Hit the “Random” button and see what comes up! In this feature, we take a look at whatever manga the Random Number God decides to throw at us and find out if it’s worth your time.
This time: Beach Stars, by Morio Masahiro
Nanase Iruka is your average energetic high school girl, peppy, short, tomboyish, and filled with a love for the sport of volleyball. Okay, so maybe not exactly average, but close enough. Unfortunately for her, the school’s volleyball team gets disbanded due to lack of members. Depressed, Iruka’s friends take her to the beach to try cheering her up, where she ends up discovering a new passion in the form of beach volleyball. With its own set of rules, standards, and tricks, Iruka’s got her work cut out for her, especially when
busty Rei Ayanami Hakawa Sanae, Japan’s future beach volleyball representative curtly tells the petite girl to give up. Thankfully our protagonist is too hot blooded to take that lying down and Nanase Iruka embarks on her newfound journey to make it to the top of the beach volleyball world.
Yeah, it sounds pretty by-the-numbers, and in some ways, it is. You have your typical sports manga tropes at play here; the unskilled rookie with huge potential, the ace with a traumatic backstory, the friendly (and not-so-friendly) rival teams with their own gimmicks and tricks, etc. The characters struggle to put together a team, legitimize their club, go to tournaments, all the standard fare for a sports manga. The art is serviceable for the most part, if somewhat generic, but there are some pretty great double-spreads whenever Iruka does something particularly awesome.
Verdict: Steady Serve
As designated sports manga/anime guy of the Glorio Blog, I suppose it was my job to read this one. The cover didn’t really give me much hope, and while I’m not one to downplay the efforts of any sport, a manga about beach volleyball had me…skeptical to say the least.
So imagine my surprise when I found a manga that, while pretty straightforward in its premise, managed to partially overcome it with a lot of heart. While the rest of the cast isn’t particularly striking, Iruka herself is a fun main character and while she’s hot blooded like many sports genre protagonists, she adds her own peppy spin to it. If she went home crying or ended up in a catatonic state over every little setback like some other sports manga protagonists, I certainly wouldn’t have stuck with the manga until its inconclusive finale. Instead, she always gets back up and trains her hardest to overcome her physical shortcomings. That I can respect.
It is still a shame that the manga gets such an unsatisfying conclusion though. It seems the manga was cut short, because it ends with a lot of unfulfilled plot threads and we never truly get a grand finale like any proper sports manga deserves. Beach Star’s actual flaws are few, but this is a glaring one, and it prevents the manga from being more than decent.*
Overall, while Beach Stars isn’t truly spectacular, it is a solid sports manga based on a uniquely distinct sport. Beach volleyball certainly isn’t the first thing I think of when I think of sports manga, and if nothing else, I’m glad it got a relatively decent portrayal. If you enjoy the genre as much as I do, I think it’s worth checking out. Otherwise, the rather straightforward execution doesn’t offer much beyond its basic appeal.
(*Speaking of, Beach Stars gets a somewhat more satisfying conclusion in the form of its sequel, The!! Beach Stars. Unfortunately, it seems that was also cut short early and suffers from it as well.)