Lately, I found myself really enjoying a number of manga that are not exactly well rated in aggregators. Hence the underrated statement in my title. I actually talked about Mama Akuma in a separate list post (I’m not sure if it will be published before this but if it is, I’ll try to remember to add the link – no promises). I found Mama Akuma to be just delightful and most people seem to have found it to be… meh…
This might lso be the case for the two manga I’m about to discuss now but after one volume, I’m really into both of these. I already ordered whatever else I could find and they are some of my favourite new discoveries lately. General opinion seems to be that these titles are…. o.k. So I’m hoping that this post might give you a bit moreinsight if you have been curious about either of these
1. Run on Your New Legs
After the loss of his leg, Kikuzato’s dream of becoming a soccer ace comes to an end. But with use of a prosthetic leg, he finds a new goal — to become a track star and win gold at the Tokyo Paralympics!
You all know my love for a good Sports! manga so it’s no surprise that I really got into this title quickly but there’s a bit more to it.
Naturally, it’s easy to think that this is a gimmick manga. The fact that we are following the life of a disabled athlete really sets the story apart. And it does but I think it would be unfair to call it merely a gimmick.
I think the author has some hit and misses with the way the subject matter is handled but you can definitely tell that there was a lot of care and thought put into it. It wasn’t simply a quirk to set the character apart.
On the downside, I do think there are a lot of elements when it comes to living with and caring for a prosthetic limb that have been simplified in this manga. And that’s to be expected. The entire manga is only five volumes so there’s a limited amount of time in which to tell the story and there’s also a lot of mundane care that isn’t all that exciting to read about. But it does give an incomplete view of the situation.
For similar reasons the characters are occasionally a bit shallow (for now). Chidori, the prosthetist that offers to build a new leg for the main character is what I might have called a manic pixie dream girl if he wasn’t a middle aged man and Usami, Kazuto’s new school friend and potential coach is pretty much just a surface level character and a little too precious for my tastes.
But that’s countered by what the manga has going for it. Kazuto himself is actually a pretty great character and the story refuses to reduce him to his disability. It’s really just a part of him, an important one considering the context of the story, but not a defining one. For instance, in the first volume, we never even find out why or how Kazuto lost a leg. We know he played soccer at one point and that he had both legs then but that’s all. And the narrative is presented in a way that makes it seem like the incident itself doesn’t matter. I found that really refreshing. I have a feeling that future volumes do go into it but I hope it’s left as just a passing explanation. I like that the focus is not on that one moment.
Moreover, the author clearly did their research. In fact, the last page has a long series of thanks that various doctors, prosthetists, university research centers, athletes as well as industry professionals that were consulted for the story. And you can tell. I did say that some of the details in prosthetic care were skipped over but there was a heck of a lot of details given as well. Especially when it comes to the highly specialized field of sports prosthetics.
I personally find prosthetics fascinating to begin with. I have delt with a lot of them at work, as well as related biomechanical limbs and body armor and it’s a field I have an interest in. If I was to redo my career, it would be one of the fields I would want to go into. However, I have very little knowledge in sports prosthetics and I loved reading about them in this manga.
There was one awkward moment in volume 1. At one point a character mentions Oscar Pistorius. I understand why, he is difficult to overlook when it comes to running in the Paralympics. The character basically enthusiastically praises all his athletic achievement and then mentions offhand that he had also been in the news for some not so great stuff and the scene moves on. And well.. he murdered his girlfriend. That’s not just so great stuff. They made it sound like he had been rude to an assistant or something. I get that the author didn’t want to go into that particular story and it really has nothing to do with the manga but it was just an awkward scene. Personally, I think it would have been smoother if they just didn’t mention anything about Pistorius’ criminal record and left it at his athletic career.
In any case, I personally thought the strengths the manga outweighed the weaknesses. It’s an unusual subject matter that’s being treated with care and research and it’s also a really well paced Sports! narrative. So if any of that sounds good, I would give it a try.
2. Parham Itan: Tales From Beyond
Parham Itan literally has no synopsis on AniList. That’s how little known it is. Here is the MAL synopsis:
Yamagishi and Sendo are schoolmates, but that’s about as far as their similarities go: one is a short, no-nonsense boxer, while the other is a tall, bookish conspiracy nut. But when they find themselves embroiled in a paranormal phenomenon at school involving plant-faced monster people assimilating innocent victims, it seems they’ll have to set aside their differences and work together as best as they can.
Of course, it doesn’t help that the only one with any answers to this bizarre situation is a mysterious “paranormal investigator” named Akisato, who insists they must find some sort of “key” to stop it all—before giant insects and other preternatural perils from the world “beyond” get to them first.
I started reading the first volume and I kid you not, I actually told myself on three separate occasions, man this is well written. Obviously I have the English translation so maybe it’s the translator that’s talented but in any case the mise en scene and pacing of the first volume is wonderful. All the exposition is so smoothly integrated into the dialogue that I couldn’t even pick it out and yet I was never confused as to what was happening. It’s really well written on a technical level.
Granted, that doesn’t mean all that much, especially in a manga. There are tons of stories that are technically fantastic but also super boring. Well written doesn’t always entail engaging and in a manga where only the dialogue is actually written out, you don’t get to simply enjoy the words. Especially as one character is a country hick with an accent. The writing comes through in the structure and that’s not as easy to appreciate.
So what about the story…
Let me put it this way. In one volume I found that it was surprisingly bloody, there were more bodies than I expected but it doesn’t relish in the gore either. The characters manage to subvert my expectations on several occasions just by being a lot more average than one would think and the entire story was constantly tittering between mystery and science fiction horror. And then I got to the last page, the page where the author explains their process and inspiration.
Parham Itan is inspired by the Call of Cthulhu RPG. As in the tabletop game. If you ask me, if you get the right group together, the Call of Cthulhu is the best tabletop RPG there is. It’s amazing. The universe of the RPG is a little more fantastical and less oppressive than the Lovecraft stories it’s based on, because you need to have human characters that can survive for more than 10 minutes without loosing their minds, but the core is still there.
In the Call of Cthulhu playable characters aren’t heroes that are going to save the world, they’re tiny ants just struggling to not loose their minds and lives in the face of inexplicable terror. And you can feel that in the manga. The main characters are really very normal and general not equipped to do much more than try to survive.
The horrors they encounter also have that Lovecraft outlandishness. Most of them are terrifying by their existence but generally uninterested in the main characters or even in humans. They may be dangerous or even deadly to us but that only a by-product, the same way we are dangerous to ants.
It’s a very unique sort of atmosphere and I have to say it really grabbed my attention in the first volume. I don,t know if it goes downhill later on but so far, it’s probably one of my favourite “horror/mystery” manga of recent years. I would love to see it get animated.