Reviewby Rebecca Silverman,
Run on Your New Legs
After losing a leg in an accident, Shouta Kikuzato's dreams of high school soccer with his best friend Take are shattered. He's gotten good at using his regular prosthetic, but his life still doesn't feel quite as fulfilling as it might, and he's uncomfortable with the fact that he missed a year of school on top of everything else. But when he automatically begins to run when he sees a child in danger, he's spotted by prosthetist Chidori, who offers to fit him with a running blade. Now Kikuzato has to decide if he's ready to take that next step forward towards a different athletic dream.
Run on Your New Legs is translated by Caleb Cook with lettering by Abigail Blackman.
It is, perhaps, worth mentioning that Run on Your New Legs is the second manga I've read about learning to run with a sports prosthetic. Blade Girl: Kataashi no Runner by Narumi Shigematsu (published as Running Girl in French by Akata Manga) is the more grounded of the two, largely because it goes into more of the nitty-gritty of learning to use a running blade in terms of fitting it, learning to use it, and the difference between a blade and a regular prosthesis. It's a different approach to the topic, and if you're looking for that more grounded approach, you're more likely to find it in Shigematsu's series than this one.
That said, for a sports series with a different angle on the subject, Wataru Midori's Run on Your New Legs is still pretty great. Protagonist Kikuzato lost most of his leg in an as-yet-unexplained accident at some point between middle and high school. This not only caused him to miss starting high school with his friends and age mates, it also put an end to what had been a stellar soccer career – which is even more of a blow because he and his friend Take had just gotten into the soccer school of their dreams. Now Kikuzato is a year below Take and unable (in his mind) to continue to play, and he's very clearly suffering from depression because of this and a few other factors. He resents standing out as “the kid who lost his leg,” he resents that when he wears pants no one can tell he's disabled (while still being embarrassed that he's disabled), and his new default routine is “sleep, school, sleep,” which does an excellent job of showing his depression without spelling it out for us. He's not an object of pity, which is important, but he's also clearly not happy.
Things begin to change when he starts to open up to Usami, a track-and-field sprinter and the only person in Kikuzato's class to successfully break through his barrier of reservation. Usami isn't trying to pamper Kikuzato or to befriend him because he's the “special” kid in class; he just genuinely seems to like Kikuzato. They begin walking to and from school together, so Usami's there when Kikuzato spots a kid about to get his head smacked by an elevator door and automatically bursts into action. He's genuinely surprised and happy for his new friend – and definitely cautious when a man in a suit approaches them and asks if Kikuzato has ever tried an athletic prosthetic, having noticed his regular one under his cuff.
This is where the story really gets going, and while much of this volume is setup for what's to come, the juxtaposition of Chidori the prosthetist, Usami, and potential running rival Tsuchiya all make for an interesting confluence of influences on Kikuzato. Chidori is far and away the most troubling, because as excited as he is to work with Kikuzato based on watching him run with a regular prosthetic, he's also clearly in the wrong for hunting down the boys' high school and just showing up with a blade for Kikuzato to try, to say nothing of later tricking him into working with Chidori and entering a race. It's admirable that Chidori wants to make a difference and to help athletes flourish despite physical handicaps, but he comes on way too strong and gives off serious predator vibes that don't help the story. While it's true that Kikuzato desperately needed someone to light a fire under him, this really could have been handled better.
Usami, on the other hand, is simply supportive and ready to be a good friend. Looking at him compared to Take, who gets a brief appearance in the latter half of the book, we can see how knowing Kikuzato before the accident is a major factor in Take's discomfort and apparent repudiation of his friend. While we don't know the exact circumstances of the way Kikuzato lost his leg, Take clearly feels some guilt or even just discomfort about his friend's changed life, and that causes him to stay away from him. Usami, however, has only known Kikuzato as the guy who only has one flesh-and-blood leg and seems to be doing just fine; he perhaps recognizes that he's depressed, but he also is willing to just reach out because he wants to get to know him. He has no baggage, while Take's dragging around a matched luggage set of conflicted emotions about his soccer pal. There's some hope that he and Kikuzato will be able to connect again (at least part of their issue may be a sense of mutual abandonment), and this stands to be a series where the character relationships make or break how well it all comes together.
Run on Your New Legs' first volume is a promising start to a sports series that takes a different approach than we normally see. It may devolve into ableism at some point, so how it handles that will be worth keeping an eye on, and hopefully its mention of Oscar Pistorias is a one-time deal since it largely glosses over why he's problematic as a role model, but it's still very much worth picking up. It may not be Real or Blade Girl, but it's still a good story.
Overall : B+
Story : B+
Art : B+
+ Interesting angle on the sports story, good showing without telling. Good use of muscles and mechanical details in the art.
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