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Blue Box #119 Manga Review

7 min read
A badminton guy falls for a basketball girl. Do these sports-crossed lovers have a chance?
AO NO HAKO © 2021 by Kouji Miura / SHUEISHA Inc.

“Almost Got The Wrong Idea”

Creative Staff
Story/Art: Kouji Miura
Translation: Christine Dashiell
Lettering: Mark McMurray

What They Say
Taiki Inomata loves badminton, but he has a long way to go before he can reach nationals. When Taiki sees upperclassman Chinatsu Kano practicing her heart out on the girls’ basketball team, he falls for her hard. After an unexpected turn of events brings the two closer together, sports might not be the first thing on their minds anymore!

Taiki admires Chinatsu from afar, but he doubts that she sees him in the same way. Yet somehow, he musters up the courage to tell her to never give up on her dreams! After such a bold declaration, will Taiki’s fleeting high school romance finally begin?

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):
With this series launching back in the spring of 2021 in Japan as Ao no Hako, it’s moving really well through its third year as it’s only getting better and better. Mangaka Kouji Miura definitely has some talent here in the storytelling and the visual design side, presumably with her team of assistants, to give us something that feels really rich and detailed. I had randomly picked the title in the late teens from the Shonen Jump site as something to try out a few chapters ago and got hooked on it – which is why I’m still here talking about it. Though the relationship aspect is simple and the sports elements aren’t deep, the combination of what we do get with the artwork ended up delivering something that made me want to keep coming back for more.

With the lead-up previously to Valentine’s showing how Ayame and Chinatsu were working at their chocolates, we get to the day of at school itself. And it’s certainly fun but it mostly plays in areas that you almost don’t expect. Ayame has made chocolates for the team in general but she also made a special box for Kyo as she’s interested in him and is dealing with all the anxiety of her first time actually pursuing someone. It’s amusing watching her cope with this and some of her internal dialogue in doing so, but she also trips herself up along the way. When she and Kyo are somewhere a little quieter than usual, she’s close to giving him the box but it’s Hina that shows up. And the dialogue that flows has her wondering if Hina is into Kyo more than she realized. And after everything with Taiki that happened, she’s feeling like it would be considerate to pull back so as to not cause her more harm or a potential betrayal.

What happens then is nicely done as well as she ends up talking with Matsuoka who doesn’t get any chocolate. He thinks it goes back to when he had deferred in junior high when a girl gave him some because he knew his friend was into her. But it started a thing where he doesn’t get any now and that does impact him. Of course, Ayame thinks there may be more to it based on some of what other girls are saying practically in earshot, but she ends up giving him the chocolate that was for Kyo – while making clear that there is no greater meaning here. This has her feeling like she needs to be more herself and not a pursuer like she was and you might see it as a regression. But we also see how Kyo saw what happened – sans hearing it – and realizes that he must have been misreading things as he thought she was into him. The gap widens instead of shrinks.

In Summary:
The story does give us a little time with Taiki, first by getting interviewed by someone there to interview Haryu primarily, and then his panic upon seeing Matsuoka with chocolate in the same paper as what he knows Chinatsu was working on – not knowing she did that with Ayame. When he gets home we get a great moment where Chinatsu pulls him aside before he gets to the house so she can give him the chocolate in secret. I’m glad he admitted some of his panic to her because her reaction of basically clasping his face and saying that he’s her boyfriend is just pure Chinatsu. She’s claimed him and he is hers and she’s trying to make that clear to him. It’s not easy in a first-time relationship to have the confidence at the right level but the balance these two are striking is working out well so far.

Content Grade: B+
Art Grade: A-
Text/Translation Grade: B+

Age Rating: 13+
Released By: Shonen Jump
Release Date: October 1st, 2023