Rakuichi Nagahama was the talk of the town when he was younger because he was such an outstanding soccer player. Even as an elementary school student he had amazing prowess on the field. He ended up going to Italy (people assume he was given a scholarship to play soccer) but then he comes back to Japan in high school. He didn’t become a famous soccer player in Italy. In fact, he stopped playing soccer there and people assume he must be a loser.
Still, it doesn’t take Rakuichi long to start playing soccer again, despite his protests. He’s good and is back to impressing people. Maybe he wasn’t good enough in Italy, but at school he’s a star player.
Before long he gets interested in a blond girl named Maiko, and she has to be about the most interesting character in the book. (I said interesting, not weird. There are weirder characters, definitely.) She has amazing skills at martial arts and is also a published poet. Beautiful, smart, and totally out of Rakuichi’s reach. He’s in love. She kind of pops in and out of the story, though, sometimes being very important and sometimes disappearing for segments.
I like the original idea of Rakuichi going to Italy, and then coming back with something that’s less-than-stardom. It makes him an interesting and sympathetic character. However, that doesn’t get played out in the manga much (at least so far—it could change for all I know). Instead, he very quickly gets back into soccer and it becomes a sports manga.
Sasameke is published in omnibus form, with three volumes put into one book. That’s about 450 pages. I like the idea of the manga and the main characters, but parts do seem to go off and I’m not sure what the point is to them. I’m also not sure what to make of the ending of this volume. Can someone explain it to me? This realistic story suddenly seems to go supernatural. Maybe the mangaka is trying to be absurd on purpose, but I don’t know why that would happen where it does.
If this makes Sasameke sound like a bad manga, it’s not. It definitely has its moments and its appeal. However, I didn’t get sucked into it or blown away by it. I thought it was fair. There’s a decent amount of soccer action, so it might attract people who like sports stories. And Maiko certainly caught my interest and was a fun character. However, I still don’t get some parts of it, particularly the last page where… well, I don’t want to give the ending away.
Publisher: Yen Press
Story & Art: Ryuji Gotsubo