Boy, I am overloaded on sports manga right now. No, really. I just started Haikyuu! around 7 years too late and I can’t believe I’ve been missing out. It’s like Shonen’s more believable cousin, with stories focusing more on a person’s ability to work in a team instead of collective levels up’s like Gacha prizes. I’m for sure not a fan of every sports manga I’ve ever read. Hell, there are plenty that I dropped on the first chapter because they just dragged and dragged, with no satisfying payoff. And then I picked up Koukou No Hito.
Koukou No Hito is really good. Like, extremely good. Like, deserves to have way more hype than it does levels of good. This manga is a definite combined effort and is based on a novel by Jirō Nitta. It was turned into a manga by writers Shin-ichi Sakamoto and Yoshirō Nabeda but what brought it to life was the illustrative work done by Sakamoto. This is not a manga that relies on heavy dialogue and prose but instead, lets its art sing and weaves a tale that’s both powerful and poignant while still being subdued.
And sometimes, sports manga do tend to get stale. But that’s where great character design and an engaging plot pick up the slack. And while I haven’t seen Kokou No Hito slack at any point, it does mean great things when it doesn’t have to fall back on writing alone to deliver a stellar narrative. With a story based on real-life mountaineer Buntarō Katō, it adds a human element that makes it go from a fantastical story to a tale of true perseverance and hard work that achieves miracles. And really, that’s what makes this manga stand out from the hordes of other Seinen manga out there.
For an old-ish manga from 2007, Koukou No Hito certainly had the accolades to prove it can hold an audience. Winning the awards for both Excellence at the Japan Media Arts Festival and best Seinen manga at Prix Mangawa, is certainly worth a try to me. But is it worth your time and investment? Let’s discuss.
One Man VS The Most Dangerous Mountain In The World:
You’d think this story would have a lot of action and monologue, but it doesn’t. And its quiet protagonist, Buntarō Mori, reflects that calm quality.
Mori is our man of the hour and he’s determined. The manga follows his tale, from back when he was just a climbing hobbyist in high school, spearheading his school’s club to his (literal) ascend to stardom as a world-class professional climber. It’s painful, it’s jarring and it’s lonely at the top. But this is exactly what he pushed on for, this is his goal, his purpose.
It started when his classmates pushed him to climb their school wall and he realized that the thrill of reaching that peak finally made him feel alive. And now he looks at the peak no one else has ever reached: the dark side of K2, which isn’t the tallest mountain in the world, but it is the deadliest.
This is the journey of one man and his determination to reach heights never before, and the kind of mindset it takes to make those accomplishments a reality.
Koukou No Hito: The Breakdown
So, again, on paper, it seems like every other Seinen sports manga in history. But the truth is, this is one of the most intricate manga I’ve ever read. It is beyond words how beautifully everything is illustrated here.
There’s a reason why I’m starting with the art first I feel like that is half the story. This isn’t a dialogue-heavy manga at all, relying on its panels of gorgeous and emotive scenery to talk to the reader without ruining the immersion. That is a feat, to be able the convey complex psychological emotions with nothing more than the expressions on the character’s faces.
And it has to be because Mori is shy and he’s often in his head. And we, the reader, get an intimate look at that psyche. He often thinks of replies too late, and we see him agonize over his awkwardness, which ends up being both endearing and frustrating.
However, because it’s so focused on one individual and his story, it tends to scrap subplots involving other characters that were introduced. Those side characters were important or made to be important at least, only to take a backseat or be forgotten entirely.
But the one thing it doesn’t do? It doesn’t trivialize how mountain climbing is inherently a dangerous hobby. Of course, there is a bleakness that is shown when talking about the fatalities and deaths of colleagues, people Mori must’ve interacted with. Which, again, adds to the realism.
I think if you’re in the mood for something a little more serious and insightful, Kokou No Hitto might be up your alley. Its positives completely overshadow its faults and, well, it’s an award-winning manga for a reason.
So what are your thoughts on Koukou No Hito? Have you tried watching it yet? Let me know in the comment section below!