Growing up Manga and Anime were talked about with some people I knew, yet at no point did I feel it was a “big” thing. Instead, it was a small niche that I felt a few of us loved, and damn did we love it. But, the genre that was talked about most was the usual action series that young adults loved so much. And then a lot of romantic ones, I mean, I did grow up with two sisters and we loved Love Hina. Nonetheless, there’s one genre that always felt least talked about, but anytime I read a series it would always amaze me with its uplifting message and human characters with real feelings. What is this mysterious manga type from my childhood I speak of? Sports manga.
Why did I give that long-winded intro? Well, I like to talk (well, write in this case) and due to Yen Press’ newest manga release, Run on Your New Legs VOL. 1 by Wataru Midori being the type of manga I always loved but they seem to get overshadowed. Sports manga aren’t just about sports, but the human nature of overcoming one’s weakness, obstacles, and adversaries. These are the types that feel realistic while pushing us forward in our endeavors when we’re down, that’s one of what instantly drew me into Run on Your New Legs VOL. 1.
I’m not famous, so I wouldn’t expect people to know, but I’m disabled in a few ways. However, we aren’t here to talk about all my problems, no, just the one that made me relate so much to Run on Your New Legs VOL. 1. Both my legs are injured, with one being worse than the other even after a few surgeries. I can’t bend my knees, so sitting down or doing normal things that others do, causes me a lot of trouble. I can’t even walk a small distance without immense pain. At times wishing I had a wheelchair, but all I can afford is a cool cane a good friend of mine made. I used to be very athletic and even had a few college scholarships lined up for wrestling, but injuries can ruin a lot. Now, my problems aren’t as bad as our main character Shouta Kikuzato’s, but at the base level, I can understand the pain and struggles he goes through.
To Overcome Oneself
Run on Your New Legs VOL. 1 opens after Kikuzato’s life-changing accident that caused him to lose his leg. As a high schooler who worked hard to get to a school with a prestigious soccer team, this is a huge blow to his hopes and dreams. Midori Shows how this has affected Kikuzato’s usual life by making him completely silent for the first few pages even when others are talking to him, he just ignores them. This life-changing injury also makes him feel that he “can’t do anything”, instead he just goes home to sleep. In just a few pages we are introduced to how this injury has affected our main characters’ life and how low he feels he is now. This feeling hits even harder with Kikuzato’s dream in the following pages. During this, we see Kikuzato in his soccer-playing prime before his injury. However, right when he is posed to make a goal his leg disappears, resembling what he looks like now. This panel alone speaks volumes on not only Run on Your New Legs VOL. 1’s story, but how Kikuzato is feeling, and Midori’s storytelling.
Run on Your New Legs VOL. 1’s story can boil down to a once good athlete trying to overcome an injury that changes his life. Not only did he lose the ability to do what he went to this prestigious school for, but now he has difficulty doing normal everyday activities, let alone the money aspect. This brings us to how effective the above panel is in his dream. He still dreams of himself with two legs, but once the final panel comes in he remembers this is but a dream and Midori’s use of an empty background showcases how traumatizing this is. These pages hit hard because it perfectly encapsulates the feeling of having a disability. Sometimes you have dreams where it’s all fine then you suddenly remember your disability. Midori is able to perfectly introduce us to the story, who Kikuzato has become, his feelings, and the story’s main “conflict” in just a few pages.
Following this, Midori presents the “solution” when Kikuzato runs into classmate Usami who is in tracks and field. Usami seems to know Kikuzato, even though Kikuzato doesn’t know him, but the biggest story element here is the introduction of Chidori, a Prosthetist, and Orthotist. Seeing Kikuzato run he notices that he is on a prosthesis, one noticeably not intended for running. With that in mind, he proposes that Kikuzato try some of his. And with that, we have the solution to our plot’s conflict. With this new prosthetic Kikuzato is able to try sports again, yet instead of soccer, he goes for track and field with Usami becoming somewhat of a coach.
As much as Run on Your New Legs VOL. 1 is a sports manga, it’s also very much a human story of someone trying to overcome a personal tragedy, and that’s one of the reasons it shines so brightly. Now the story isn’t a constant barrage of heavy emotions, as Midori adds in a lot of humor that fits perfectly with the characters and the world they inhabit. A few of these jokes had me laughing out loud. These pages really help break the scenes apart and feel genuine and not forced, thus helping the flow and showing how human these characters are. On top of that, the general flow of storytelling is fantastic and feels fun to read, even when Midori is dropping medical facts about prosthetics. At one point he mentions the pricing of prosthetics but doesn’t go much into detailing. Sadly this is one aspect I would’ve loved to explore more because they can be very expensive, trust me, I know. Hopefully, this is brought up in later volumes.
The Beauty of Silence
As phenomenal as Run on Your New Legs VOL. 1 story is, the art takes it up another level. Something I’ve noticed a lot of Mangaka like to do now is have elaborate backgrounds and super noisy backgrounds. In some cases, this works, but in most, it feels too cluttered. At no point does Run on Your New Legs VOL. 1 ever suffer from that, instead, Midori is very specific in what is included and in most cases uses little to no background and empty backgrounds. One of the reasons he can get away with this is the number of details added to the important foreground parts. The characters are highly detailed giving you the opportunity to know the emotions of the characters just by the details and mannerisms. With this being a sports manga, the ability to draw motion that actually looks like movement, and heart-pumping is a must, luckily that’s another aspect Midori excels at. However, the one stand-out technique that I’d love to spend thousands of words talking about is Midori’s excellent use of empty backgrounds and silent moments.
I want to focus on what may be one of the best pages in Run on Your New Legs VOL. 1 and trust me there are a few other pages, but the one above is just gorgeous for so many reasons.
Here Kikuzato uses Chidori’s prosthetic for the first time. Midori’s use of an empty background fits perfectly here, helping show Kikuzato’s state of mind at this moment. With this emptiness, we can see that he is frozen in this moment realizing that he may be able to do what he dreamed of and that’s it’s not impossible. This is the turning point of his life, and as he is frozen in the moment, so is the reader. Everything between the framing of him in the middle shows his importance, and the empty whiteness of the background makes this page stand out so much that it’ll stop you in your tracks making you soak it all in. Run on Your New Legs VOL. 1 has a few other pages like this and all help the story in big ways that really show how well of a visual storyteller Midori is.
A Team Sport
Some of the unsung heroes of the comic medium are the Letterers, which sadly happens when people talk about manga as well, not only that but the translators aren’t spoken about either. I mean, if we didn’t have either, we wouldn’t have any of our favorites, hell it would just be a silent art book! Seriously, these two jobs are important. That said, Run on Your New Legs VOL. 1 has Abigail Blackman on lettering duty and Caleb Cook translating. Fun fact, I’ve seen these names quite often! Especially Blackman’s as she works a lot on Yen Press’ releases. Nonetheless, we aren’t talking about me knowing their names, instead, let’s talk craft.
Blackman’s lettering is always a treat; there’s a reason her work is in so many manga, she knows what she is doing. This continues with Run on Your New Legs VOL. 1. There are a few instances where her lettering really stands out in a great way. The original Japanese sound effects are kept, which always makes the manga feel more authentic, plus they have the English and Japanese words underneath which I love. Another fun aspect is when characters are whispering. During these few moments, Blackman makes the word balloon a dashed line instead of a solid, with the lettering looking smaller and italicized.
Admittedly Translation is always hard to talk about, especially if you don’t know the original language. But when something seems off, you can usually tell. A direct translation in most cases isn’t plausible, so the translator has to figure out the next best option with still being true to its source, and making sense. Luckily Cook’s translation skills are on point. Nothing during Run on Your New Legs VOL. 1 story or interactions seem off, our “incorrect.” Instead, the translation is amazing with it all making sense and flowing well.
Racing To The Finish Line
Run on Your New Legs VOL. 1 is a must-read even for those readers who aren’t into sports manga, which is kinda weird, but to each their own. Not only does Midori write a fantastic human story dealing with hardships, and overcoming obstacles even when you want to give up, he makes it a damn good read that makes you think and feel for the characters. You want to cheer for Kikuzato and see him succeed in his endeavors. All that while bringing information about prosthetics to people who might have not known much about them. As someone that has trouble walking, there was so much I could relate to and it made me want to try my best in my pursuits. Run on Your New Legs VOL. 1 is just a damn good inspiring read all wrapped up in a phenomenally drawn and composed manga that deserves to be talked about.
Run on Your New Legs VOL. 1
Published by: Yen Press
Written/Drawn by: Wataru Midori
Translated by: Caleb Cook
Lettering by: Abigail Blackman
Cover Design: Yoko AKUTA
Memorable Quote: “Yeah, but who loses a leg like that!? Who is he, Cinderella?” – Unnamed Character. This may not seem that funny without the page, but damn did it give me a chuckle.