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The Parasapo Web Editorial Board Recommends: The Best Japanese Parasports Manga

What with the novel coronavirus outbreak, there’re still only so many tournaments you can watch in real life. So what do we do if we want to experience these sports somehow—envision the para-athletes and their performances next summer? Our suggestion is to pick up a manga about parasports. Here, we introduce you to some of Japan’s best parasports manga.

“REAL,” Vol. 1-14

By Takehiko Inoue

Kiyoharu Togawa is a former star sprinter who becomes a wheelchair basketball player after an osteosarcoma leaves him with a prosthetic leg. Tomomi Nomiya is a boy who loves basketball with all of his heart, but who causes an accident on his motorcycle, and is forced to drop out of high school. Hisanobu Takahashi, a former classmate of Nomiya’s, had everything going for him—good grades, captain of the high school basketball team, popular with girls—but a track accident leaves him partially paralyzed. The story, by the artist for the iconic basketball manga SLAM DUNK, focuses on these three as they work to fulfill their own potential in their real (“REAL”) lives.
It’s not easy for anyone to truly understand what they’re experiencing, or where they are in life. And sometimes life gets so difficult you want to just avoid thinking about it. The manga depicts with remarkably clarity the difficulty of following your dreams, the changes that occur both physically and mentally following a traffic accident, the agony of rehab, the sense of injustice that comes with an incurable condition, and the struggles of the patients’ families as well. It also asks hard questions of its readers—questions that shake up the unconscious beliefs we’ve held up to that point in our lives. What does it mean to have an impairment? What does it mean to be strong, and what is the true value of a person? This work may be an opportunity to get more in tune with your own “REAL” self as well.
The newest volume, Vol. 15, will be released in November 2020, approximately six years after the previous volume.

Both Coach Shinpei Oikawa (left) of the Japan men’s national wheelchair basketball team, and Reo Fujimoto, who served as captain of the team in Rio 2016, have read through the entire series

“Atarashii Ashi de Kakenukero,” Vol. 1-4

Atarashii Ashi de Kakenukero
By Wataru Midori

Shota Kikuzato is a star striker in his middle school soccer team, who goes on to attend a powerhouse high school soccer team. An accident leaves him with a prosthetic leg, however, leading him to quit soccer and live a life void of personal meaning. This all changes, however, when he meets a prosthetist named Masanobu Chidori—an encounter that leads him to discover the joys of prosthetics/leaf springs for athletics, and the joy of running with leaf springs, and that ultimately leads him to try para athletics. He moves forward with this ambition, slowly but steadily, all while working through conflicts with his friends and family. While he does so, he meets Susumu Dojima, a para athletics athlete who will represent Japan in the Men’s 100m (T63) class, and begins to dream of entering the same world as Dojima. The manga is currently being published as a series in Weekly Big Comic Spirits. The story reflects reality and is ongoing—in Vol. 3, for example, the novel coronavirus outbreak results in the cancellation of team activities and tournaments. There’s a lot we can learn from the characters, as we watch them remain strong and optimistic, and do what they can even amidst the pandemic. The manga as a whole teaches you a lot about the various classes in para athletics, the structure of leaf springs, and more, and gives you an interesting look at the work of prosthetists as well.

“Mashirohi,” Vol. 1-7

Original work by Masahito Kagawa, illustrations by Sho Wakasa

The setting is modern Hiroshima. Yamasaki, having lost his vision due to a traffic accident, discovers blind marathon, and forms a team with Hikari, a sales employee at a credit union, high schooler Junpei, and hospital janitor Shotaro. The story follows the team as they work to make their way to the Tokyo Paralympic Games, while depicting a variety of other factors—Tajima, who joins the team as a guide runner and who struggles with the guilt of having caused a traffic accident, their feud with flippant rival Uesugi, and the love triangle with Hikari and Uesugi’s sister Saki.
The story is made more meaningful by the humanity of their stories—the characters, each with complicated pasts, struggling to implement their mentor’s teaching (“Happiness is living for other people”), and to understand the differences in the attitudes and ways of thinking between able-bodied people and those with impairment, all amidst the backdrop of Hiroshima, and its history with the atomic bomb.
The title, “Mashirohi,” is actually the word “Hiroshima” in reverse, and is meant in Japanese to represent “the day where everything begins, with a clean slate.” What will this “mashirohi” be for Yamasaki and co.?

“Murderball,” Vol. 1-4

By Hiya Keisuke

Wheelchair rugby is sometimes called “murderball” due to the sheer intensity of the sport—the clash and bash of wheelchairs hitting each other at high speeds. High schooler Asari Umino was a promising gymnastics athlete, until she gets into a traffic accident while in the car with her family, and begins life in a wheelchair. Though she tries her best to appear cheerful, she becomes tired of everyone around her treating her with kid gloves due to her impairment. This changes, however, when she discovers the joy of wheelchair rugby—the exhilaration that comes from bashing into each other with wheelchairs, and the sheer fun of the sport—and she joins wheelchair rugby team Lux. All the while, she faces resistance from her mother, who’s become obsessed with religion as a means to “cure” Asari and her younger brother, who has become confined to his bed as a result of the traffic accident. She devotes herself to the sport, and uses her speed to her advantage, emerging as a promising player. Asari and her teammates at Lux work towards the Japan national championships, the highest-tier tournament in Japan, while grappling with the occasional conflict. How will Lux face up against higher-ranked teams? And will their efforts pay off? The story culminates at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games. Envision the scenes depicted in the manga, and it makes you long for the real thing. The story itself was written under the supervision of the Japan Wheelchair Rugby Federation.

Artist Keisuke Hiya (left) with athlete Kotaro Kishi (right)

“All About Sports Compliance Through Manga: Important Points All Athletes Must Know,” English Version

All About Sports Compliance Through Manga: Important Points All Athletes Must Know
Published by The Nippon Foundation Paralympic Support Center
Supervised by Takao Ohashi (lawyer)
Illustrated by Ryosuke Miwa (manga artist/illustrator)

The Nippon Foundation Paralympic Support Center (Parasapo) published the Japanese version of “All About Sports Compliance Through Manga: Important Points All Athletes Must Know” in August 2016, and the English version (available here) in October 2020.

In recent years, we’ve been witness to a number of serious issues, including things like illegal gambling, law violations, and violations of sports integrity (doping, etc.), that have cast a shadow over the development of sports culture in Japan. As interest in sports grows within Japan, the sports world will be held to ever-higher standards of sports integrity. This booklet was published in recognition of this need—the need to have athletes and their instructors gain a better understanding of compliance when it comes to sports.

There’s no question that this booklet, with its captivating stories, its depiction of the charms of the sport, and the thoughts/dreams of para-athletes and the people that support them, will get you even more interested in the exhilarating world of parasports. We encourage you to read it and relax with it, perhaps alongside a nice cup of tea, as we head into the autumn.

text by TEAM A, parasapo (for English)
key visual by X-1

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