manga, Manga reviews

Review: Blue Lock vol. 1

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Story and art: Story by Muneyuki Kaneshiro and Art by Yusuke Nomura
Genre: Shounen, Sport
Publisher: Kodansha Comics
Synopsis: After a disastrous defeat at the 2018 World Cup, Japan’s team struggles to regroup. But what’s missing? An absolute Ace Striker, who can guide them to the win. The Japan Football Union is hell-bent on creating a striker who hungers for goals and thirsts for victory, and who can be the decisive instrument in turning around a losing match…and to do so, they’ve gathered 300 of Japan’s best and brightest youth players. Who will emerge to lead the team…and will they be able to out-muscle and out-ego everyone who stands in their way?
Publication date: 16th March 2021

blue lock

Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for a free e-copy of this manga in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

Disappointed with the state of Japanese football, coach Jinpachi Ego decides to set up the Blue Lock programme. A prestigious programme, Blue Lock puts the top 300 youth strikers through their paces in an intense and hardcore training programme, aiming to separate the wheat from the chaff and ultimately end up crowning one player as the top striker in Japan.

Our protagonist is Yoichi Isagi, who is a well meaning striker on his high school football team. Yoichi costs his school a place in the national tournament due to his hesitation to take a shot at goal and his choice to pass to a teammate who then missed. Yoichi struggles to come to terms with the choice he made, and his whole mindset changes with regards to his feelings towards football. He’s always been very much a team player, but he starts to wonder if he should be more selfish when he’s playing and take the chances for himself.

Yoichi eventually gets recruited into Blue Lock, where playing alongside the best strikers in the world reinvigorates his love for football and makes him want to try as hard as he can to improve. Unfortunately, in comparison to his peers, Yoichi is really not all that. Ego’s vision for Blue Lock is very much to push the players as hard as he can, to breaking point. Everything in Blue Lock is based on rankings – what you eat, where you live, and how long you last in the programme. Yoichi finds himself in the bottom 11 ranked players fighting for his chance to be the best striker in Japan.

As a lifelong football fan, Blue Lock is really fun to read. There’s a lot of mentions to real life strikers which makes it really entertaining to compare the tactics and plot to real life occurrences. It’s also really interesting to see how the whole plot of the manga is to train the strikers in Blue Lock to only look out for themselves, and it’s basically the antithesis of any team game where the philosophy is very much based on playing as a team. The Blue Lock programme promotes the idea of ego and, what we’d call in the UK, glory hunting.

Blue Lock is a really interesting premise, and has a lot of potential. There are obviously a lot of potential rival characters for Yoichi to bounce off of, as well as a lot of self discovery ahead of him. Already in the few chapters of volume 1, Yoichi has come to realise that he’s perhaps not as weak as he believes himself to be.

It does feel like not a lot happens in this first volume of Blue Lock, but there’s a lot of set-up for onward plot and action. More and more characters are being introduced outside of the Blue Lock programme, and it’s interesting to see the perspective of outsiders on this very unyielding and unprecedented training programme as well as meeting the players who will undoubtedly make up the rest of the Japanese team with the Blue Lock graduates.

Whilst the first volume feels a little slow, Blue Lock shows a lot of promise, and one not to miss for fans of football.

3 stars

 

 

NetGalley requires users to rate on a star rating of 5, so I have adjusted my star ratings for any reviews for manga reviewed via NetGalley. Non-NetGalley reviews will remain out of 10.