Title: Medalist Vol. 1
Release Date: May 18, 2021
Publisher: Kodansha Comics
As the resident Canadian around here, it’s my job to review anything involving ice or cold temperatures. Naturally, a manga about figure-skating fits right into that niche, so I’m here to talk about Medalist Vol. 1.
Medalist Vol. 1 follows Tsukasa, a 24-year-old man who had to give up on his dreams of being a champion ice-dancer due to financial concerns. While working a part-time job, Tsukasa meets a fifth-grade girl named Inori.
Inori loves skating but has parents that don’t support her due to her sister’s failure to become a skating pro. Seeing this, Tsukasa decides to become Inori’s coach to give her the experience he never got to have. It’s a straightforward but suitable story that serves its purpose and delivers plenty of fun character moments.
For a lot of volume one, it seems like the whole world is really against Inori, to an almost comical degree. This poor child has kids and adults alike insulting her for just existing, which, while strange, does make Tsukasa’s belief in her feel even more satisfying. Tsukasa and Inori’s relationship is incredibly wholesome, as you can see his passion for teaching come out as a result of Inori’s endless drive.
You get the sense that Tsukasa isn’t living vicariously through Inori so much as trying his best to ensure she succeeds for her own sake. It’s very heart-warming to see the two of them hold one another up, and I look forward to seeing them both grow through one another in future volumes, as the beginning of their friendship as mentor and pupil feels quite genuine.
The side characters are fun as well, from the ridiculously sassy Miketa to the brilliant but kind Kamisaki; Inori’s friends have plenty of personality that contrasts well with her quiet demeanor. I like that they represent different ideals for Inori to strive for, and I think their roles in future volumes could go a long way in helping to develop Inori as she comes out of her shell.
I do wish we got to see more of Inori’s training when it came to jumps, as it felt there was a fair amount of lead-up to her gaining the ability to jump, only for it to be explained away in a couple of flashback subpanels. Since jumps play such a big role in the performance she’s aspiring to do; it feels strange to fast forward past the learning process.
The art of Medalist is quite striking, with the skating sections standing out due to their dynamic and lively presentation. It’s hard to make a motion-focused sport like skating look proper on paper, but Tsurumaikada manages to capture the smooth elegance of the sport without the need for moving images. The expressions deserve a nod as well, as there are some great faces throughout volume one that go a long way in expressing the extreme motivations that each character feels.
Medalist Vol. 1 is a solid start for a new sports manga, and though it seems comically mean at times, I think it has set up a strong foundation for an intriguing series to follow.
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