Crimson Hero 1 by Mitsuba Takanashi: B

From the back cover:
All that matters to 15-year-old Nobara Sumiyoshi is volleyball—she’s an awesome player with big-time ambitions. But sometimes it seems like a girl just can’t get a break in the competitive world of high school volleyball.

Nobara’s family wants her to inherit the role of “young mistress,” serving rich patrons at her family’s old-fashioned Japanese restaurant. No thanks! When Nobara transfers to Crimson Field High School, known for its top-notch volleyball team, it turns out that her mother will stoop to dirty tricks to keep her off the court. With assistance from her feisty Aunt Momoko, who’s got some connections at Crimson Field, Nobara decides to start playing offense.

Seriously, are there any bad Shojo Beat manga? I suppose I wasn’t very keen on Time Stranger Kyoko or I.O.N, but I think I’ve liked all the others that I’ve read.

From childhood, Nobara’s parents tried to mold her into a “young mistress” of grace and refinement who would be suitable to take over their traditional family restaurant. She continually disappointed them, and was always being unfavorably compared to her lady-like younger sister, Souka. It was only through volleyball that she found something at which she excelled and, through it, she eventually learned to like herself as she was.

Fast forward to high school. Nobara has enrolled at Crimson Field High School purely on the strength of its volleyball program, but when she arrives, she finds that her mother has exercised her PTA clout to get the girls’ team disbanded. In a fury, Nobara runs away from home and her aunt, the school nurse, sets her up with a job as the interim house mother for the school’s volleyball dorm, currently occupied by four rather assy boys. Nobara makes many mistakes, but eventually the fact that she’s trying so hard purely for the opportunity to play volleyball starts to win over a couple of the guys.

I think this may actually be my first shoujo sports manga, but so far I’m enjoying it a lot. I love Nobara’s androgynous character design, and also that she tries to be tough but sometimes experiences insecurities. Most of her vulnerability comes from having her dream continually thwarted by her family, so when someone actually speaks up for her—as dorm resident Yushin does when her mom shows up at the dorm to collect her—it’s actually a pretty emotional thing.

Towards the end of the volume, Nobara begins to make contact with the girls who used to be on the volleyball team, as she’s been told that if she can assemble enough players, the school will reinstate the team. Her passion and refusal to submit to insults from the boys’ team inspires the dispirited remnants of the team, making one realize just what the title really means. I find I’m really looking forward to the formation of the team and actually seeing the girls work hard in pursuit of success.

On the negative side, there are a couple of cheesy plot elements, like the fact that Nobara has met one of the boys before in elementary school and that, as a result of juggling all of her responsibilities, she (of course) contracts a fever and requires nursing. A more minor, yet still annoying, quibble is that Nobara seems to be the only student at her school who does not wear a uniform. How is she not getting in trouble? Too, there doesn’t appear to be any standardization in the sailor fuku the other girls are wearing, so it’s just entirely confusing

Lastly, I think Nobara and Haruna from High School Debut should meet. They would probably get along well.

Crimson Hero is still being serialized in Japan and its fifteenth volume is due out there later this month. Viz publishes the series in English; they’ve released through volume ten. I think this series is the only one of the original batch of titles featured in the Shojo Beat magazine to still be included in its line-up. This results in rather lengthy delays between volumes.

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  1. Awwww this sounds fun!

  2. Thanks for the article, i’ll give this manga a look 🙂


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