Teppuu; the problem of talent

{Yay another manga review and yet another love letter from me to a piece of entertainment that I hold very dear}

Natsuo Ishidou is a girl who is stuck in a state of constant boredom, that is the price she pays for her talent.

What she lacks in technicalities, she makes up in raw strength and just instinctively knowing what to do. So much so, that Natsuo starts to think that this is the natural way of being and even questions others who can’t achieve the same. It doesn’t take long for her to realize that with such talent comes boredom and loneliness.

Teppuu is a sports drama manga with a protagonist that is quite rare. Aside from the perfect Sakamoto, Saiki Kusuo or Kurokami Medaka, whose extreme talents or abilities are usually played for laughs; the struggles that may come with talent are often brushed off, even replaced with the protagonist who works hard to become talented and powerful, from the underdog position that he/she starts at.

We get the first step into the real meat and strength of the manga as Natsuo overhears a transfer student from Brazil, Yuzuko Mawatori, invite students (even Natsuo as she approaches her) to join the Martial arts club. While initially she plays it off, as she is part of another club, she is annoyed and irritated at the cheerful Yuzuko and continues to think her words “It’s a lot of fun!” over and over. She goes out of her way to challenge her in order to crush Yuzuko’s confidence hidden beneath a reserved face. She came here just to kill time and tomorrow will be like always…

Natsuo doesn’t win by default

Their match gets interrupted by Sawamura Sanae, the president of the karate club who seems to have bad blood with Natsuo and knows her, but it’s not the last time she and Yuzuko butt heads.

She can be brutally honest to a hilarious level too

Natsuo isn’t a morally perfect protagonist, however, at the same time she’s not a cliche mustache twirling villain either. She comes to hate (and in a way be jealous of) the cheerful and happy-go-lucky girl for seemingly no real reason and goes as far as to dislike a friend of hers just for “having the same atmosphere”, but that’s what makes her stand out, be interesting and more human at the same time.

For a brief moment Natsuo becomes interested again. Yet again she feels like she’s starting something and not just doing whatever her instincts tell her. She feels like trying, even if she is prepared to lose.

It all comes crashing down as she feels helpless and can’t do a thing against Yuzuko’s pinning moves. Frustration build to the breaking point, as Natsuo once again refuses to join her club, but still feels bad. She doesn’t like this and feels like she’s grasping at something she has yet to understand. Probably for the first time in her life, Natsuo chooses to try her hardest, as if her life depended on it, just to get her revenge and win against Yuzuko.

This is a manga that takes a simple premise and goes all out with it. Every up and down, we get to experience it and follow Natsuo’s journey til the end. It balances both its drama, technical explanations, which might push you to become interested in MMA yourself, and its comedy to a masterful degree. The interesting characterization and slow but steady change of Natsuo just adds to it.

Teppuu just grips your interest tight and doesn’t let go up to the very last page

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