Thursday, October 02, 2008

REAL, vol. 1

By Takehiko Inoue
Published in the US by Viz

Slugline: Definitely not a continuation of Slam Dunk!

Nomiya has a bit of a guilt problem, since a girl he picked up and took riding on a bike, there was an accident and she is now in a wheelchair. He was well on his way of flunking out of school before this, but this only confirmed his status as a dropout and as he tries to assuage his guilt by helping the girl. However, the only thing that seems to attract the girl's attention is another wheelchair bound basketball player named Togawa. Thus starts an odd little friendship between Nomiya and Togawa, that is cemented by both of their intense love of basketball, letting them challenge Nomiya's former schoolmates for use of their gym to practice basketball. Later, they use their skills to hustle rich kids, until they meet a challenger that they cannot defeat, forcin Nomiya to directly face his fear of driving while Togawa goes back to his basketball team to increase his skills. Meanwhile, the head of the school's basketball team that Nomiya and Togawa humiliated, Takahashi, is showing off for his girlfriend and gets into an accident, so that he no longer has any feeling below his waist.

Inoue is far better known for his more famous work, Slam Dunk, a basketball sports manga. But while basketball is nominally the topic of REAL, the true topic is about what people will throw themselves into in order to avoid dealing with their real problems. Basketball is both their escape from reality and their salvation that leads back to it for these characters. Nomiya is isolated and alone, driven by passion for basketball but it is that same passion that drives him back towards interacting with others again, while Togawa being beaten at a one on one game is the catalyst for him to embrace his old team. Takahashi on the other hand has a long way to fall yet before he can start to climb again. While this is not the most subtle of works, by the same token some of the directions are interesting and each of the characters are unique and for the most part have enough rough edges that they don't feel like cookie cutter creations.

REAL, vol. 1 is also available from Right Stuf, Intl., an online retailer specializing in anime and manga.

- Ferdinand

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