill-fitting in her life. Every teen needs something like that to cling to during a time of change and desperation, and the portrayal in this book, even when it’s one-note, captures that need dramatically and realistically. It’s civilized teenage rebellion with the added thrill of athletic competition.

The art accurately captures the emotions it needs to convey, even if the faces are sometimes odd. The features are a hair too large for the head, or the perspective doesn’t quite line up. The mother, especially, seems to challenge the artist, who struggles with making the adult women both beautiful and hard. (This improves in later chapters.) Nobara’s determination shines through, though, fairly dripping off the pages, and her attractively androgynous features make her an appealing lead.

For more information, visit the book’s Shojo Beat page. The author previously created The Devil Does Exist, a typical high school romance, published in the US by DC/CMX.

19 Comments

  1. I enjoyed this quite a bit. Not so different in set-up from Girl Got Game (though very different family attitudes towards sport), but I liked that, too.

  2. I’ve never tried GGG — should I? I didn’t expect to care about any sports manga, but the idea of competitive volleyball (without sand and bikinis) is interesting enough to seem slightly exotic.

  3. I enjoyed it. In GGG, she actually has to pass as a boy in order to play, and ends up falling for the boy she’s rooming with. Hijinks, as they say, ensue. Unlike Prince of Tennis or Whistle, it’s mostly about the relationships, not the sport. There are a several that I’d recommend over it, but I did like it.

  4. Oh, sounds a lot like Hana-Kimi. I think I’ll add that to my “try” list. Thanks.

  5. [...] Viz manga I plan on buying: Hana-Kimi Book 11 (JAN06 3407) — romantic ghost, Christmas dance, and cross-cross-dressing! Sensual Phrase Book 13 (JAN06 3408) — ooh, the band is going to London! Crimson Hero Book 2 (JAN06 3409) — it’s girls against boys volleyball competition! [...]

  6. [...] That emotional component, exploring what drives someone to compete or alternately, to avoid a struggle they find painful, is what makes this series enjoyable. I previously reviewed Book 1. [...]

  7. I really enjoyed GGG (being a bball player) and also being a vball player, made me take some interest in Crimson Hero. As Comics worth reading said earlier it has substance and its actually pretty cool. I am not quite sure yet whether I am going to like Crimson hero more than GGG but we will have to see, I guess. What is Hana-Kimi, by the way?

  8. I’ve talked about Hana-Kimi before — it’s a great series about a girl who pretends to be a boy so she can run track and room with the boy she’s got a crush on.

    I didn’t care that much for Girl Got Game, because it seemed kind of slow and contrived (even for this type of sports cross-dressing subgenre).

  9. [...] In addition to Book 3, I’ve also reviewed Book 1 and Book 2. [...]

  10. [...] I was a bit stunned to see the cover on this installment of the series, especially in comparison to the first book. That volume showed a girl in traditional dress struggling to play volleyball, indicating a culture clash aspect that seems to have gone by the wayside. Now, it looks as though it’s sun, sex, and oh, yeah, sport. [...]

  11. i love this manga and just love the plot of the story it has with a girl playing vollyball and can’t wait for volume 5 and 6

  12. [...] family members also seem to have disappeared from the series, so I guess my questions about her younger sister will be left [...]

  13. I love this manga! I’ve read all of the chapters published and translated so far (which I think is 28?) Whilst reading the other reviews, I saw something about Hana Kimi, and I realized that actually, Beniiro Hero (Crimson Hero) and Hana Kimi are actually really similar! I hope the next volume will be out soon

  14. i luv this whole seris i can not wait until the next book comes out

  15. [...] in stocking earlier books in the series — which included such titles as Prince of Tennis, Crimson Hero, Case Closed, Phoenix, and Drifting Classroom — they’d have to get them [...]

  16. [...] was afraid, when I was sent this 11th book of the series about a volleyball player, that I would be lost. The last couple of times I’d tried the series, the emphasis was more [...]

  17. Nick Talleyrand

    I hate this series.

    The determination of the heroine to play volleyball derails her common sense to the point that she would run away from home penniless and the undying belief that if there’s a will there a way mindset.

    Most readers do not see the underlying motivations the heroine have – unilateral selfishness and unbridled greed to pursue one’s personal desires to the detriment of others. Her shortcomings are often times overshadowed by her sportsman potential in the court that her faults will be automatically forgiven and forgotten. Never mind that she threw all her responsibilities to her much younger sister who almost gotten raped as a result, never mind that her actions causes conflict by playing on the emotions of her would-be admirers and never mind that her situation imperils her aunt’s employment by violating school policy – after all she’s a good volleyball player.

  18. I’m curious, since you’ve been running around leaving negative comments on various old shojo reviews: what shojo manga do you enjoy? That’ll help put your criticisms into better context for readers.

  19. [...] Crimson Hero, Viz, 14 [...]

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