Days, Vols. 1-2

By Tsuyoshi Yasuda | Published digitally by Kodansha Comics

Fifteen-year-old Tsukushi Tsukamoto doesn’t have any friends. He’s always rushed home after school to be there for his disabled mother, who is raising him on her own after his father passed away. After an eccentric fellow named Jin Kazama saves Tsukushi from bullies, Tsukushi is more than willing to grant Kazama the favor of playing a game of futsal with him. In fact, he runs six miles through the rain in order to fulfill his promise, and though he’s spectacularly awful at the game, he’s also a gutsy idiot and something about his enthusiasm rubs off on his teammates.

As it happens, Tsukushi and Kazama are attending the same high school, Seiseki, which is renowned for its soccer club. They both join, but whereas Kazama is the best of the incoming first years, Tsukushi is the worst, frequently causing the rest of his yearmates to run extra laps due to his ineptitude. The other guys get frustrated, but Tsukushi just works harder than ever. This is the first time he’s ever been part of a group moving in the same direction toward a shared dream, and he’s never had so much fun. The stoic, pro-bound captain, Mizuki, admires this dedication and predicts, “Two years down the road, he’s going to be our captain.” We eventually learn that Mizuki himself started off just as awful.

Little by little, Tsukushi manages to not completely suck, albeit only for brief moments at a time. Because of his ability to rekindle the joy of soccer in others, he is surprisingly chosen for the Interhigh team. Though he makes an error that costs them a penalty kick, he also makes a valiant save that rallies everyone’s spirits. I’m a sucker for those moments when the underdog first hears the crowd cheering for them so, predictably, this moment made me verklempt.

I did, however, have a few doubts about Days in the beginning. There are some gags with the bullies that are extremely unfunny, and a recurring bit where Kazama keeps handing Tsukushi panties with which to dry his tears. Too, there was one instance of girls’ boobs appearing (with requisite “boing” sound effect) a panel before we see their faces. I realize that this is a shounen sports manga, but most are, and they’re usually not as juvenile as Days is in its opening chapter. Thankfully, it gets better. I especially appreciate Yasuda-sensei’s skill with the poignant two-page spread and the organic way the supporting characters are beginning to be fleshed out. Days definitely won me over in the end.

Days is ongoing in Japan, where volume 22 has just been released.

Review copies provided by the publisher.

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