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Blue Box #138 Manga Review

4 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.

“A Badminton Day”

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 matches going pretty well at this point, the complications are now starting to arise. There’s a lot of enjoyment in watching how Taiki is doing and he’s showing some real strength and growth as a player as he’s doing far better than anyone expected, especially since he was largely overlooked. But we see him playing a strong game here and winning his first match, garnering him a lot of support and praise. Of course, that also leads into the problem that comes with winning. With him having to go up against Haryu next, that has Karen making clear that she will be cheering for her guy and not Taiki, which Chinatsu obviously gets. I do love that Karen tells her she should cheer for Haryu as well but that’s just some cute ribbing in its own way. The rest of those from Eimei that are there to watch find themselves a bit conflicted as well since they want both to go forward but they know that it likely won’t end that way, and since Haryu is a third year there’s a kind of default expectation that he should go forward as it’s his last year.

Prior to the match between the two we get to see a flashback piece to when Taiki was first playing as a junior high student and how he viewed Haryu, looking up to him and wanting to be like him. Seeing the two of them in this context just ahead of a very important match works well as you see both the growth and respect that’s there but also the clear admission that they are competing and no ground will be given by either side – as it should be. Even a Taiki loss with him playing all out would help sharpen and hone Haryu for what’s next so it’s useful to have someone that knows him so well face off against him. We do get some of the back and forth between the match in the last couple of pages and it goes intensely pretty quickly, making for a good read, but you know the real meat of this match is in the next chapter or more.

In Summary:
There are plenty of moments to enjoy in this installment that is largely focused on the matches themselves. We don’t get those too often overall but they’re done well when we do get them. You get a good sense of the power at play and the minor commentary alongside it helps a lot to nudge it along for a more casual audience. This isn’t a series going hardcore on either badminton or basketball. It’s a series about the characters and they’re handled well in both the game and away from the game here once again. I’m looking forward to seeing what path Taiki’s story will take with this match and how the fallout from it will be handled by those closest to him.

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

Age Rating: 13+
Released By: Shonen Jump
Release Date: February 25th, 2024

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