Shounen – Sports
7 Volumes of 29 Volumes of 42 Volumes (complete)
Timid Tsukushi’s happiest day of his life is ruined when he’s cornered by bullies. Fortunately, he’s saved by Jin, a stranger passing by as he looks for someone to play in a futsal game that night. When Jin calls them friends, Tsukushi happily agrees to fill in. That game makes Tsukushi want to try out for soccer in high school, but he doesn’t realize how good his school’s team is. Can this soccer newbie even survive the first day of practice?
So, soccer manga. I know of Whistle!, which I’ve never read, and Sayonara, Football / Farewell My Dear Cramer, which left me confused when I read a little bit of it. So I really wasn’t thrilled to be reading Days, especially with an uninspired title like that.
Turns out, this was a lot better than I expected thanks to the humor.
Days stars Tsukushi, whom most people would consider a wimpy loser. His neighbor Sayuri is probably his only friend, and even then they haven’t hung out in a year because they’re going to different schools. So when he finds out he’s going to Seiseki, the school Sayuri attends, Tsukushi’s ecstatic.
But along comes some bullies who treat Tsukushi cruelly. But a blonde-haired lad ends up interfering and asks for Tsukushi and Sayuri to help guide him around the area. Jin is looking for someone to play in a futsal game (like soccer), and he has some… interesting friends. But when Tsukushi realizes he’s a part of Jin’s circle of friends now, he volunteers despite his lack of experience. The bullies return and almost prevent Tsukushi from participating, but he runs the entire way there to make it to the game for Jin. There, while Tsukushi isn’t very good, but it awakens something in both boys. Tsukushi is inspired to try out to for Seiseki’s team. What he doesn’t realize is how serious Seiseki is about soccer, and they have little time or energy for someone who has no experience with the game and is lacking the physical talent to play.
While Jin feels guilty for essentially ignoring Tsukushi at tryouts, seeing him practice afterwards makes him realize that Tsukushi does have the makings of a great soccer player, and now Tsukushi has to work hard to not be a permanent benchwarmer.
Of course, like in most sports manga, Tsukushi finds his niche on the team, and his enthusiasm for the game provides the push and encouragement his team needs. It’s a diverse team to be sure, with some hot-heads, slackers, jokers, and hard workers. Rival schools have their own strengths and strategies, and considering Seiseki hasn’t made it to nationals in a couple of years, they have quite a ways to go.
I’ve only read a fraction of Days, so obviously, there’s a lot left to cover about Tsukushi and company’s journey to the championships. But unlike a lot of sports manga, the games are mostly down-to-Earth. No one is using special named abilities or pulling off shots that would be impossible in the real world. I tend to prefer these types of sports manga versus the fantasy versions.
Days‘ biggest weakness by far though is how it starts and ends chapters. Like, the manga introduces us to the girl who will end up as the soccer team’s manager… and then suddenly they’re off to training camp? I don’t even remember them mentioning they’ll be going to camp, at least so soon. Another time, Tsukushi and Jin are hanging out with a senpai on the team, and Tsukushi is fervently hoping that the guy will make the team. I don’t think he was even introduced before! Flip the page and you will often be greeted with a completely different scene with no warning. It’s evening with Tsukushi. No, now it’s morning with Jin. Sheesh. Even adding the word “end” to the final panel of each chapter would have gone a long way, so that readers know to adjust their mindset. Days doesn’t have splash pages either, so that also affects the pace. It’s a very jarring read.
However, Days excels at humor. While sports manga tend to be funny, it’s not often the best players are the funniest. In addition, this manga spreads the humor across all the characters.
Let’s start with Jin. Jin is outrageous. Completely, absolutely outrageous. For example, the dude — by his own free will — put on a frog suit, ends his sentences with “ribbit”, and somehow hopped away on a giant frog. Another time, he shows off his amazing nunchaku skills… which is suspiciously similar to punching. He misses the bus to training time and somehow truck surfs his way there. He offers something to dry off Tsukushi’s tears: girl’s panties. He’s toned down a bit in later volumes, but I hope that after the current tournament we’ll see his crazy self. Despite his penchant for crazy stunts and loudly expressing his taste in women (read: not the tsundere and flat-chested manager, Chikako), he values his friendships.
Anyway, that doesn’t mean funny scenes enter a drought when it’s time for a match. When Seiseki arrives at training camp, some members from a different school comment on how serious they look. Well, turns out that all the starters but the captain are thinking the same thing: “Making this face is wearing me out…” Another time, two captains are glaring at each other while everyone else just wants to go inside. Meanwhile, the coaches are complimenting each other, not caring that their team leaders look ready to go to war.
Tsukushi’s repeated over-politeness and ditziness is probably my least favorite part of the comedy. (Always remember to tie your shorts before a game, people.) I do like how his family situation plays a big part of his personality though. You see, his mom is in a wheelchair, and since his father has passed away, Tsukushi has tried to make life as easy as possible for his mom. It’s a sobering reminder there are that a lot of everyday things people without disabilities take for granted, even though his mom is able to work at a daycare. While Jin has the usual complicated relationship with his family, Tsukushi’s love for his mom (and mom for son) is very heartwarming.
Also, the manager is kind of unusual. She barges onto the scene by ditching her classroom duties and dumping them on Tsukushi, then tells him that he’s wasting his time putting so much effort into soccer. We learn that Chikako is speaking from experience, but she’s soooo tsundere. She marks off every box in the tsundere checklist: strict, scary, bossy, calls the lead stupid, etc. She wasn’t the manager originally, but she joined because of Tsukushi. I’m sure her feelings will play a large role in the story, as she’s already been the one to cheer him up a couple of times despite still being strict.
The art reminds me most of Urasawa’s, known for manga like Monster and 20th Century Boys. Characters in Days often have a sense of feminine beauty. Jin is the most notable example of this, but several guys have pretty faces. Some have slender builds, some… decidedly not. Days features some awesome-looking soccer moves, and fortunately the manga’s issues with chapter pacing don’t affect these moments. The author isn’t afraid to use large panels to showcase characters’ big moments, so the chapters aren’t cramped with a bunch of panels. The author doesn’t overdo it on inking and shading either, so that makes Days nice to look at.
Because of the comedy, there are plenty of visual gags and tsukkomi comments, so expect a lot of jaw-dropping and eyes bugging out. You also have to pay close attention to shirts, as they also have a lot of funny text on them. Most of the characters with dark hair have white patches to reflect shine and highlights, but I think this ends up making characters seem too much alike.
Honorifics are used. Detailed translation notes are included. Sayuri says she heard the news from her aunt, but I think she meant Tsukushi’s mom.
Days is long and has a long way to go, but the humor makes this an entertaining series.
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