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Blue Box #124 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.

“Great to Hear”

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 things getting settled now that the new school year is underway, things are starting to warm up and the weather is better. And it launches us into the school sports festival, which considering this is a school with a lot of athletics programs, is pretty intense. We see how the badminton team is working to get together and do a lot of stuff to win since the prize is a very limited kind of yakisoba bread and they’re all in on it. The competitive nature is a lot of fun but I like the amusing bits that we get within all of this, especially when Haruto is deferential to his upperclassman but is also surprisingly sharp and yet blunt when it compliments Hina along the way on her body. It totally throws her and everyone else off but it’s an interesting bit of honesty from him and I like that it’s again keeping her in the mix which is welcome. There’s such a good cast of characters but they’re not constantly “on” which gives them all room to breathe and exist.

With Chinatsu on the opposite team, it’s fun to see how Taiki admires her from a distance but also the way she watches him as well. Even more so when Haryu talks with her about her relationship with Taiki, making it clear that he figured it out himself and nobody told him. It’s good to open it up a bit more but he’s also clear to her that while they may have good reason for it to be secret, that’s going to open him up to being pursued more. His star is on the rise at school for a lot of reasons and we see that throughout the sports festival material here as he fits in so easily with seemingly everyone. So when we do get someone asking if he’s single at the end of the chapter – a first-year that’s standing next to Hina no less – it’s hilarious to watch unfold. You totally get why the two are keeping it on the down low but things are going to get tense for a bit before anything can get resolved in this area.

In Summary:
Taiki has a pretty get installment here as we see him doing well with the sports festival, having fun with friends and teammates, and not being aware of his growing popularity as the second year gets underway for him. Hina has a potential new suitor that could be an interesting angle to pursue and I’m glad Haryu figured out things between Taiki and Chinatsu as well. There’s a lot of the start of a new year uncertainty material going on here and the new first-years are definitely making their mark on things in a pretty fun way. And what a great looking installment with so many characters, so many neat small moments from the activities themselves, and just the expressiveness of the characters throughout. I’m eager for more and more.

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

Age Rating: 13+
Released By: Shonen Jump
Release Date: November 5th, 2023