License request day: Fore!

I heard this lovely story on NPR about a professional golfer, 19-year-old Ryo Ishikawa, who’s planning on donating his 2011 earnings to disaster relief in Japan. Okay, it’s kind of annoying when the sports correspondent feigns shock that a 19-year-old could adopt a charitable world view, since some of the most generous people I know are kids. But all the same, it actually made me care a tiny bit about the outcome of professional golf matches. I don’t play golf myself because, while I like taking long walks outside followed by gin and tonics, I don’t like paying to do so or inconveniencing people with my incompetence. Still…

Ishikawa’s nickname (“Bashful Prince”) is just so manga, isn’t it? And he looks so manga in that photo on Wikipedia. It made me wonder if there hasn’t been a surge in golf manga debuting during his ascendance in the sport, which then made me wonder about existing titles about golf. So while it’s entirely possible I have room in my heart for only one sports manga, I thought it might be interesting to hit the links.

Before we move forward, the answer to the question you’re probably asking yourself is, “Yes, there is a shôjo title about golf.” It’s called Super Shot, written and illustrated by Kouko Itamoto. It ran for two volumes and was originally published by Kodansha. I don’t really know much about it, but I assume it’s about a young woman who likes to golf. That seems safe, doesn’t it? Of course, it could also be about a young woman who hates to golf but is really good at it. One never knows.

Speaking of young people who come to golf by accident, there’s the protagonist of Nakaba Suzuki’s Rising Impact, which ran for 17 volumes in Shueisha’s Shônen Jump. It tells the tale of a young baseball fan whose life is changed when he meets a traveler who converts him to the good walk spoiled. Then, it’s off to Tokyo to become the very best golfer he can be! (You have to use exclamation points when talking about sports shônen.)

Doesn’t anyone go into golf for the fabulous prizes? Thanks be to Dan Doh! for exploring this motive in a 29-volume series, written by Nobuhiro Sakata and illustrated by Daichi Banjo for Shogakukan’s Shônen Sunday. Like his Rising Impact peer, our hero here switches from baseball to golf when he learns he can earn millions a year on the pro circuit. He’s not as mercenary as he sounds; the money will help him reunite with his mother. I’m not sure why that is, and it sounds like a plan fraught with potential pitfalls, but the cover is cute, and the anime has been licensed and released.

But where’s the love? Surely there are few places as romantic as the rolling hills of a golf course, right? Sakata and Eiji Kazama have you covered with Kaze no Daichi, which is over 50 volumes long and still running in Shogakukan’s Big Comic Original. It’s about a promising golfer, Okita, and his talented caddie, Lily, who work their way to the top and fall in love in the process. It won the Shogakukan Manga Award in 1994.

But… but… ridiculous outfits, you cry! What’s golf without at least one person in a ridiculous outfit? Oh, faithful readers, manga provides, as always. In Suu Minazuki’s He-nshin!! – Sonata Birdie Rush, a young woman golfer faces a challenging issue: she finds a sponsor who’ll only bankroll her if she does cosplay during her matches. Honestly, how much more ridiculous can she look than some high-profile players? This five-volume series originally ran in Shueisha’s Young Jump.

So there’s a sampler of titles from this surprisingly robust genre. I’m a bit disappointed that I didn’t find any josei, yaoi or yuri to add to the mix, but I suspect they’re out there somewhere, or will be soon.