For two decades, Kosuke Fujishima’s Oh! My Goddess was a veritable institution in the US. It arrived in comic book stores in 1994 and finished its run in 2015, along the way introducing several generations of manga fans to the fraught relationship between the nebbishy Keiichi Morisato and his otherworldly companion Belldandy. Fujishima’s current project Toppu GP debuted last year with little attention from critics, but this sports manga might just be the better of the two series; as I noted in my review of volume one, the characters are types and the drama predictable, but the motorcycle races are thrilling, funny, and surprisingly educational, helping the novice appreciate the skill necessary to ride at an elite level.
The latest installment of Toppu GP does all the things you’d expect the second volume of a sports manga to do: it introduces new rivals for the principal characters, expands the supporting cast, and features several lengthier, riskier races. Not all of these gambits work. Toppu’s new fanclub — which includes Billy Izumo, a tow-headed bike enthusiast, and Itsuki Nagoya, a nerdy girl with a crush on Toppu — provides the weakest sort of comic relief by making Nagoya and Myne compete for Toppu’s attention. (“Who is this old lady?” Nagoya sniffs when introduced to Myne.) When the action shifts to the race track, however, the story roars to life, offering Fujishima a unique opportunity to explain the physics and strategy of moto GP through imaginative visual metaphors. In one sequence, for example, Toppu compares the components of his bike to instruments in a rock band — a neat way to suggest the sound and function of each — while in another, Fujishima represents Toppu’s anxiety as a giant, coiled rattlesnake. These metaphors are corny, to be sure, but they enliven the racing sequences, breaking the relentless stream of speedlines, facial close-ups, and banked turns.
Though Toppu gets top billing, Myne also gets a turn in the spotlight in a fiercely competitive race against Daiya Ishibashi, the reigning champ at the Course 2000. Their race is a genuine nail-biter, with Ishibashi and Myne aggressively vying for the lead. By the end of the volume, it’s not clear if Myne will prevail over Ishibashi, but her tenacity and cunning have made that outcome a real possibility. Readers who want to know whether Myne wins have two choices: wait until August for volume three, or purchase chapters 15 and 16 right now. (The digital serialization is up to chapter 23.) Me? I’m going to tough it out until August, since Toppu GP is one of the few series I’m actively collecting. Recommended.
Toppu GP, Vol. 2
By Kosuke Fujishima
Translated by Stephen Paul
Kodansha Comics, 192 pp.
Rated T, for Teen (13+)