by Mitsuba Takanashi; adapted by Naoko Amemiya
published by Viz; $8.99 US
I 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 on relationships, less on sports competition, so it was hard to catch up on events. That wasn’t the case here, thankfully, for the major story in this installment.
Nobara and her volleyball team are in the Newcomers’ Tournament, paired against the very strong, larger, and better trained Aigaku team. Tomoyo, a member of Nobara’s team, is blowing everyone away with her outstanding setting. After losing the first game, the opposing team coach instructs his girls to take Tomoyo down.
The result is a story about determination and teamwork. Nobara’s team, small as they are, care about each other. Aigaku, on the other hand, is about winning at all costs, including losing friendships and playing unsafe if so directed. They focus on individual achievement instead of working together, a no-no lesson for the group-oriented Japanese.
Tomoyo gets injured but keeps on playing, requiring her team to adjust their strategy in order to compensate. I was touched by seeing how they encouraged each other and kept on going even when things weren’t turning their way. The final game is a nail-biter, with constant back and forth scoring for both teams.
The art is better than I remembered it being, and the competition scenes dramatically staged, with unusual angles and expressive faces. Afterward, as Tomoyo gets treatment for her injury, the book switches back to more of the interpersonal relationships, with several characters I wasn’t familiar with. Also in this volume are some one-page character images and a short story about a runaway kitten. (A complimentary copy for this review was provided by the publisher.)