Remember when I used to watch anime?
Yeah, me neither.
In my ongoing battle against not watching my backlogs, I’ve read even more manga in the past month than ever before. Today, I want to talk about a nice little sports manga with a great emphasis on romance and interpersonal relationships, Saotome Senshu.
So, what exactly is Saotome Senshu?
(This segment contains some minor spoilers, but all of them are joke panels or have no context. Since this is a comedy manga, seeing one or two jokes to sell you on the manga is fine in my opinion.)
High-Schooler Tsukishima Satoru gets confessed to by local female High-School boxing-talent Saotome Yae. He rejects her initially because he does not want to impede her boxing career (and prevent getting beaten up by her fans).
Her female coach, Shioya hears about this and decides to install him as Saotome’s trainer so that they can secretly date each other. This situation is also aided by his extensive boxing knowledge.
That’s about the gist of the story, and our main focus is mostly on our two leads, Satoru and the title character, Saotome. Together, they train to beat the toughest of the tough in the boxing world, but can they beat the toughest opponent of them all:
F E E L I N G S ?
Without spoiling much, I will simply say that unlike a lot of other romance manga out there that like to stretch the romance over hundreds of chapters at a snail’s pace, Saotome Senshu handles things much better.
For one, althought the whole “out of my league” relationship cliche start is there with Highschool Sweetheart Saotome confessing to “Average MC” Satoru is pretty strong in the early chapters due to the author’s inexperience, it gets fleshed out relatively quickly by showing why Saotome confessed to Satoru in the first place.
Satoru is wimpy in the context of boxing. He has a great physique as befits his body because of his passion, has an apt mind for boxing strategy and techniques, but his only flaw is that he lack natural talent and has low stamina. Already, he’s much better than most romcom MCs who are NEETS, boring everymans, or just plain spineless.
Saotome, on the other hand, is a character we’ve seen before too, but put into the context of a boxing manga. She’s the prodigy with a cold stare and regal beauty that intimidates all others from trying to talk to her like a normal person. Thanks to this, she didn’t really develop any social skills and instead puts all her effort into boxing and studies.
Until of course, she sees somebody who is putting out more effort than she is, without all her natural talent. Satoru.
Their relationship as coach and boxer is a great vehicle for the romance, because it already implies a lot of possible intimacy and trust. As a coach, you are expected to keep your boxer in top form, meaning you are constantly there to monitor her physical and mental health. As a boxer, she must do her part in ensuring that the coach’s advice is not wasted.
Obviously, the fact that they like each other means this whole thing is REALLY awkward for both of them, and makes for a lot of good fluff. Of course, as with most romcoms, the two leads tend to pussyfoot around being closer a LOT, and this is where my favorite side-character is introduced, Mitto Kuno.
Seeing as these two are too socially awkward to progress naturally, we are introduced to Mitto, the best wingwoman in manga. She’s literally us, the reader, acting out what we want these two to just do as readers: GET A ROOM!
Add to the fact that she actually has a personality and backstory separate from these two, she makes for a wonderful side character, and is usually the driving force for situations where these two can get closer. A thing that Saotome Senshu does well despite the tropes is introducing the fact that characters are perfectly aware of said tropes, and a lot of them do their damn best to avoid falling into it.
There’s also a tiny little annoying subplot about keeping Saotome’s “purity” as an idol by ensuring she has no relationships, but that got shoved to the side relatively quickly with that glorious panel above.
Most of the manga though, when not building up to a fight, focuses on the romance or copious amounts of-
I don’t have anything to add. This speaks for itself.
But if I really have to say anything though:
The artstyle of this manga is really good at emphasizing the musculature and form of the girls! Every action, punch, and excercise feels dynamic and natural. These are things that a good sports manga should do! Some may argue that the faces being all “samey” is a detriment, but I think the faces are fine. The clear focus of the art is on the physique of our characters, anyway.
TL;DR – Muscle girls are life
Now, this manga, being from a fresh mangaka with this as his first serialized work, tends to have all of the stumbles that new mangakas do.
- A lot of the shounen sports fights are conventional, and sometimes bordering on generic.
- Again, if you’re not a fan of “same-face” in manga, this has a lot of characters who look way too alike if not for their hairstyles or physiques saying otherwise.
- Each chapter is only TWELVE pages long per week, so it technically has half as many “real” chapters as the average weekly manga, which is 24 pages. Obviously, these muscle girls are hard to draw, but plot-wise, it does make the pacing suffer.
- Some characters are just tropes.
- Your estrogen and testosterone levels will be constantly fighting for control as you read this.
Despite the rather short chapters and conventional plot threads, the characters and gorgeous artstyle makes this manga a definite must-read for anybody who is a fan of sports and romance manga, and it’s only getting better.
I sincerely hope this gets an adaptation, particularly by the same studio as Hanebado!, because there isn’t enough love for musclebound sports girls in anime these days.
That’s it for my review of Saotome Senshu (so far), and thanks for reading!