The paperwork is done, and as the newest transfer student to Tachibana Harbor High School, it’s time for Hiroyuki Shioya to get to work sending every sports team at the school to the national championships.
Previously in Sporting Salt: Hiroyuki Shioya has returned to Japan from studying abroad, and is determined to become the best there is when it comes to sports medicine. After a quick detour to help out a fifth-grade runner in need by changing his technique and releasing some tension, Shioya is ready to turn his sights to high school students.
Shioya has barely had a chance to hear President Shizuka Matsumori finish her speech about her ambitions for the school when his Shioya’s first case walks in the door. Osamu Nishimatsu, the captain of the tennis team, is worried about his team because they’ve lost the previous 19 games, and if they lose their 20th, they’ll be disbanded. Scraping by with minimum enrollment of five members, Nishimatsu feels the pressure to help his team excel, but his performance just isn’t what it was in the previous year. So, of course, Shioya takes the case.
As the tournament nears, we start to see patterns in the narrative. Shioya starts by trying to use his “weekly doctor placebo item,” which of course is bound to fail since it’s at the start of the chapter. And they contrast oddly, especially with Shioya’s brilliance. I understand it’s for comedic effect, but I worry that if it were to continue, it would be a crutch Kubota is using in the story. I could also easily see the counterargument that Shioya is so determined to be the best, he wants to try all sorts of methods, and needs a dose of reality whenever someone near him debunks his placebo item.
There’s also the “character needs help but doesn’t want that person’s help,” idea going on, as Shioya is socially awkward whenever sports become involved. Nishimatsu doesn’t like what he sees in Shioya, but Shioya tags along anyways to figure out what’s really wrong.
It’s the classic shounen trope of the protagonist having to win every single friend and/or ally they have. Shioya is going to have to prove himself case by case for his reputation to grow and for people to start taking him seriously at face value. As far as tropes go, I do have a soft spot for this one, but it’s one I also don’t indulge in all the time. I can’t help but wonder how lonely the protagonist must feel in that situation, but if Shioya feels this now, he hides it like a champ.
KICK YOUR FEET UP
The art has more of what we had in chapter 1, with occasional intentional deformities and exaggerated violence that doesn’t really do any damage. This isn’t surprising for the type of shounen Sporting Salt is falling into, but it definitely creates a type of feel that not everyone is going to appreciate. This series is aimed primarily at middle-school/high-school boys (though the primary audience has never stopped anyone from reading/watching anything ever), so that’s something to keep in mind. As I said in my previous review, for me, part of the charm is it reminds me of other series I read when I was younger.
I have a strange love of seeing things like tennis nets and rackets drawn, and the detail that goes into various types of athletic shoes. There’s also a wide variety of poses for the characters to be in, which can be visually interesting. Sporting Salt isn’t super-detailed for manga, but it really hits somewhere in the middle on that aspect. What surprised me about this issue was how little tennis there was for an issue about tennis. In the end of the story it does make sense, but again I wonder if this is something that will be part of the formula of Sporting Salt.
I’m looking forward to meeting more of the major characters, and seeing what they bring to the story. I wonder if President Matsumori is all about management, or competes in her own sport, too. I want to see competition between the clubs within the school, who the school’s main rival is, and am in general interested about the larger plot sure to develop. It might not be my favorite current manga series, but I’m certainly having fun with it and will keep following it.