There's a surprising number of shoujo sports series that came out in the early half of the 00s, and most of them came from Tokyopop. Today's review is a perfect example of these titles...if only it were any good.
GIRL GOT GAME (Power!!), by Shizuru Seino. First published in 2000 and first published in North America in 2004.
Kyo's father had dreams of playing for the NBA as a young man until an injury put a stop to them. He's determined to make his daughter fulfill them at any cost, even if it means making her pose as a boy so she can attend Seisyu Academy and play on their award-winning basketball team. The only thing more aggravating for Kyo than having to pose as a boy is dealing with her moody roommate and rival Chiharu. His skills on the court are equal to hers, but his poor attitude and problems from his past threaten to sideline him before the season can even start. Can Kyo help him find his motivation?
Girl Got Game has got a lot of problems. Most of them are common to middle-of-the-road shoujo series like this one, but there was one constant, pressing one that distracted me throughout the whole book: why does Kyo have to pose as a boy to succeed in basketball?
I know the obvious answer is that Kyo's father is a terrible person who funnels all of his frustrated ambitions upon his child, regardless of Kyo's own wishes. That's a miserable way to parent in the first place. But why couldn't he raise her to be a great women's basketball player? The WNBA had been founded a few years previous to this manga's debut, so if he's so determined to turn her into a pro he could aim for that. Forcing this harebrained scheme upon her is an easy way to get the reader to sympathize with Kyo, but it's so needlessly complicated that it beggars belief right from the start.
Once the plot is in motion, the biggest problem is that Chiharu is more insufferably moody than your average shoujo love interest. The slightest rebuff sets him straight into pouty huffs and it never occurs to him to just explain to others what his problems might be. Things only get worse when he literally stumbles onto Kyo's secret while she's sleeping, so her acts of kindness add a hormonal element to his frustration as well as a rather inappropriate Meanwhile, Kyo is reacting to him in the typical manner of a shoujo heroine: annoyance at his mood swings one moment, nursing a case of the doki-dokis for him the next.
There's only one moment where the chemistry between them works. Midway through the two engage in a spontaneous one-on-one match after Chiharu starts sulking because his ex-girlfriend has moved on from their relationship. There's a playfulness to the scene as the two not only show off their skills on the court, but Kyo offers blunt yet needed advice. Had there been more moments like this, I might have bought the hot-and-cold dynamic between these two. As things are, the combination of Chiharu's attitude and a premise that's too outrageous for its own good makes for a series that's more frustrating than anything else.
Seino's art is equally middle-of-the-road. The cast is big-eyed and cute, if somewhat spindly and same-looking. Her backgrounds are minimalist, with only a bit of wacky screentone or sparkle for the occasional accent. It's too bad that she can't layout a page to save her life or draw convincing action. Basketball is a sport built around quick motion, but Seino robs even the most informal match of life through her stiff poses and disjointed panels. The pages themselves are a scramble with little thought of narrative flow, and the more active the cast gets the worse it becomes. It spoils everything, from the athletics to the comedy to the romance.
There's nothing but a short, odd little personality test to go along with the usual author's notes.
Girl Got Game has no game to speak of. It's uneven, mediocre, and best left with the piles upon piles of no-name shoujo titles from the Tokyopop library.
This series was published by Tokyopop. This series is complete in Japan with 10 volumes available. All 10 volumes were published and are currently out of print.