the tracy mcgrady of manga

Categories: manga


Well, I could have used Grant Hill, but he’s been playing well.

So I’m watching SportsCenter, and they mention that Tracy McGrady (T-Mac for people who don’t know their Bynumites from their Mambas) is attempting to come back from yet another injury. Back in the late 90s, before Kobe got going, T-Mac was the premier perimeter player. He could do everything: drive, distribute, shoot, defend, a complete package. Orlando had dreams of champion seasons by enticing T-Mac, Grant Hill, and Tim Duncan as free agents… only Duncan decided to stay with San Antonio, and Grant Hill was always injured. T-Mac single-handled carried Orlando to the playoffs, only to never advance past the first round.

After reading the final chapter of Nodame Cantabile, I feel like it is the T-Mac of manga. Once upon a time, Nodame was the premier shoujo manga, with the right blend of comedy and edutainment to suck in the non-typical shoujo audience. It wasn’t as much about relationships but more of a classic sports manga story applied to classical music: a ragtag bunch of Japanese students form a premier orchestra. I liked it. The purposefully underachieving star? Check. (Much like Hiro in H2 not going to a premier baseball team because of a false diagnosis, Chiaki didn’t go to a better school because he was afraid of planes.) The diamond in the rough? Check. (Much like Ren Mihashi in Big Windup being underestimated for his weird behavior, Nodame gets underestimated a lot for her weird behavior.)

(Right now, my readers are wondering, wait, using an NBA reference to describe a shoujo manga on an anime blog that coined “OH GEASS NO” and “costume rape”? What audience are you gunning for?)

Eventually, Nodame Cantabile ran out of stories in Japan. Ninomiya-san could have either ended the series or continue it in Europe… much like how after losing to the Pistons after up 3-1 in 2003, T-Mac considered either retiring or asking for a trade. Both continued. Nodame and Chiaki went to Paris. T-Mac went to Houston. (Honestly, I can’t think of two more different cities.) Ninomiya-san set up the series for the distance… little steps for both Chiaki and Nodame’s music and their relationship. She introduced Jean Donnadieu as a musical rival. She introduced yet another orchestra for Chiaki to turn around. Nodame Cantabile could never reach the same peaks it had in storytelling it had while it was in Japan, but Europe is a good equilibrium. The series could go on forever.

But then Ninomiya-san had a child and went through various ailments. Nodame was sporadically published, and after an announcement saying that it could conclude in 2010… it ended up concluding with chapter 136 in 2009. All the potential of Chiaki and Nodame in Europe… gone. T-Mac was supposed to go to Houston, and after a year or two of finding the right role players, team up with Yao to form the best inside-outside combo in the NBA. That didn’t happen. We’ll never see T-Mac and Yao lead Houston to a championship– maybe Trevor Ariza and Aaron Brooks leading the team someday, but not T-Mac and Yao.

The finale… well… it’s rushed. We never got to see Jean’s and Chiaki’s continuous attempts to one-up each other. It felt like it was pieced together and every remaining character was allocated half a page– even Chiaki’s dad shows up for no real purpose but to give him page time before the curtain call. For a long series like that, what I want in a finale… is a finale. I want the epic close. I don’t want the Seinfeld gang going to jail. I don’t want the Soprano’s fade to black. I wanted that concerto between Nodame and Chiaki… and we never got it. We didn’t even get an end. At one point, Nodame is back on her game board, and she’s deciding between the unknown, going pro, staying in school, or banging out eight kids with Chiaki and starring in Nodame and Chiaki Plus Eight. Only… she stays still. The logical end… well, we never got it.

(Yes, we now live in a world where Code Geass had a logical end, with Suzaku impaling Lulu, and Nodame Cantabile does not. Let’s just say that I’m not quite ready to live in this world. Gimme a few days to adjust.)

(You could argue that the half-assed ending fits Nodame’s personality. Bah.)

The fun rise and lingering end of T-Mac’s career mirrored the ascent and plateau of Nodame Cantabile. It should have been the premier sunset plateau shoujo manga, paralleling Aa! Megami-sama or One Piece in length and constantly hooking in few fans. But it’s not to be. Sometimes, it all comes down to something simple, like being healthy and being healthy enough to play the game.

5 Responses to “the tracy mcgrady of manga”

  1. I experienced the same kind of thing recently with my x-men comics. Marvel recently gave Chris Claremont the chance to pick up his x-men run where he left it. (i.e magneto threatens the world with orbital nukes and gets dead for his troubles) The logical choice for a next issue? a funeral not a frigging base ball game. I’m liking it so far. I’m on the fourth issue, Logan is perma-dead, and his affair with Jean Grey is out of the bag because of it. Fun times.

  2. Maybe we can hope and pray for the LA or Anime version to give the series that epic end it deserves.

  3. At least it’s ended, while Ouran Host Club’s dragging on and on, having lost its mix of comedy and a hint of romance to become a more typical shoujo manga…. gaaaah.

  4. When you mentioned Tracy McGrady, I thought you were implying that watching Nodame gives you chronic migraines.

    Something’s bugs me about the sports/anime analogy. I think it has to do with the nature of watching sports and anime. With sports, you’re generally stuck with your team- if you keep dropping bad teams and switching to winners, that makes you a bandwagon hopper, and nobody likes that. Plus, you can’t even watch an arbitrary selection of games (especially with the NFL).

    In this era of torrenting and streaming, we’re spoiled by the freedom to choose. Imagine if you had to pick your anime before the season based on hearsay and wacky metrics- like thin slicing, except you would not have the option to switch.

    Personally, I prefer to keep my analogies simple- a sports team is a shonen show that never ends (especially the bad ones).

    One last question: who is the Tracy McGrady of blogging?

  5. School Rumble is the T-Mac version of the manga

    If I were the owner of Houston Rockets… they should buyout T-Mac’s contract or trade him for a player with expiring contract (So they can join the 2010 Free Agent Bashing). I don’t want to see the New York Knicks-Marbury issue part 2 or Indiana Pacers-Tinsley issue part 3…

    or trade T-Mac for CP3. (The New Orleans might agree with this one. It’s their fault for firing his beloved Coach) The greatest opportunity to take him while he is in disarray of thoughts. although in the trade checkers the trade is invalid.

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