Review: H2 Manga

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It was July 1st in Hong Kong, and it marked the tenth anniversary of the return to China rule. It was raining intermittently, and the air outside was hot and humid. The roads were packed with spectators for the parades and those joining the protests. So how did I spend such a glorious day? Sit in an air conditioned room and read manga (of course)!

H2 by Adachi Mitsuru (あだち充) is considered an epic sports manga by many fans. Spanning 34 volumes (running from 1992 – 1999), it is by far the longest work by Adachi. It was also adapted into both an anime and drama series. Touch, also by Adachi, was considered one of the very best of all sports anime/manga by many older anime fans (at least during the 80s, along with Captain Tsubasa). However, compared to Touch, H2 is more focused on competition and rivalry on the field (and sometimes off) than romantic tension. In all, H2 is probably the most dramatic and gripping work of Adachi’s to date. (Since Cross Game is still running, so I’m leaving it out of contention for now, although the end of volume 1 was very emotional.)

Series Summary (Spoilers Warning!):

Kunimi Hiro (国見比呂) and Tachibana Hideo (橘 英雄) were best friends since their days in Seinan Middle School. So close they were that Kunimi introduced Amamiya Hikari (雨宮ひかり), his childhood friend, to Tachibana and the two of them became a couple. Together with Noda Atsushi (野田 敦), they were part of the middle school baseball team that was deemed the best ever. However, when they entered high school, Tachibana went to Meiwa or Meiwa Ichi (明和一), a very famous school for baseball, and Kunimi and Noda when to Senkawa (千川), a school without a baseball team at all. The reason why Kunimi and Noda decided to enter a school without a baseball club was painful: at the end of their middle school, they were both diagnosed with injuries that would end their sports career. They decided to forget baseball in the face of such painful news, and when entering high school, Kunimi joined the soccer club, and Noda the swim team.

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Kunimi Hiro

Fate, was less accommodating to their wishes: While Hideo was instantly famous in his team for his long home runs, Kunimi met Koga Haruka (古賀春華), the manager of the baseball club and daughter of Kunimi’s father’s company president, and got him involved in baseball again. During a friendly between the soccer team and the baseball club, Kunimi and Noda decided to join the baseball club when the soccer team bullied the baseball club, and the famous battery was revived. It is said that the Kunimi-Noda combination is perhaps the most power battery in middle school, and Kunimi was able to pitch 140 km/h fastballs with Noda being the only one who could catch them.

Almost immediately after their re-entry into the baseball world, they found out that the doctor who ended their career was an imposer, and that they were absolutely fine. Their dream of going to Koushien (甲子園) was immediately revived, and decided that perhaps god wanted Tachibana and Kunimi to face off against each other. They decided to turn the club into an official school team. Unfortunately for them, the principle of the school was against the idea, since he hated high school baseball. Fortunately, with Koga’s help (who’s father is friends with the head of the PTA), they managed to persuade the principle to approve of the team, but under one condition: the club has to defeat the Tokyo regional runner-up in the qualifying matches for Koushien. (Only one teams for each North and South Tokyo will be able to enter Koushien, so being the runner-up means that they did not qualify.)


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Koga Haruka

On Tachibana’s side, their ace pitcher was also a victim of the imposer doctor and seriously injured his pitching arm. Without their ace pitcher, Meiwa struggled through the regional qualification for Koushien. They were still able to get to the finals for the region qualification thanks to Tachibana and their strong batting, but lost on that match.

So, as if predetermined by destiny, the first match of Kunimi’s revived high school baseball was against Tachibana’s team. To have any chance at all, they needed help and they enlisted two of their classmates: Kine Ryuutarou (木根龍太郎) and Yanagi Morimichi (柳 守道), but both refused. Kine is an egotist and refused to help unless Koga would go out on a date with him (whom promptly refused), and Yanagi’s father turned out to be the principle, and that he promised to quit baseball in high school, even though he was a well known 2B in middle school. It also seemed that the reason why the principle hated high school baseball was because his alma mater, a school famous for its academics, lost 30-0 in an opening match in the Koushien and became a laughing stock ever since.

However they managed to persuade both Kine and Yanagi to play in the game against Meiwa, but they narrowly lost with of a questionable call at the end of the ninth inning. Fortunately, the principle saw the questionable call and the game rekindled his old passion of baseball, so he decided to allow the baseball club to form and allow Yanagi to play. The Senkawa baseball team was officially formed and the road to Koushien for Kunimi and battle against Tachibana officially began.

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Amamiya Hikari

End Vol. 5, begin non-detailed summary mode (as not to spoil the series too much):

For their second year, both Tachibana and Kunimi qualified for Koushien (Senkawa is North Tokyo and Meiwa is South), and they were excited that they would face off against each other in Koushien. They were due to face each other in round three, but Senkawa lose in round two against Iba Shougyou (伊羽商業) when Kunimi injured his ankle. Meanwhile Tachibana and Meiwa continued to win their matches, and defeated Iba Shougyou. Then, as Noda predicted, whomever won the Meiwa-Iba Shougyou match would win the Koushien Tournament that year. Because Meiwa won the trophy, Tachibana and his home runs became even more famous.

For the rest of the summer, Kunimi rested to heal his injured ankle while the rest of his team prepared for the Autumn tournament, which would be used for selecting teams for the Spring Koushien Invitational. At the same time, Meiwa lost their third-year starting pitcher (again!) since third years were not allowed to play in the Autumn tournament (they would have graduated before the Spring Koushien Invitational). Their new starting pitcher suffered from stage fright while on the mount, but had a great pitch during practice. Instead of replacing their new starting pitcher, the coach of Meiwa decided to forgo Autumn tournament and Spring Invitational to train up his starting pitcher.

Kunimi felt really disappointed that Meiwa and Tachibana would not be in the Spring Invitational, but Tachibana spurred Kunimi on to win the Spring Invitational by saying that, “Since I’m not in the Invitational, you’d better not loose to anyone else!” And indeed Senkawa and Kunimi won the Spring Tournament, and earned Kunimi his so deserved fame as Tachibana’s rival and the great pitcher that he was.

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Tachibana Hideo

Soon after Kunimi won the Spring Invitational, Amamiya’s Mother died from illness, and that drew Kunimi and Amamiya closer together than ever. This caused Tachibana to feel insecure about his relationship with Amamiya, and as Tachibana put it, “Since I have known Kunimi, I have been a fan of his. So if I cannot beat him, I feel that I cannot excel and be all I can be in the pros.” The rising tension was brought to a climax in the Summer Koushien, when both Senkawa and Meiwa qualified and were schedule to face each other in the semi-finals. They both fought their way up the ladder to play against each other, and before their game, Tachibana asked Amamiya to watch their showdown to the final moment and choose between Kunimi and himself once again.

Kunimi learned of the decision imposed on Amamiya before the start of the game, and he was most determined than ever to compete against Tachibana. The series came to the fated climatic ending with the final showdown between Tachibana and Kunimi for their love for Amamiya, for their love of baseball, and for themselves. (Sorry for the over dramatics, but I really can’t put it any other way.)

Story/Plot: 5/5

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Characters:

All of the leading cast were well developed, and you can even feel attached to some of the supporting cast. All of the character have both conflicts and wishes, mistakes and redemption, doubts and decisions, and how the road they choose to lead come to clash with others was something we could all relate to. Adachi was really successful in H2 that he wrote character that we could all come to love and feel for or villains that we could hate but sympathize. The conflicts between the character were developed and not forced, and one could find the source of the conflicts. All of his character were well rounded and detailed, and almost none of them came straight from a stereotype. Even though Koga Haruka and Noda Atsushi both seems a bit more simple and straight forward than the rest of the main leads, there was nothing wrong in their straightforwardness. Koga and Noda supported Kunimi in whatever way that they could, and too a step back when the situation called for it while without compromising their own character. In all, the characters felt real, and people who we can see in ourselves and in people around us.

Characters: 5/5

Drawing Style:

One of the main complaints of Adachi’s manga is how simple the character designs were, as compared to his background art. The characters were simplistic to the point that they looked almost the same across one of his series to another, yet somehow does not hinder the character from expressing their emotions. The lack of detailed art for the characters and action actually was an advantage in some ways, since it allows the reader to use their own imagination to fill in the gaps and make the moments more personal. A spoken line may not match the expression on a character’s face giving the feeling of conflicting emotions or an emotional line may be discordant with the bland face, telling how much a character is holding back. At the same time, there are pages upon pages of still frames of the background. Much of the atmosphere in the series was conveyed through the still frames of the environment, which sounds like it would slow down the pace. However, one could be surprised by how much emotion or mood or excitement a still frame of a calm river, a grassy field, a sun drenched school yard, or a packed stadium could give. The simplistic style may require a little getting used to, but the feelings and emotions will just spread from the pages.

Art: 4/5

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Entertainment:

The story and the drama were very rousing and gripping, but easy to read. The story flows very quickly and smoothly, and perhaps because of the abundant usage of still frames, allows the reader to go through the manga very quickly if they wish, or slowly to admire each scene at their own pace. While the manga is categorized as a baseball manga, non-baseball lovers could still enjoy the story because at the heart, it is about the conflicts and emotions of people. There are very little foretelling of the story but quite a few unexpected turns, but they remain fresh in every occurrences, simply because it was the characters that drove the story, not incidents. The emotions and thoughts of the characters allowed the reader to make their own predictions, and because people are not simple formulas the result could still be surprising. By the end of the series, the pace of the plot quicken, as if driving towards the final climax. The qualifying and early rounds of Koushien flashed by in quick chapters. Yet it allowed the emotions and conflicts of the characters to build up to a climatic level, and allows the story to focus on it. Of course, the story end in the final “showdown” between the two friends, but the baseball almost seemed secondary to the emotions and thoughts running through them. From page one to the last page, the series remains very entertaining, and draws the reader towards the world between Tachibana and Kunimi.

Entertainment: 5/5

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Overall:
H2 (which stands for the 2 H’s in Hideo and Hero’s names, btw) is one of the best mangas that I have ever read. An epic battle between two friend, love lost and found, wish came true and dreams dashed, they can be all found here (and sorry for the clichés). The end of the series leaves the reader hanging a little as to who will win that year’s Koushien, but really, it doesn’t matter. It was a series about young people going through high school and their youth (and the epilogue gave the feeling of that). I found myself a little sad when I finished the series, not because of how it ended, but because the characters have found their ways into my heart. It was as if I have got to know these people, and now I have to bid them farewell.

I would highly recommend this series for anyone, baseball fan or not.

Overall rating: 5/5

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9 Responses to “Review: H2 Manga”


  1. 1 Brian July 18, 2007 at 2:24 pm

    Very nice review. Being an Adachi fan, I have just finished reading the H2 manga today. So I was quite happy to find your review dated earlier this month!

    On a different note, am happy to know that am not going senile by catching up on anime and manga in my early 30s. Or maybe we are but don’t want to admit it? All I can say is that Adachi’s mangas do reach out to the coming of age group and even adults still wandering or even the nostalgics in us.

    I look forward to more Cross Game!

  2. 2 uhsieh August 6, 2007 at 12:37 am

    Brian, I’m glad that you like H2. Adachi’s manga really does bring the “good old time” back. I suppose it’s natural that many of us are nostalgic about things from our youth, like for example, thousand out there going to the Transformers movie.

    Many may not want to admit it, but our youth should be and are special to everyone since it is before we have to deal with all the “adult b.s.”. I guess that’s why I like Adachi’s work so much.

    And yes, Cross Game is really enjoyable so far.

  3. 3 Ciao Bella! January 1, 2009 at 2:46 pm

    Very nice review! I have just finished H2 yesterday (34 vol in 2 days :D). The manga is very nice. I love the way Adachi built the story. Friendship, love, competition! H2 brings me back to my beautiful time at high school!
    I really like Hiro! But the character I love most in the serie is Noda! He is an excellent friend!

  4. 4 Hidari April 29, 2009 at 8:55 am

    warning: SPOILERS!

    I’ve been reading some reactions to the ending and most people hate it. Is it weird that I love it? I don’t think it could have ended any other way. Hiro is definitely the hero and although he does love Hikari, I think he loves Koga as well. Plus he believes in fate and in his own way probably loves Hideo (and Noda) as much as he does Hikari.

    The villain here is Hikari. So selfish of her not to let Hiro go when she already has Hideo. At least in the end she got it right, she never had any right to choose. If Hiro had gone ahead and tried for Hikari he probably would have gotten her and destroyed everyone else in the process only to find in the end that it wasn’t worth it. He’s not the type to forgive himself. Besides, Kogas’s much better for him. Of course, that doesn’t lessen the fact that his first love didn’t work out which is why the ending is both so real and so great.

  5. 5 The HebGbs May 19, 2009 at 5:07 pm

    I agree with everything said (More or less, I’m not 30, lol) and thoroughly love this manga.

    Am I alone however in wondered just how far fetched the sequel Hideo talked about a few times, H2 2?

  6. 6 nommie February 24, 2011 at 11:23 pm

    i just finished H2 today and was wondering is this a sequel to a previous manga series??

  7. 8 free animated birthday ecards September 20, 2014 at 9:03 pm

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  8. 9 Fixed Matches November 9, 2017 at 10:11 pm

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