Goukyuu Shoujo volume 1 manga review

I got through Goukyuu Shoujo volume 1 in two 30-minute sessions. It made me feel silly for all the times I’ve forced myself to slog through some boring, low-quality manga in the hopes that it will get better. It really is the mangaka’s job to make me feel like reading more than a few pages, and despite how generically Goukyuu Shoujo (剛球少女) started out, the team of Seiichi Tanaka and Kiyokazu Chiba kept me turning the pages rapidly and left me profoundly sorry when the book was over. Time to head to Amazon and pick up Goukyuu Shoujo volume 2 and the rest of the series.

But before that, what is Goukyuu Shoujo about? If you’ve watched Princess Nine and read Shikotama or any other series where a girl tries to join a boy’s baseball team, you already know the whole story. Just as in Princess Nine, the main character Haruka Aso has a father who won Koshien and became a major league pitcher, then got embroiled in a scandal that cost him his job. In P9 the dad’s name is Hayakawa, in Goukyuu his name is Natsukawa. Both fathers also die in a car accident. Hayakawa before he was cleared, Natsukawa after, but before he could resume his major league career. Both fathers also trained their prodigiously-talented only daughters to follow in their footsteps. All coincidence? Of course not.

Gokyu-Shojo-012However whereas in P9 Ryo Hayakawa joined a girl’s baseball team, in Goukyuu Shoujo Haruka decides to join the boy’s team in her father’s high school. And, as in Shikotama, the team refuses to let her in because girls can’t play in official games so there’s no point letting her join.

I thought Haruka’s struggles to be accepted would take that bulk of the series, but luckily for her (and me!) a new trainer who just happened to be her dad’s catcher has just been hired and he thinks having Haruka on the team is a great way to shake up the status quo, so he talks the coach into letting her join. Yay!

Unfortunately her struggles aren’t over at that point. While her pitches aren’t that fast, she has great control, and she quickly uses that to strike out the team’s best player (and pitcher) during training. The main coach already wants her out, and now she’s made an enemy of the star player, and he won’t stop at anything to get her off the team. On the other hand the school principal sees her as a good PR gimmick and wants her to pitch in their next practice game… against the strongest team in the prefecture! What does the future hold in store for Haruka?

Gokyu-Shojo-102I can’t wait to find out! As I said the story was nothing new when it started out, but by the end of the first volume it has taken on a life of its own. Haruka herself has changed quite a bit. At first she was grim and gloomy, determined to make it onto the team at all costs, but once she succeeds her original (?) sunny disposition and never-say-die attitude comes to the fore.

To be honest the change does make her feel rather “generic plucky shounen hero”-like but it also makes her that much easier to root for. Cheerful, hardworking girl vs. evil opponents and jealous rivals = the stuff 50% of shoujo manga are made of, after all. Especially when the team catcher is taking more than a passing interest in our little Haruka. Mmhmm…

Enough about that, how’s the baseball action? No official games were played in volume 1, but the little pitching and fielding present was clearly and dynamically presented in an easy-to-follow way. There was rather more “standing and gaping at how awesome Player X is” present than I’m comfortable with, but it was enjoyable nevertheless.

I should also take the chance to mention that the art and the story go together really well like they were both done by the same people. I’ve read several series drawn and written by different people where it seems like the art is going one way while the story is going somewhere different. For example a character will be saying angry words, but his/her portrait doesn’t look that angry at all. Everything in Goukyuu Shoujo meshes well together, and it’s a real pleasure to read.

When I’ve gotten my hands on the 4-volume Bunkoban version I hope to be able to review the rest of the series, though I’ll do my best not to spoil the subsequent story because this is something that’s more fun to read for yourself.

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