Run On Your New Legs is a new title translated and published by Yen Press, focusing on subject matter not often focused on: disabilities in sports. Let’s give this series a look and see if it can do its theme right.
The Initial Reaction
One of my all-time favorite manga is Real by Takehiko Inoue, a series about wheelchair basketball and the people in it or who love basketball in general. It’s a heartbreaking, human, powerful story that just hits like so few stories do. Yet, it felt like there were just not that many series out there like it.
That is until I heard about Run On Your New Legs. A different kind of beast of course, but one that still deals with the themes of disability, living with it, sports, and finding your way. I was intrigued. After reading it though, I was, admittedly, a bit mixed on the experience. There’s a lot of potential in it and there’s some strong aspects, but it was being held back by one big part.
The first volume of Run On Your New Legs is a perfectly fine start. It does a reasonable job of setting everything up like a good first volume should do. The cast is introduced, motivation and backstory are established, the drama surrounding everything is fine, and the book ends on a good hook for the personal goal of the main lead’s: beat this rival character. All the basics are done right here, and the manga ends on a more gripping note than it starts.
Now, I cannot personally speak to how accurate this manga is at depicting people with this particular disability or how it is for those who do run with prosthetics. From my limited perspective, I thought the manga was fairly respectful with handling the subject matter and illuminating on certain details. How prosthetics works, how it feels to wear them, hidden disabilities that people may miss, Paralympics, and such. It felt like there was a good level of knowledge about the subject matters in the story and that was appreciated.
Character-wise, the cast is good, but only two really stand out so far. Shouta Kikuzato is our lead, having lost his leg prior to the start of the manga. He definitely feels lost and purposeless in life, unable to play sports and pushing others away. However, after getting a chance to run on this specially made prosthetic, he starts to get pulled into the idea of becoming a runner. And, in a nice turn of events, he isn’t instantly sold on it. Over the course of the book, he slowly warms up to the idea after talking with Chidori and seeing others compete. There’s a natural growth in his character that is handled well.
The other standout of the cast is Masanobu Chidori, the prosthetist that discovers Shouta. An independent worker, there’s an amusing, refreshing honesty in him when it comes to his craft. He went solo because he found the idea of working in sports prostheses to be cool and he hopes to work with Shouta to develop the ultimate prosthetic that could make him famous. It’s a selfish reason, but he’s so straightforward about it and also very friendly (just offering to help Shouta out in general) that it’s almost hard to really hate him.
However, for all the positives and small things that I felt were good to great in the book, there is one aspect that holds the experience back: the artwork. The art is serviceable. The character designs, the layouts, the expressions, the flow of things, and all that stuff are just fine. The art does its job and that’s it.
Which is the problem. For a sports title, one that is especially heavy with the themes and focus within, it doesn’t invoke the weight necessary at times. For instance, there’s this moment early on where Shouta is dreaming about playing soccer again with his friends and it ends with him about to make a shot, but his leg is just suddenly gone. It’s a great moment, but the art shoves it into a panel about a third of the page so the significance feels less.
And it’s like that throughout the manga. There’s a lack of weight and intensity, like the moments when Shouta is running on this specialized prosthetic leg and he feels that speed he was missing. The imagery is just too flat with how it’s drawn. Plus, the facial expressions feel limited, so characters are not often able to fully convey how they’re feeling. The artwork is functional, but it doesn’t capture the feelings the series is trying to express often.
Is It Good?
Run On Your New Legs Vol. 1 is a manga that is almost there. While it is a slow start, there’s a lot to like in its writing and characters. Plus, it seems to have a good understanding of its subject matter that feels respectful. However, its artwork just doesn’t hit strongly enough to fully capture the strengths of the writing and emotional weight at times. Maybe wait until the second volume drops before checking this out.
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