Hey folks! We are postponing this week’s Rescue Me! post in lieu of a MMF license request. Please check back in next week for more Rescue Me! content.
As hopefully you know, this week is the Cross Game Manga Moveable Feast, a monthly celebration of manga that lasts an entire week. For May, we are celebrating Mitsuru Adachi’s critically-acclaimed Cross Game, a Shonen Sunday manga published from May of 2005 until February of 2010. Derik Badman is hosting the MMF at The Panelists website, so check back there every day this week for more Cross Game content. Cross Game is 17 volumes long, and is being published in an omnibus format in the USA – seven of the 17 volumes have been released so far, the first translated omnibus volume consisting of the first three volumes, while the second two omnibuses are two volumes long apiece.
Mitsuru Adachi is a sports writer, primarily. He has worked in other genres, such as history and fantasy, but his major area of expertise is sports manga, which is why we haven’t seen too much of him the USA until now. Being a sports manga writer is sort of a kiss of death in the publishing industry in the USA – manga like Prince of Tennis and Eyeshield 21 are not popular in the USA, even though they do very well in Japan. This difference comes from the audience differences between the two nations – in Japan, manga is for everyone, and caters to people of wide tastes and hobbies. Shonen Sunday and Shonen Jump target kids in junior high and high school, and manga in Japan has a much higher penetration rate than here in the USA. And, to be blunt, many of the people who read manga in the USA are not sports-oriented, and don’t enjoy reading about sports.
Cross Game has shown us that even when an author focuses on a sport, they can still manage to tell other stories. Adachi is especially adept at de-emphasizing action and the very meat-and-potatoes scenes that make most other sports manga tick – instead, he focuses on character interaction and emotion, and lets the reader fill in the blanks when it comes to action. It’s a very slick presentation that features a sport, but does not emphasize it above all other things.
Despite his perceived limited scope, it is my opinion that Mitsuru Adachi is one of greatest mangaka in Japan, rivaling Rumiko Takahashi in skill and popularity. His work is allegoric yet heartfelt, and maintains a pace and scope of storytelling unmatched by other mangaka. It seems like a tragedy that more of his writing has not yet made it to the USA, and I think that this is a problem that Viz Media and its parent companies need to rectify, so I’m making a suggestion for Viz Media‘s next Adachi release – Adachi’s 2001-2005 series Katsu!.
Katsu! is a boxing manga about a young man, Katsuki Satoyama, who joins a boxing gym to meet a girl Katsuki Mitzutani that is in his freshman class. After training a bit and sparring, he finds out that he has a latent talent for the game – and comes to discover that he is the son of a pro-boxer. The series features Adachi’s signature every-man main character and the feisty female co-lead who gives him headaches, but this time framed around the sport of boxing.
I’m sure that other people interested in Adachi would like to see his other major baseball series, H2, released in the USA, but I think that Katsu! is a much more reasonable series – like Cross Game, the series does not break 20 volumes (Katsu! is 16 volumes, Cross Game is 17). Both are more modern than H2, which ran for 34 volumes from 1992 to 1999, which isn’t necessarily a problem in art style, since Adachi has been pretty consistent with his art for the past 25 years, but I doubt that many publishers would want to start printing a 34-volume baseball epic that started print almost 20 years ago. Katsu! is a fine compromise and showcases Adachi’s ability to write about more than just baseball.
Part of what we doing an MMF is celebrate not only the story being told, but also the writer telling it. I think it is high time we let Adachi loose on American soil and get more of his manga translated into English. The stories are riveting, wonderful examples of how excellent comics can be, and Cross Game is only a taste of what he can offer to English-reading fans. Katsu! is a fine next step, and it is my hope that Cross Game does well enough to make other Adachi series viable for print in the US.