Writer: Muneyuki Kaneshiro
Artist: Yusuke Nomura
Publisher: Kodansha (@KodanshaManga)
WHAT IS IT?
A twisted, high-stakes soccer training camp pushes its young athletes to the brink of insanity in this fast-paced, brutal sports manga.
Think Haikyu!! (or really any sports manga) meets Battle Royale.
WHAT’S IT ABOUT?
Japan has a major problem when it comes to their reputation in the world of soccer. They’re just too damn nice. The recent 2018 World Cup defeat caused the national team to struggle, and the lack of an ace striker to round out their offense is noticeable. To rectify this situation, the Football League decides to hire Jinpachi Ego, an unhinged and determined soccer coach and task him with finding a way for them to win in the big leagues.
Enter Yoichi Isagi, a determined high school soccer player who has recently begun questioning if the blood, sweat, and tears he’s put into the game have been worthwhile. After suffering a championship loss and a chance at nationals, Isagi feels as if he’s failed at his dreams. That’s when an invitation to an elite soccer camp arrives and offers him the chance of a lifetime. Arriving at the Blue Lock, Isagi discovers that he’s but one of three hundred promising high schoolers that are being scouted by Coach Ego to help the Japanese team win gold. Only one athlete can take that top tier spot, and the pursuit of fame and glory quickly changes these seemingly normal students into relentless, twisted egoists determined to become the best.
Kaneshiro’s psychologically twisted, high-octane tale of brutality and limit breaking soccer games will have you addicted from moment one. Written with a relentless brutality that highlights the depravity of humankind in the pursuit of fame and spectacle, this manga will have you white-knuckling the pages.
Nomura’s artwork is just as intense as the writing, highlighting the human form in motion with sharp shades of black and heart-pounding momentum, you feel the excitement and aggression pop off of the panels with every line.
The sound effects are killer in this series. They amplify the aggression and inner thought and turmoil that Isagi experiences both on and off the field. Many of the SFXs have a blood splatter appearance, which adds a sense of dread and anticipation to the narrative.
This is unlike any other sports series you’ve read. It is utterly brilliant and highly unique, taking the normal focus of team work in these sorts of coming-of-age tales rife with friendships and growth, and strips it down to its most primal elements where it feels more "kill or be killed" than you'd expect.
The most notable character in this entire manga is Jinpachi Ego, the psychotic coach and inventor of the Blue Lock. He sits somewhere between musician Oliver Tree and a horrid creation of Junji Ito, he’s haunting to look at and unnatural in his movements, and an absolutely captivating force in the series.
The facial expressions of the characters are haunting. The wide-eyed, near-panicked gazes feel like they were torn from the pages of a horror series, and it'll get your heart racing. It's a dynamic way to show the anticipation when many sports titles focus more on the anatomy as a whole, focusing on the eyes and dark grins adds a new level of tension.
As someone who doesn’t enjoy sports, I did appreciate that they took the time to explain the important details so those who are unfamiliar with the game can follow along with the plays and matches. It is an engrossing series that can captivate a wide audience, so opening up that availability to everyone was a nice touch.
WHAT DOESN’T WORK?
CW: Strong language, violence, some psychological horror-leaning elements, brutality in sports, blood, bullying. It’s an intense series not for the faint of heart, so don’t expect a lighthearted fun romp like Haikyu!!
The only female character in the series, Anri-chan, is fully used in a sexual manner and it’s disappointing. Every scene she’s in she enters breasts first and half the time her head isn’t even shown. It feels childish with how serious the rest of the volume is, and her determination to help Japan find victory is overshadowed by her looks. Though in later volumes they tend to utilize her a bit more, it still leaves a foul taste as far as introductions go.
WHY SHOULD I READ IT?
It’s an undeniable fact that sports and manga go hand in hand. Iconic titles like Haikyu!!, The Prince of Tennis, and Slam Dunk showcase that a variety of sports and athleticism-based stories can cement themselves in the pantheon of manga legends. So, what makes Blue Lock different? It’s brutal, it’s psychological, and it’s downright gripping.
The intensity of the Blue Lock itself, helmed by the nightmarish Coach Ego, pushes the students to the limits in a way not seen in similar titles. The boys sacrifice their morals, their sanity, and their well-being all for the sake of becoming the best. Unlike most sports-centered manga where the slow climb to greatness is filled with teamwork, compassion, and sportsmanship, when it comes to Blue Lock, it’s kill or be killed, and every student knows it. This psychological, almost depraved competition is shown through crazed expressions and sharply written conversations that dig under the skin of not only the athletes, but the readers. And trust me, it only gets worse in later volumes.
A unique twist on a beloved sub-genre of manga, Blue Lock is upping the ante with its mind-games and look at the human psyche, as well as the risks and sacrifices one must make to achieve greatness. It’s a high-octane, no-holds-barred series that dares to take risks and executes on them with precision and brutality. It’s an absolutely relentless must-read.
HOW DO I READ IT?
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