If you’re reading this review, I’m not sure whether or not you’ve read the description for the manga, so I’ll operate under the assumption that you haven’t. Whenever a story contains this type of subject matter, it’s ripe to be picked and thrown away as spoiled crop. The “subject matter” I’m referring to in this case is the relationship that develops between Natsuzora and Run’s protagonist and his high school teacher. It’s not necessary to examine the ethics of such a situation because it’s obvious. What I will say is that this particular relationship between the two aforementioned characters does not get out of hand; it is as wholesome as it can possibly be under the circumstances. And besides that point, this manga performs at its best as a baseball story–not a romance.
The story of Natsuzora and Run revolves around a young man by the name of Kaizu Chiaki. He’s a spunky teenage kid with big dreams. Chiaki (called “Chaki” by friends due to an inside joke) is the starting second baseman on his high school baseball team. He dreams of making it all the way through the playoffs and reaching the ultimate destination of Koshien–where the Japanese National High School Baseball Championship is held. Having fallen short during his first two years, Chaki’s determined to accomplish the feat with his teammates during his final opportunity and last school year. Nothing can distract him from this goal. Nothing…that is…until a young woman shows up as his new homeroom teacher.
When Takamine Touko shows up, the two begin a relationship that isn’t really typical of the normal teacher-student dynamic–especially after having first met one another. I won’t get into specifics, but there is a mutual sense of curiosity that develops between them. What has been piqued within them is largely due to a shared experience the two had earlier on. [Spoiler: I’m referring to the diving play that Chaki makes after his eyes meet Touko-san’s when she is at the game watching. This was the meetcute where; neither one of them knew who each other were at the time.]
The rest of the story illustrates how Chaki deals with his feelings–both the newfound ones and the ones that he has always possessed for as long as he can remember. The relationship between Chaki and Touko is mingled in with the baseball narrative, and vice-versa.
Chaki was the ideal mc for a story like this. He is the kid everyone wants to be around, a person that is a catalyst that gets the motivation engine turning. Having someone like him as a teammate, a friend, a brother, etc. is a dream come true. He makes everyone around him desire to be better. His optimistic attitude is demonstrated in his approach on the baseball diamond. He is not the best player. He is not the biggest. He is not the most talented. As a matter of fact, he is anything but those things.
Everything does not come easy to Chaki. Those who go and watch him perform well in a game may be tempted to think something like that (particularly if he is performing well), but they are only seeing one side of the coin. Chaki has to bust his ass every day because, frankly, he isn’t very talented. He has to put in a ton of effort to accomplish what little he is able to accomplish. He is an admirable, hard-working kid that deserves to catch a break somewhere down the line. Someday, that hard work is gonna pay off. Hopefully.
Takamine Touko is somewhat enigmatic. I don’t want to say too much about her, on the off-chance that I spoil some of the manga for someone, but she is not as strong as the front she puts up is. Touko-sensei is a young teacher, seems to be fresh out of university. Her youth comes out in her personality, as she is rather immature at times. This being her first teaching job, it’s to be expected that she will not be as well-rounded as some of her older coworkers. She lacks experience in the profession, but she is a genuine teacher. It was her dream from a young age to teach. She has the desire to help others.
The supporting cast of characters are fantastic; they are one of the better parts of this manga. The school’s coach was great. He was so well-written and accurate. His blended personality, specifically how he maintained that façade of acting like an asshole while simultaneously remaining a coach that truly cares for his players’ wellbeing and future, was extremely well done. The dude reminded me of a coach that I had. Those type of men are rare and not easy to come by. The rest of the team was awesome as well. I loved the interactions between the players. The events plotted along the journey to Koshien throughout the manga reveal the attitude and mindset that everyone on the team has:
“I want to play one more day with everyone”
This exemplifies something that readers can relate to; it’s not necessary to have played baseball to resonate with it. The boys don’t want to lose. Chaki and his teammates, nay, his brothers, don’t want to lose. Their reason for going to Koshien becomes less and less about winning the championship. It’s more about the fact that they want to continue to wear that uniform grinding out the day surrounded with their bros in uniform. Even if it is for one last day, one last game, one last pitch; they want to continue to experience working together as a team for the sake of one another. That’s raw, real life. It was really awesome to read through those moments. It felt completely genuine. It hit me hard.
A Note on the “Romance”
Chiaki-kun and Touko-sensei’s relationship isn’t completely unrealistic. The age difference isn’If the gender roles were flipped, it would most likely feel different. I can’t deny that. Although, I’m not justifying the beginnings of their relationship, it is a mostly wholesome exchange between the two. The reason for it being inappropriate is due to the fact that it is between a student and a teacher. It’s hard to picture a scenario where a romantic relationship would be appropriate for any two people in such respective roles.
[The ending makes up for whatever hesitations I had regarding the relationship between Touko & Chaki.]
I’m not sure if this manga is particularly great or not. It’s hard to tell because there doesn’t seem to be very many people who have read it. The reason this was so good for me is because it captures a life experience, one which I’m familiar with, really well. I spent a large portion of my life around the game of baseball, so this story had a lot of sentimental value for me. The relationships and bonds that the players share with one another was so nostalgic. It honestly captures both the competitive and emotional experience of high school baseball an accurate way. It had me tearing up a few times throughout my reading of it.
If I’m going to be completely honest, I love this manga. My appreciation for this work may mostly be due to my sentimental attachment to it, but I don’t have a problem admitting that. Regardless of my personal feelings, I do feel that Natsuzora and Run is a genuinely decent manga. The manga’s length allows for its story to be told and its plot to play out, despite the brevity in length. I’d recommend this to people that are able to stomach baseball. Although, I know alot of people are unable to do that, so I don’t know what the consensus would be for it. Oh well.
Anyways. Good manga.
Originally published on AniList; 30 March, 2021