With the recent release of its anime adaptation’s first PV, hype for Muneyuki Kaneshiro and Yusuke Nomura’s Blue Lock is ramping up. In my review of Vol. 1 I discussed how well the series established its stakes and themes, with a protagonist whose personal ethos ran counter to what it takes to win and what it takes to endure through the harsh new training program he’s found himself in. Having just barely survived the first round of player expulsions, Yoichi Isagi and his teammates must now take part in a round robin tournament with their spots at Blue Lock on the line. There’s more than a little pressure, paving the way for more intense soccer action. Does Blue Lock Vol. 2 live up to the high expectations raised by the series’ debut?
Art-wise, Nomura continues to deliver excellent soccer action here. With how many players are on the field at a time and how wide and varied the angles of kicks and passes can be, it takes a lot of careful crafting to properly convey the sport’s hectic nature on the page. Nomura’s layouts are impressive not just in the amount of details they juggle but also in their clarity and pacing. There’s a very strong grasp of momentum here as the ball travels toward the goal; the composition choices emphasize both the crowded team aspect of the sport as well as players’ more self-centered anxieties and ambitions. There’s even a sprinkling of visual humor such as when one player tries to headbutt the ball but falls short and falls the ground headfirst.
There’s also a lot to praise about this volume’s development of Yoichi. In the latter of the two matches depicted he finds himself up against a player whose moves he can successfully predict because of their deep similarities to his own. This rival reminds Yoichi of himself, or more specifically the past version of himself that failed to make it to nationals. As a result, the face-off between the two characters is an important embodiment of the internal conflict Yoichi is experiencing and working through. There’s the devotion to teamwork that his years of experience have built up within him, and then there’s the desire to stand out on his own that the Blue Lock program has awakened within him. The pacing of Yoichi’s arc across both volumes thus far has been very well-done and there’s a real feeling that he’s progressed significantly from where he started.
While this second installment is still an excellent read like its predecessor, there are some downsides to the pacing of the games. Specifically, too much time gets skipped between pivotal plays. This is an issue primarily because of the gulf it creates between the players’ understanding of momentum and the actual readers’ understanding. It’s difficult to get fully engrossed in the tension of a team repeatedly having its best efforts thwarted when so much of said thwarting is skipped over. As such some of the drama reads a little more flatly than the events of Vol. 1, and the stakes don’t feel quite as high even if they technically are (thanks to losses at Blue Lock effectively ending soccer careers). With that said these issues lessen as the volume goes on and when the players reach clutch time it truly feels like every move matters.
All in all, Blue Lock Vol. 2 is yet another very polished and exciting installment. The artwork continues to impress in its detail and clarity, and Nomura and Kaneshiro really know how to up the intensity at the right times. The same can be said about the pacing; while earlier scenes have some problems everything is perfect once the players reach the most pivotal plays. Yoichi’s character arc also continues to be well-executed and the glimpses at other players’ philosophies are also fun and illuminating. This continues to be a manga well worth reading.
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