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March Madness Manga

The month of March has a lot going on. The first day of spring, St. Patrick’s Day, the beginning of Daylight Savings Time, and sometimes, like this year, Easter, all occur within its 31 days. For sports fans, the big event is March Madness, a basketball tournament held to determine the finalists in the NCAA men’s championship. With basketball on everyone’s mind, here are a few manga that feature the sport.

Slam Dunk is the seminal title for basketball manga. Created by Takehiko Inoue in the 1990s, it is credited with popularizing Slam Dunk 1basketball in Japan and was ranked #1 in several polls taken among Japanese readers over the last 15 years. The series follows Hanamichi Kasuragi, a first-year high school student who has a crush on Haruko Akagi, the sister of Takenori Akagi, who is the captain of Shohoku’s basketball team. Kasuragi joins the basketball team, thinking he can impress Haruko, but it turns out to be a lot of work. Fortunately, he has an aptitude for the sport, and he aims to be the best at doing the slam dunk. While Kasuragi isn’t too serious about playing at first, his feelings for Haruko and his competitive spirit ignite, and he becomes a driving force for getting Shohoku to the National Championships. Slam Dunk captures the feel of the sport, and in the games, really makes you feel all the excitement, tension, and exhaustion of being on the court. Kasuragi is a great lead, expressing both the dramatic and comedic elements of this series, and he sees a lot of character growth, as do the other characters. The series is 31 volumes and is rated for teens and up. It has been released completely by Viz Media. If you want to know what playing basketball is like without breaking a sweat, then pick up this title.

Real is also by Takehiko Inoue, and it features wheelchair basketball. The series follows three teens: Tomomi Nomiya, a high Real 14schooler who drops out after an accident on his motorbike leaves the girl he was giving a ride to, comatose; Hisanobu Takahashi, leader of his high school’s basketball team until an accident makes him a paraplegic; and Kiyohara Togawa, an ex-sprinter who lost his leg from the knee down and now plays wheelchair basketball. These three have nothing in common other than their love of basketball, but they are drawn together because of it. While the series features plenty of wheelchair basketball action, the focus is really on the characters and the obstacles they have to face, both physically and mentally. It gives a very realistic look at both the sport of wheelchair basketball and the issues people with different disabilities have to deal with. The series is aimed at an older teen and up audience, and there are 14 volumes currently available from Viz Media. Because this is Inoue, you can expect a lot of great basketball action, but for readers who also want deeper character development, this is a great series to pick up.

Kuroko’s Basketball is the newest of the basketball manga, and amazingly, it was not created by Takehiko Inoue. It is the creation of Kuroko_no_Basuke_Covermanga artist Tadatoshi Fujimaki and is his first title licensed in the west. It starts with the five stars of Teiko Middle School’s basketball team. They were known as the “Generation of Miracles” for demolishing the competition. After graduation, the five went on to different high schools, but a rumor persisted of a “phantom” sixth man in the “Generation of Miracles.” Tetsuya Kuroko is a small, frail, unnoticeable boy who is also the phantom sixth player. His strength isn’t in his shooting or jumping but his ability to misdirect. He has developed skills to go unnoticed so he can relay the ball to his teammates and is virtually unstoppable at stealing the ball. He goes to Seiren High School which has a strong but little known basketball team. Kuroko is joined by Taigo Kagami, a naturally talented player who has been living in the US, and together they intend to take Seiren to the championships while taking down Kuroko’s former teammates one by one. The Kuroko’s Basketball manga hasn’t been released yet—Viz has it scheduled to come out as 2-in-1 omnibuses starting in August—but the anime based on it is available for streaming on Crunchyroll. Like Slam Dunk, this series is for teens and incorporates both comedy and drama, but it lacks the obvious love interest. Kuroko’s motivation appears to be to improve his abilities and beat his former teammates. Kuroko’s Basketball is very popular in Japan, selling in excess of 27 million volumes and ranking as the third highest seller in 2013. This is definitely a series to watch out for when it comes out in the summer, and will make a great addition to any sports or graphic novel collection.

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Lori Henderson About Lori Henderson

Lori Henderson is a mother of two teenage daughters and an avid reader. She blogs about manga at her personal blog Manga Xanadu as well as contributing and editing for Manga Village. She blogs about all things fandom (mainly Doctor Who) at her other personal blog Fangirl Xanadu. She's been at it so for over 5 years now and counting!

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