A Chess Manga That’s Still Around the Edges
- Mangka : Biscay, Cedric and Sanazaki, Harumo (story); Nishihara Daitaro (art)
- Publisher : ablaaz
- Style : sports, school life, shonen
- published : July 2022 – Present
Along with action and fantasy, sports are another hugely popular genre in shonen manga. And over the years, all kinds of games have gotten their own manga adaptations. From physically taxing ones like American football and cycling, to board games that take a toll on the mind like shogi and go. There’s definitely a manga out there that talks about your favorite sport.
Amazingly, there is almost no manga that talks about chess, even though it is one of the oldest and most popular board games in the world. However, that’s no longer the case as Ablaze is here with a new manga centered around chess. This is called blitz, which is derived from a type of fast chess game. So let’s see how well it fares through this review of the first volume of Blitz.
Tom is a rowdy and rebellious middle school boy. He likes to do things his own way and rarely cares about the consequences of his actions. But if there is one person that Tom would gladly listen to, it would be his crush, a beautiful girl named Harmony.
However, unlike Tom, Harmony is a hardworking girl who has already made up her mind about what she wants to be in the future. His dream is to become a chess grandmaster, just like his idol: one of the greatest chess players in history, Garry Kasparov.
To get closer to Harmony, Tom decides to join the chess club at his school. Unfortunately for him, the club president also has a crush on Harmony, and so he doesn’t like Tom to be there. Not to mention he also thinks that Tom will only play in the club and harass the other members.
So before he can join in, the club president challenges Tom to a game of chess. In two months’ time, if Tom can beat him in a public game of chess, he will not only accept Tom into the club, but he will personally hand over his title as club president to Tom. Needless to say, Tom accepts the challenge, and so begins his journey into the world of chess.
Why should you read Blitz?
1. A manga for chess enthusiasts
As mentioned earlier, despite being one of the most popular board games in the world, there is hardly a manga that talks about chess. One of the main reasons is likely because chess is not as popular in Japan. Or at least, it’s not as popular as other traditional board games like Shogi and Go.
Which is why this manga is great news for those of us who play chess, either recreationally or professionally. Because now we have a storytelling medium that ties together our passion for both manga and chess.
2. A Great Way to Introduce Chess
When Netflix released its critically acclaimed original series “The Queen’s Gambit” back in 2020, the whole world immediately became interested in chess again, which is great news for the community. Many professional players also called the time “The Great Chess Renaissance”. That’s the power and impact of a good story.
It is unclear whether BLITZ can achieve the same effect on readers as The Queen’s Gambit. But at least, it can be a good introduction for those who prefer to read manga rather than watch hours of drama series. It can be a gateway for readers who have never thought of chess before and will hopefully develop an interest in the game.
Why should you leave Blitz?
1. Lack of Explanation
For a manga that revolves around chess, there is surprisingly little information about the game in the manga itself. The only technical know-how about chess here is when Tom starts learning about the game. Even so, it only talks about the basics of the game, such as the name of each piece and how they move. That’s all.
There is no mention of what the squares on the board mean, no mention of the game’s rich history, and no mention of the different stages of the game. Tom wants to defeat the president of his school’s chess club in two months, and yet there is no mention of the variety of openings he must know how to survive the middlegame, or what to do during the endgame.
There are 224 pages in this manga and still not enough time to talk about some of the most important aspects of the game? Sure, we want readers to be invested in Tom and the other characters. But how can we understand his struggle if we don’t know anything about the game he’s playing?
2. Unfortunate Character Development
There is nothing new about the premise of this manga. A guy who tries to engage in a certain sport to get closer to his crush… well, that’s a slam dunk, isn’t it? And there’s also Welcome to the Ballroom for a more recent example. There’s nothing wrong with using a familiar story element, but it also means that it will be compared to others who have done it before, and for the most part, they are all great manga. Anything compared to one of the greatest manga of all time will look subpar. So that means this manga is off to a rocky start.
And then we come to one of the key elements of the story – the VR phenomenon. We usually tag “spoiler alert” here, but since Ablaze himself talks about it on his website in the blurb for the manga, it doesn’t seem like it’s something that should be kept a secret from readers. So let’s talk about it.
You see, in the story Tom somehow uses the Chess VR engine to download knowledge, specifically about Garry Kasparov games, into his head. This makes him an overnight chess expert. He can even go toe to toe with a chess junior champion. Remember, Tom has been learning chess for barely two months at the moment.
To some, it may appear to be a form of God-given superpower, but to others, it is just hoax. The other characters devote years of their lives to playing and learning chess for hours each day, while Tom somehow acquires knowledge of chess through a freak accident and two months learning the game to achieve champion-level skills. . If that’s not unfair competitive advantage, we don’t know what is. And we don’t think that’s the way to good character development.
Of course, the main character of Hikaru no Go, a boy named Hikaru, also has an unfair competitive advantage as the ghost of a Go master who whispers instructions in his ear. But at least he acknowledges that it’s actually someone else who plays the game, not him. Hikaru doesn’t even once think that he is winning because of his skill. This is why he tries to learn the game honestly, not to rely on someone else’s skills during matches, which translates into great character development. Hopefully Blitz has something in common for the story, because otherwise, it just becomes a story about a cheater who doesn’t know he’s cheating.
Blitz is a great introduction to chess for manga readers who have never thought of trying it out before. It may even spark interest in some readers to try the game. But unfortunately, there are still some issues regarding the execution of the story in this first volume. Hopefully the next sections can fix these issues and offer a better story.
Have you read Blitz? If you have, what do you think about it? Let us know in the comment section below.