26 CommentsManga Driver / By Scamp /

Manga Driver: Real

REAL_v08p001

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.

REAL_v04c21p078REAL_v09p142The 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 dicks either, which is a little bit weird. This is actually relevant material, since your own body image is a huge theme in the story. It’s both a huge part of sports and your disability. Shots of the Australian wheelchair basketball player with his humongous biceps next to his stick-thin legs go a long way to demonstrating how characters come to terms with how they body will be shaped.

Where the artwork really seemed to improve over the course of the series is the visual metaphors and panel composition. Now I admit that the panel composition thing may be just me taking time to get used to his style, given the guy is kind of a veteran at this whole manga thing. But the more the manga went on, the better he seemed to get at depicting the thought process of characters using visual cues. The moment that was an absolute standout for me was when the guy in hospital remembered the game of basketball he played against the guy in the wheelchair before he broke his back and he suddenly realises there is a sport for him. There’s a fantastic flow to the way the panels show his mind naturally wander before his eyes widen when he remembers the guy in the wheelchair. As for the visual metaphor, these increase over the course of the manga and go a long way to allowing me to understand how the disability effected people. Stand out moment here was the guy sprinting in a race and seeing his leg crash into some imaginary mud and snap off.

It took me a bit to get into Real as the story construction requires the start to be gruelling reading. But once the characters started growing, it became a highly absorbing and rewarding read. It hasn’t ended yet, but I can’t see it continuing on for too much longer because it really feels that the characters have gotten over the worst of their problems. Plus it’s about wheelchair basketball. Goddamn wheelchair basketball! How awesome is that! Go read Real, it’s pretty great.

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26 Comments

  1. Hanasra
    Posted May 18, 2013 at 3:43 pm | Permalink

    Yeah, the characters are bastards, especially Takahasi that in more than one occassion I really want to punch him. But that happen to me because Inoue’s take on his character is so nagural. He was a super student with almost perfect grade and sport talent, popular with others and suddenky all of that was taken from him along with his leg, except his superiority complex. When he decided to befriend with that disabled otaku (damn I forgot his name), I can only watch in awe with his character development.

    The main stuff here is the characters personal conflict with their problem, but still Inoue really do a good job with the wheelchair basketball stuff. With his drawing, paneling, and writing, it is such a waste to pass Real.

    And last
    “But I guess after a few years of him waking up surrounded by pages of samurai doing slam dunks”
    Golden line of the year.

    • Scamp
      Posted May 19, 2013 at 9:12 am | Permalink

      I feel Takahashi’s story is arguably the strongest because he’s the most extreme example of what the manga does well. He starts off so unlikeable and then hits absolute rock bottom so seeing him pull himself back up again is the most rewarding story of them all. The other two characters’ stories are arguably there to make the early chapters easier to get through because they’re much friendlier people, but ultimately the real meat of the story is Takahashi.

      Actually I thought the depiction of the actual matches is the weakest part of the manga because I can’t figure out what’s going on at all. They don’t feel particularly dynamic and they don’t really explain the rules of the sport.

  2. Striffy
    Posted May 18, 2013 at 4:33 pm | Permalink

    Wow, I’m definitely going to check this one out. Hey Scamp, check out Kokou no Hito, I get the feeling you’ll like it (and the artwork improves drastically).

  3. Sarif Fice
    Posted May 18, 2013 at 5:54 pm | Permalink

    Hey Scamp,

    It’s cool that you have a new appreciation for manga and all, but I don’t know if this is the appropriate outlet. My friends and I come here to read your witty and distinct anime reviews. It’s not that I don’t like Manga, or appreciate the time your putting into these blogs, but it just isn’t why I visit your site daily. I usually get excited when I see your new posts, but I am starting to lose that feeling due to these Manga Driver snippets.

    Anyways I appreciate your work and understand that you should blog about what you want. I am just saying I wish that were more anime.

    Thanks,
    Sarif.

    • Posted May 19, 2013 at 12:07 am | Permalink

      All of the anime that The Cart Driver is covering right now airs on the weekend, which explains why the front page seems to be crowded with manga reviews during the weekdays. Besides, manga reviews come out at a faster rate because of how easy it is to just eat up the material in comparison to anime. This means that their anime posts are still coming out at the same rate as they did before they started doing manga reviews.

      Check your privilege, dude.

    • romulus
      Posted May 19, 2013 at 12:50 am | Permalink

      Nice point above. One more thing: I think if you like the reviewer, the material covered shouldn’t matter. Or you could just go along and read some of the manga, then you can read the manga driver just like the episodics coming weekly. If you watch anime then you know that most of it was adapted from various media, so it is natural that the fans go to the sources of present and future animes. Manga is just as good japanese stuff as animes, some will certainly worth your time.

    • Hanasra
      Posted May 19, 2013 at 5:37 am | Permalink

      Its not like Scamp, and his co-author have forget anime and went all the way for manga. It just this season they’ve only covered one anime each except for Shinmaru who also happened to cover HxH. Also Scamp have yet to start his rewatch on older anime.

      Well, there are many manga that would be impossible to see the light of adaptation (like Real) without demerit the quality of their content. So far I really like stuffs that I’ve yet to read and recommended by Scamp like Parasyte.

    • Scamp
      Posted May 19, 2013 at 9:19 am | Permalink

      I have actually thought about this. The manga posts get about a third of the hits the latest Titan or Gargantia posts get, and the front page has had a lot of manga on it recently. However I can only write about what I’m currently watching/reading. I got a little bored of going back to early 00s anime and there’s surprisingly few stuff from this season I actually like. Plus I’ve kinda gotten into this manga thing. It’s either that or reviews of the Civ 5 mods that add Mass Effect races as civs.

      So basically while I recognise these posts aren’t going to be as popular as anime posts, it’s either that or nothing from me. So eh, here’s some manga posts. Go read Real. It’s really good

      • lmm
        Posted May 19, 2013 at 9:11 pm | Permalink

        I would totally go for the reviews of Civ 5 mods that add Mass Effect races as civs.

      • Scamp
        Posted May 20, 2013 at 10:04 am | Permalink

        Well, since you asked:

        The amount of civs this guy is making is ridiculous and major kudos with him for sticking with it so far. There’s about 10 out already. The Krogan are broken as fuck. Their civ grows so fast so quickly that they are overwhelming. However they’re kinda broken in the Mass Effect universe anyway so I don’t mind that so much. It’s mostly cool to see what ideas the guys came up to make these civs represent their respective species. One issue is most of their unique units only come into the end-game, but that’s kinda inevitable given it’s based off a sci-fi game.

      • Sarif Fice
        Posted May 21, 2013 at 4:27 am | Permalink

        Thanks everyone who read and replied to my post. All your comments are completely valid and presented in a stand up way. You have a great group of followers Scamp.

  4. romulus
    Posted May 19, 2013 at 12:27 am | Permalink

    It’s great, another manga you spoke of in the highest terms! I could say finally, as I finished the last one receiving similar praise a long time ago. Yes, Parasyte was puzzling, fantastic, etc. Yes, I will read this one too.

    Thanks for reviewing mangas in general. I hoped I could find some new favourites if you go straight for the most critically acclaimed ones. I hope you are not dicouraged by the low percentage of true awesomeness, but considering that it was the demand that brought about the supply of moeblobs it is not that surprising. There are a few works which I am specifically expecting, I hope they will live up to their fame!

    • Scamp
      Posted May 19, 2013 at 9:21 am | Permalink

      It’s easy to pick good manga to review because I have the entire medium open to me. It’s like how when you first get into anime it seems amazing because you get to cherry-pick all the best ones right off the bat.

  5. Ana
    Posted May 19, 2013 at 12:45 am | Permalink

    Dayum. Sounds like something I’d be into, and holy shit is his artwork absolutely gorgeous in comparison to Slam Drunk, which totally makes sense. Definitely checking this out, thanks Scamp! I’d heard about it before but never actually bothered to read it.

  6. Desi
    Posted May 19, 2013 at 3:15 am | Permalink

    Did Scamp…
    just…
    be positive?

    • Hanasra
      Posted May 19, 2013 at 5:28 am | Permalink

      Did he always negative or I am just missing something?

      • Desi
        Posted May 19, 2013 at 6:35 am | Permalink

        He’s always going back with words from my angle.

      • Scamp
        Posted May 19, 2013 at 9:22 am | Permalink

        I used to be way more negative, but since Guilty Crown I haven’t been able to find the energy to hate as much as I used to

      • Seppuku33
        Posted May 19, 2013 at 5:44 pm | Permalink

        I’ve never seen Guilty Crown but I see some reviewers saying it’s great while other reviewers saying it’s shit. I know there is disparity between feelings for a show but this seems a bit extreme. I can’t help but think that the people who say it’s good are the same people who, for lack of a better phrase, give Gintama 10s on MAL. I’m not so sure about the negative reviews either. Is it that people expected Guilty Crown to be the next Code Geass and were terribly disappointed? I’m unsure if I should it now bc all of these mixed signals. To say the very least, the animation and music look great.

        What do you think?

        Also, I’m sold on”Real”. I have a great time reading your reviews. Keep these manga driver posts coming!

      • Scamp
        Posted May 20, 2013 at 10:04 am | Permalink

        Guilty Crown is embarrassingly bad and don’t let anyone else tell you otherwise

    • Cirith
      Posted May 19, 2013 at 3:31 pm | Permalink

      It’s not like he never praised anything before. (Though negativity is a huge reason for me reading this blog, it’s kinda uninteresting to read positive reviews when somebody seems to praise everything no matter how mediocre.)

  7. Posted May 19, 2013 at 8:40 am | Permalink

    Good job Scamp. Good for recognizing that REAL is pretty damn awesome. Glad you’re enjoying it.

  8. gedata
    Posted May 19, 2013 at 3:13 pm | Permalink

    I stopped reading REAL after 4 volumes since I ran out. It’s too bad since it’s freaking great. It’s good to see your trying to give great titles like this and Parasyte more exposure.

  9. AsteriskCGY
    Posted May 20, 2013 at 3:52 pm | Permalink

    Did this guy do a series on competitive depth diving as well? Art looks familiar.

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