Stopper Busujima manga review

Quick comments on Stopper Busujima by Harold Sakuishi, since I’m still on a baseball manga kick. The Stopper Busujima story summary goes like so:

A professional baseball manga by Harold Sakuishi, the author of Beck.

Taiko Busujima is a powerful young pitcher looking to make it into the Japanese big leagues, but what he didn’t count on was being signed to the Keihin Athletics, the cheapest and worst team in the league. Can he help turn the Athletics around and (gasp) win the pennant?

A gripping, edge-of-your-seat story loaded with Sakuishi’s brand of wacky humor.

It does have some wacky humor in it, but I don’t know about the “gripping, edge-of-your-seat part. For one thing, much of it is way too unrealistic. This wouldn’t be a problem for a sports manga like Prince of Tennis which doesn’t even try to be realistic, but for a manga that uses many real-life characters, half of the things that go on just don’t make any sense. First off, it’s bizarre enough that an untried, untested pitcher with a history of causing trouble like Busujima even got signed professionally in the first place.

But having been signed, it makes zero sense for him to be immediately sent up to the majors. It almost never happens in real life, and when it does it almost never works out. And rookies who do immediately go to the majors are those considered almost perfect in technique, stamina, etc, none of which Busujima possesses. With that 160 km/h pitch, he’s actually a huge danger to all those around him because of his lack of control. No team, no matter how desperate would put him in their first team immediately.

stopper busujima backThe second problem with Stopper Busujima is Busujima’s personality… or lack of one. We don’t often get into his head, and when we do he isn’t thinking much. That’s fine in the beginning because he’s made out to be a rough, dumb, instinct-type kind of character. That makes it much more amusing watching other characters react to him.

Now there’s no way he could get through the whole series without any character development, but Sakuishi just went too far and basically neutered the guy. By volume 5 he’s a shadow of his former self, reduced to a normal good-guy typical shounen hero. Hard-working, cares about his team, serious to a fault, etc etc. He’s barely the same character any more so it’s really boring.

Third problem, and the reason why I didn’t bother continuing after volume 5 is that there are too many characters and it’s not interesting any more. In the space of a few short chapters Sakuishi introduces all kinds of new characters when he hasn’t even finished dealing with the old ones yet.

Shimizu, for example, is made out to be so important in the beginning and then he just completely disappears for several volumes. I even forgot he existed! So while some mangaka can juggle a huge cast and keep them all relevant, Harold Sakuishi doesn’t seem to be one of those. The writing is on the wall that the manga is just going to go downhill from that point onwards, so I bailed out while the going was good.

Last problem: introducing the ‘cool older brother’ after 5 volumes. It worked for Naruto and for Inuyasha and in general it’s a successful enough trope that it shows up all the time, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it. And it would be one thing if the older brother came back when Busujima was still wild and crazy Busujima, but he’s all Sasuke at that point so it’s like, meh. Boring.

Having said all that, it’s not like Stopper Busujima is a bad manga. It has its good parts, especially in the early days when Busujima is still trying to find his feet and hasn’t become the mega-phenomenon he’s beginning to turn into by volume 5. There’s some humor in there, and baseball manga set in the pros is usually much more interesting than high school manga for me because there’s a wider range of topics they can deal with. High school baseball always has some girl or another in it and there’s always Koshien to aim for, blah blah blah. Whereas the sky’s basically the limit for manga set in the pros.

tl;dr Stopper Busujima is worth a read for the first few volumes if you like baseball manga and crazy characters, but after that it’s only worth continuing if you like typical shounen developments in your seinen manga.

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