- Mangaka : Miura Kouji
- Publisher : Viz
- Genre : Romance, School Life, Shounen, Slice of Life, Sports
- Published : November 2022
There’s a very specific Venn Diagram that combines “sports manga” with “romantic drama manga,” and right in that intersection lies Ao no Hako (Blue Box).
Dispensing with the usual sports’ emphasis on teamwork and camaraderie, Blue Box follows a more typical romantic school life pattern. Unfortunately it seems that—like many other former one-shots—Blue Box has a good idea that’s been heavily watered down for serialization.
Join us today on Honey’s Anime as we review Blue Box, Volume 1!
Blue Box stars Taiki Inomata, a third-year junior high school badminton player with a crush on his senpai, the first-year high school basketballer, Chinatsu Kano. Beautiful and popular, Chinatsu seemingly exists in an echelon of the school hierarchy that Taiki could never reach; but young love knows no bounds, and Taiki intends to shoot for Chinatsu no matter what.
Chinatsu, meanwhile, has been struggling since she failed to go all the way to nationals last year. Despite her outward confidence, she’s secretly crumbling—until Taiki unintentionally gives her the motivation to give basketball another year and to strive for nationals. Taiki himself makes a goal to reach nationals, even when his own teammates don’t believe he has the ability, forcing him to reckon with older students and his own limits.
As Chinatsu and Taiki’s relationship seems to be opening up, a surprise twist sees Chinatsu living under Taki’s roof! Her family was intending to move overseas, but since she now wants to play basketball another year, she stayed behind in Japan with a “family friend”—Taiki’s mother, who was teammates with Chinatsu’s mother when they were both in school.
Cue awkward close-encounters with his crush! Taiki vows to hide his feelings so he doesn’t risk Chinatsu’s chances at nationals, and throws himself into badminton, but there’s only so long he can hide his true feelings…
Visually, mangaka Miura Kouji has delivered an engaging manga that combines the rough, fast motion required for sports scenes with some very pretty work on eyes and hair. The characters clearly display their emotions, and although it’s not as gorgeous as other romance shounen, the interplay between sports and romance is - visually, at least - quite appealing.
1. Sports X Romance
As we mentioned in the opening, Blue Box has a very specific target audience in mind: people who like sports manga, and people who like romance manga. If you’re one of those people, then Blue Box will definitely appeal to you.
Although basketball is a pretty common sport in manga, badminton isn’t something we see all that often, which adds an extra layer of interest to the story. Although it’s reasonably light, there are explanations about badminton strategies and techniques, too, which is a nice and unexpected addition.
1. Do You Want Some Cliches With Your Cliche?
Blue Box feels very much like a checklist of tropes from both sports and romance manga, as though it’s afraid to do something unique. From the tired goal of “make it to nationals” to “surprise living arrangements,” it feels like almost all of Blue Box’s ideas have been generated by an underperforming AI.
Tropes can be quite effective when used tactically, but Blue Box feels like a walking Frankenstein’s Monster of cliches. The first volume somehow shoehorns in a “mistaken love triangle” trope right at the end, which serves almost no point, as though the mangaka simply needed an extra chapter done quickly. With this many cliches tied together, there’s just no reason to be invested in the plot, since you could reasonably guess what’s going to happen if you’ve read even a handful of other romance manga.
We had high hopes for Blue Box, but outside of the genre fusion, this manga really isn’t offering much in a marketplace saturated with romances of varying quality. In all honesty, Blue Box would be a much stronger manga if it focused on just the sports, or just the romance, but combining the two genres has somehow weakened both.
If you can look past the tired cliches—or if you just love anything sports-based—then Blue Box might be the manga for you. But unfortunately, for us, this is one manga that won’t be making nationals this year.
Are you going to check out Blue Box, Vol 1? Let us know down in the comments below, and as always, thanks for reading!