Shojo FIGHT!, Vols. 1-2

By Yoko Nihonbashi | Published digitally by Kodansha Comics

Neri Oishi was a great volleyball player in elementary school, when she was captain of a team that took second place in the national championship. At her prestigious middle school, however, she’s a benchwarmer, often tasked with picking up balls and doing laundry. One of her teammates, Chiyo, is vocally frustrated by the situation, since she played against Neri’s team and knows how good she is. After injuring Chiyo during an argument, Neri must play in her stead in a practice game. Try as she might to suppress them, her aggressive tendencies flare, and she ends up injuring a teammate. Disaster is further assured when her childhood friend/osteopath Shigeru chooses the boys’ bathroom as a treatment venue. Upon discovery (and subsequent misunderstanding), Neri is forced to resign from the volleyball club.

It’s a neat setup, introducing Neri in this environment where she’s not flourishing. By the end of the second volume, readers have learned about the childhood trauma that led to Neri becoming obsessed with volleyball as a means to forget, and the consequences that single-minded focus had on her relationship with her elementary teammates, all of whom bailed on their plans to attend middle school together. She also enrolls in Kokuyodani Private High School, where her sister attended and whose volleyball team is now coached by her sister’s former teammate.

Neri is ashamed of the selfish way she sometimes plays, and wants to change. She’s also absolutely certain that anyone trying to be friends with her is going to end up regretting it. To this end, she initially keeps her #1 fan, Manabu Odagiri, at a distance. Neri saved Manabu from bullies when they were kids, and Manabu has never forgotten it. It soon becomes clear that Manabu is now in the one in the position to help, urging Neri to try to talk to people instead of simply interpreting things in the worst way possible.

Manabu also ends up joining the volleyball team, despite being a total newbie, leading to the most enjoyable part of the series so far: a three-on-three game between the new first years. All of the firsties on the Kokuyodani team have distinct personalities (and, actually, the upperclassmen are seriously fun and awesome, too) and their different training styles are fascinating to watch, especially as Neri manages to drill Manabu in the basics while tasked with spending the first three days only on cleaning duty. Seeing Manabu succeed is gratifying, and I loved that, after Neri’s “mad dog” persona emerges during the game, none of her new teammates harbors a grudge about it.

I am very impressed with how vivid these characters are so far, and 100% addicted already. I also want to note that although the art style is a bit unconventional, it doesn’t take long to get used to it and after a while I stopped noticing it entirely. Although I will always love shounen sports manga, after Shojo FIGHT! and Giant Killing, seinen sports manga might be my new fave.

Shojo FIGHT! is ongoing in Japan, where it is up to fourteen volumes.

Review copies provided by the publisher

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