Tamao Azukida loves baseball more than anything else in life. He studies it and understands the sport better than anyone. However, he’s not the physically strongest person in the world. Still, he’s a fantastic catcher and knows what he’s doing, and is trying to push himself onto the best team in the region—Hakuo Gakuin. Thus begins Nine Dragons’ Ball Parade, a new Shonen Jump sports manga series with art from Ashibi Fukui and story by Mikiyasu Kamada. Previously, Fukui was the writer and artist for the three-volume baseball manga series Ano Natsu: 1959, so already comes to the series with experience drawing baseball, and it definitely shows.
In chapter one, Azukida, attends the tryout, where he knows literally every single person present at the tryouts except for two—a fellow catcher and another student, an unexpectedly amazing pitcher named Tao Ryudo.
Azukida makes it through all the initial phases of the tryout, but when it comes to an actual field event, he begins to falter. He’s the catcher and the pitcher he is paired with is ignoring all of his calls, so the other team hits literally everything. Enter Ryudo, who has limited range as a pitcher, but trusts Azukida and listens to every single call he gives. It’s all strike-outs from then on out.
When the coaching staff tries to call out Ryudo as amazing, he points back to Azukida to show that everything he did well was because of the catcher’s planning. Ryudo effectively says that they are better together.
The first chapter, however, ends with Azukida failing to make the team. He’s told that they don’t need an analyst—they need blind, strong players ready to listen to everything the coaches say. Ryudo, on the other hand, makes the team, but doesn’t want to join. He wants to play with the greatest catcher he’s ever met and him alone. He only wants to play with Azukida.
The first chapter introduces the primary characters well. Azukida is an analytical master and I love watching him get excited and explain his game plan. Ryudo is incredibly trusting and wants to find someone who can complement his skills. He wants someone to help him shine. In a very simplistic way, it reminds me of the initial relationship between Kenma Kozume and Taketora Yamamoto in Haikyuu. Kenma and Azukida have brilliant analytical minds. Yamamoto and Ryudo are incredibly talented and want to work with the best analysts.
I can appreciate sports relationships like that. The two of them are, at some point, going to go to a new school and work together to build up a new team. This first chapter set the stage well and the art is fantastic as well. Each page is dynamically drawn and each of the characters popped on the page. I also appreciated that the players aren’t a group of look-alikes; a variety of different body shapes are represented with the various players on the field.
Overall, I liked the first chapter, which is perfect since I’ve been looking for a new sports manga. Let’s do this!
Story: Mikiyasu Kamada
Art: Ashibi Fukui
Translation: Camellia Nieh
Lettering: Snir Aharon
Nine Dragon’s Ball Parade can be read at Shonen Jump. The most recent chapters are always free.