There are s suprising number of shoujo series about sports. Few of them could be said to be comedies, though. Fewer still could say that the point of the series is to not play the sport at all.
MY HEAVENLY HOCKEY CLUB (Gokuraku Seishun Hockey Bu), by Ai Morinaga. First published in 2002, and first published in North America in 2007.
Hana Suzuki is a lazy girl with two primary habits: eating and sleeping. Somehow, this endears her to one Izumi Oda, who loves her from afar. In an attempt to get close to her, he convinces her to join the hockey club. Hana has no interest in either hockey or Izumi, but she yields to the promises of away trips to nice resorts with gourmet meals. To get to that, though, Hana has to endure early morning practices and a gaggle of pesky, pretty boys. It's a good thing that this hockey club tends to be more occupied with planning trips and meals than getting around to the actual games.
Ai Morinaga has made something of a name for herself by turning various genres on their head for the sake of comedy. Here she's doing double-duty by taking on both sports manga and reverse harems. True to form, she ends up generating a lot of comedy out of subverting the readers' expectations.
Obviously, Hana couldn't be less suited to becoming the heroine of a sports manga if she tried, being both lazy and aimless. She's not particularly interested in field hockey and shows no particular aptitude for it, so she's shoved into the role of goalie. She's also not your standard reverse harem lead, either. She might fight with Izumi off and on, but it's out of a sense of general annoyance than any sort of romantic tension. Indeed, she doesn't take the least bit interest in romance or guys or anything that's not food and sleep. So Hana doesn't aspire to be a great player or to get herself a man, so surely the point of the story is the build-up to the matches, right?
Nope! That's the biggest subversion and the biggest joke in the entire book. No matter how far the team might travel, shenanigans occur and the meet is inevitably cancelled. Sometimes there might be fallout from these events (such as the time where the team is followed around by a bear), but most of the time you just have to accept the increasingly ridiculous circumstances as they occur. That's pretty much the entirely of the comedy, as neither Hana nor her teammates have that much in the way of personality. Like with most Morinaga works, it's got a rather particular sense of humor. Either you will love it or you will be completely baffled. No matter what, though, My Heavenly Hockey Club can be said to be like no other sports manga...in that it's not about sports at all.
I've always like Morinaga as an artist, and this series is no exemption from that. Her character designs are generic and pleasant, which certainly works with the kind of gags she's going for here. She's not afraid to veer them off into some ridiculous expression or some super-deformed gag, though, accented with much more wacky screentones than Morinaga usually uses. At least she uses them well, letting them serve as punctuation for a punchline or an over-the-top expression. Otherwise, the art is perfectly pretty and competent.
Being an old Del-Ray book, there's the usual trio of an honorifics guide, a food-heavy collection of translation notes, and a translated preview of Volume 2 in the back.
I enjoyed My Heavenly Hockey Club, even if it's arguably the weakest of her works published here. The gags might be a bit more on the nose when compared to Morinaga's previous works, but it's just as subversive and silly as the rest and thus just as enjoyable.
This series was published by Del-Ray. This series is complete in Japan with 14 volumes available. 8 volumes were published and all are currently out of print.