Pop Culture Gadabout
Saturday, May 22, 2010
      ( 5/22/2010 07:32:00 AM ) Bill S.  

“OUT OF ALL THE SPORTS IN THE UNIVERSE, I HATE BASEBALL THE MOST!” One sign that DC’s recent announced decision to axe its CMX line was sudden and expected: less than two weeks ago, I received a review copy of the intro volume to Takanori Yamazaki’s baseball comedy, Diamond Girl. And at the end of the first volume is an ad for number two, promising its release in August 2010. Looks like that ain’t gonna happen.

Too bad because Yamazaki’s teen-rated high school series proves to be an appealing offering, capable of grabbing girl and boy readers. It tells the story of Tsubura Shiraishi, a new student transfer to a country high school that is occasionally beset by thieving monkeys. The small and athletic Tsubura wants to keep a low profile at her new school, but when an errant baseball crashes through the window of her classroom and she catches it, she immediately draws unwanted attention to herself. Tsubura has a phenomenal pitching arm, a fact which immediately grabs the interest of the school’s struggling baseball team.

The boys on the team try to recruit our heroine, but face two small obstacles: high school b-ball teams are supposed to be boys only and, more significantly, Tsubura regularly and loudly declares that she loathes baseball. (“Maybe she’s got some baseball trauma in her past?” one of the b-ballers amusingly wonders.) The bulk of the first volume, then, is devoted to maneuvering our reluctant sports star into joining the team and begrudgingly befriending her sparsely delineated teammates, then shedding some light on her animosity toward the game. (Hint: daddy issues ahead.) Though the first book ends with Tsubura still vehemently insisting that she wants nuthin’ to do with the game, we know from the cover -- our perky pitcher smiling out at us in her team uniform -- that this resolution won’t hold forever.

Yamazaki treats this familiar set-up with plenty of comic vigor and a winking readiness to play with shonen manga storytelling conventions. In one panel, for instance, two of her teammates-to-be strike comically commanding poses as one of the duo loudly proclaims, “Tsubura Shiaishi!! It’s your duty to join the baseball team!!” “What’s with the posing?” our heroine asks. Later in the book, we’re shown our heroine taking a bath, and a note at the bottom of the panel states, “Today, we bring you more fan service than usual.” None of this is so overdone as to interfere with story flow, but it will provoke some chuckles from regular manga readers.

Befitting a sports comic, Yamazaki’s art is fluid and attentive to its characters’ body language. Though this may seem like an odd comparison, there are times in the book where I got a sense of American artist Michael T. (Mr. Monster) Gilbert in both the artist’s ink work and character perspective. There’s an enjoyable mid-volume sequence where our heroine uses a baseball to force a thieving monkey to drop her handbag from the roof of the school which shows the promise of great diamond action scenes to come. Too bad we don’t be able to see ‘em, eh?

(First published on Blogcritics.)


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Pop cultural criticism - plus the occasional egocentric socio/political commentary by Bill Sherman (popculturegadabout AT yahoo.com).

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