Whistle! 1 by Daisuke Higuchi: A-

From the back cover:
Banned from his school’s soccer team for being too short, Shou Kazamatsuri decides there’s only one thing left to do: switch schools!

But even a change in scenery doesn’t help the David Beckham wannabe. On campus, he is mistakenly introduced to everyone as a hotshot star athlete. When the truth is revealed, Shou drops out of school to practice on his own.

Alone, the spunky teenager must work twice as hard to make his dreams come true. He wants to play soccer so bad he’s willing to hustle day and night to make it happen.

I really liked this story. Even though I know there are translation problems with the title (some soccer terms and names of famous pros), they couldn’t prevent the cute art and fun pacing from winning me over. To clarify one thing about the blurb: the title is really not as cracky as it sounds with regard to schools. Shou’s transfer happens before the story begins, and he doesn’t really drop out of the new school so much as skip classes for a couple of weeks while he practices.

Whistle! is obviously a sports manga, but what differentiates it from others I have read is that Shou is actually pretty abysmal to start out. He doesn’t have a bishounen ghost to help him, nor has he won a bunch of tournaments before the manga starts. He simply loves the sport and works very hard to improve.

He has a great, encouraging brother that I like, and the best player on the team (Mizuno) respects his efforts, rather than being snooty about his superiority. It’s all warm and fuzzy without being saccharine, and I was surprised by how into the game I was. I’ll definitely be reading more.

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