Volume Count: 11 (ongoing)
Takehiko Inoue made his name in the 90′s with Slam Dunk, the hugely popular basketball manga. After that he was sponsored by ESPN to do another basketball manga, Buzzer Beater, but that one didn’t g...
Volume Count: 11 (ongoing)
Takehiko Inoue made his name in the 90′s with Slam Dunk, the hugely popular basketball manga. After that he was sponsored by ESPN to do another basketball manga, Buzzer Beater, but that one didn’t go down as well. So the next year he decided to switch genres and starting drawing Vagabond, the samurai epic. But I guess after a few years of him waking up surrounded by pages of samurai doing slam dunks, he realised the basketball was in him and he needed to go back to that genre before he exploded. Sitting in front of his editor and faced with pitching his new sports manga, he desperately needed some new angle.
“It’s about bask..bas…” gaze darts around the office.
“Baske…ba…baaaaa” eyes dart from newbie mangaka sweating profusely to experienced editor in chief picking his nose to the new sub-editor who only has one leg so is in a-
“Wheelchair basketball! My new manga is about wheelchair basketball!”
One thing I was worried about going into Real was that the depiction of disabled folks would come off as patronising. There can be a bit of a tendency in stories focusing on disabilities to paint the characters as selfless heroic individuals with no faults, as though they think glorifying their achievements will somehow counterbalance the lack of respect regular society gives them. This is absolutely not the case with Real. The characters are assholes. Completely and utterly horrible people. There’s three main characters, two of which are in wheelchairs. One of them is a stuck-up, self-absorbed, weak-willed bully. The guy not in the wheelchair is a temperamental, anti-social idiot. Even the third dude, the up and coming wheelchair basketball star, is an angry whining little twit.
While this goes a long way to making the characters feel like human beings with genuine personality, dreams and weaknesses, it can also mean that watching them gets a bit difficult at times. Particularly at the start of the story. Real takes the approach that these characters will learn and grow to become better people through their interactions with others over the course of the story. To achieve that though, they really shove these characters down to absolute rock bottom. High school dropout loses his drivers licence and cripples the girl he picked up and has that looming over his conscious as he tries to put some sort of life together. Top-tier student breezing through class gets spinal cord snapped in traffic accident and realises while in hospital that none of his previous relationships are worth shit. Aspiring wheelchair basketball player tries to set up team but most of the players abandon them due to his relentless ambition.
But in US Marine style, breaking them down completely allows the story to start rebuilding their lives. It’s fucking gruelling to sit through at the start. With every breakthrough a character has, something else will knock them back. Team gets back together, instantly loses first match. Guy manages to get job, company goes bankrupt. But with each knockback, the person will learn something. They’ll draw inspiration from one of the other characters in the story and this will spur them on to go further. It’s a feel-good story about triumph in the face of adversity, which you could probably guess from the fact it was about wheelchair basketball. But in humanising the characters and knocking them down so low, it becomes that much more rewarding when they do make a breakthrough.
The artwork is fantastic. Takehiko Inoue opts for a more realistic drawing style, which works well with the story. Characters do seem to sweat an awful lot, which makes the basketball matches look like the players were all bukkake’d before getting on the court. This is compounded by the fact Inoue likes to draw the characters with their shirts off to display muscles and so forth. The author has no qualms whatsoever about drawing dick
about 9 hours ago