By Daisuke Higuchi
200 pages, black and white
Published by Viz
Many of my friends may find it hard to believe that I played soccer for six years. It’s probably because unless the World Cup is on television, I don’t have too much interest in the sport these days. It’s fun to see a game from time to time, but on the whole, it just passes me by. Well, in what is certainly high praise, Whistle! not only made me think back fondly to those days playing soccer, but it briefly made me want to watch some soccer games.
Sho Kazamatsuri desperately wants to play soccer, but the private school of Musashinomori has so many excellent soccer players that someone as short at Sho not only doesn’t make the team, he’s not even allowed to practice. His answer? Transfer schools, going to the non-prestigious Josui Junior High where he hopes to finally play soccer. When an honest misunderstanding makes Josui’s soccer team think that Sho has lied about his soccer experience, though, Sho does the only option he thinks he has left: drop out of school so he can practice soccer every hour of the day. But this isn’t the end of Sho’s soccer or school career, not at all.
Daisuke Higuchi’s Whistle! is an interesting book; in many ways it’s similar to just about every other “competition” comic out there, be the competition a sport (Slam Dunk, The Prince of Tennis), cooking (Iron Wok Jan!), or even a leisure activity (Hikaru no Go, Yu-Gi-Oh!). An underdog arrives on the scene and begins his or her climb through the ranks of the medium through hard work and innate skill. While these books all use the same basic framework, what’s important is how each one then takes the idea and applies it to their book in a different way. Whistle! managed to take me off-guard pretty quickly thanks to Sho’s decision to quit school, and it’s that sort of attitude that exists in Higuchi’s characters that I really like. These are characters who have a lot of pride and self-respect, and defeat doesn’t mean they just smile and take it; people get offended, or hurt, or upset and act like people do in real life. At the same time, though, you can’t help but admire Sho’s persistence and drive that goes throughout the series. He’s an impressive character, and with each new chapter of Whistle! I found myself liking him more and more.
Higuchi’s art is pretty average for the most part, with one notable exception. His characters are competently drawn, and it’s easy to tell everyone apart at a glance. The one thing which Higuchi does a really nice job at and pushes my estimation of the art up a great deal is how he draws motion. When soccer plays happen, it’s really easy to follow and you can almost see the ball move from one player to the next. In a book that’s going to have a lot of action sequences, it’s really important that readers understand exactly what’s going on, and at that, Higuchi succeeds.
Whistle! is a fun little book and a good addition to the low-priced SHONEN JUMP graphic novel family. At the end of the first volume, I found myself wanting to read a second one, so Higuchi’s doing something right. More importantly, I almost found myself looking at DC United’s game schedule to see when they were playing next, so be warned that Whistle! may make you interested in soccer. Now that’s really impressive.