Vol: 34+; Ch: 361+
2015 - ?
4.344 out of 5 from 442 votes
Rank #219

Ashito Aoi is a young, aspiring soccer player from a backwater town in Japan. His hopes of getting into a high school with a good soccer club are dashed when he causes an incident during a critical match for his team, which results in their loss and elimination from the tournament. Nevertheless, he catches the eye of someone important who happened to be visiting from Tokyo. How will things turn out for Ashito?

Source: Shogakukan Asia

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TL;DR - Incredible story that's a perfect balance of shounen and seinen. You see, the world of sports manga/anime has become a bit typical - most of them follow a pretty similar formula. Overly optimistic main character who doesn't have a single mean thought in their heads, usually kind of stupid, but has a love for their sport and some kind of hidden genius. They join a team of other quirky characters all with their own hidden strengths and aim together for nationals or whatever. *yawn* it's so typical now it's boring. Aoashi starts off seemingly following the same formula - but after several chapters, it immediately differentiates itself with amazing character depth. Ashito is a great main character: he balances the great energy and determination of main characters you find in other shounen manga with the perceptiveness, struggle, and growth you find in seinen MCs. He has streaks of optimistic goodie two-shoes, but he also gets angry, frustrated, and even resentful at things/people like any reasonable person would. This makes him feel more realistic than a lot of other shounen MCs. All of the characters are struggling not just with overcoming their limits in the sport, but also in their actual lives. While most other sports manga focus on high schoolers hitting regionals/nationals in high school world, these players are aiming to become world league players - so for many of them, it's do or (figuratively) die, making it so much more impactful. They're more than just kids who are pumped to play soccer. They have complete personalities and reasons for their behaviors. Most importantly, there's a notable change and growth in most of our primary and secondary characters, and unlike other sports shounen, this one actually also manages to work in some romance as well. There are so many complex and interesting characters, and the way they are initially introduced and then redeem themselves is extremely satisfying. There are some ~300ish fan-translated chapters and somewhere around high 200s officially published chapters (all in Japanese currently). But all of those chapters go by so fast, it's so good. Some of the art could use some work, especially at certain angles. But for the most part, it's very good and doesn't distract from the story. Give it a read if you're looking for a perfect balance of feel-good and drama.

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