As a female watching anime and reading manga, the designs of female characters can be quite tedious. Even in action-fighting manga, female characters are built the same – hourglass figure with gigantic boobs, with females from One Piece being the most obvious example. That’s not to say such women don’t exist in the world, and I’m not trying to start a crusade against this body type. What I am trying to say is that sometimes it’s really awesome (and empowering) to see different body types represented in media. That brings us to a series I’ve been a long-time fan of – Saotome-Senshu, Hitakakusa (also known as ‘Fighter Saotome’) by Mizuguchi Naoki. The series follows high school champion boxer, Saotome Yae. Yae has a crush on another member of her boxing club, Tsukishima Satoru, who makes up for his lack of stature and brawn through in-depth knowledge of boxing.
As my introduction for the series focused on body representation, let’s start with that. Even within athletic bodies, there’s a pretty big variety of body shapes and sizes, and this manga does a really great way of showing that. We have Yae whose body is quite muscular and a little square shaped, but there’s also character who have bodies which are a bit more curvaceous, or even characters who are very thin. None of the bodies are shown to be better than others. In fact all the bodies are shown to be beautiful, one to be proud of. There’s no off hand ‘fat’ jokes or derogatory comments. Especially amongst the girl athletes, they all really support one another.
The manga also spends some time confronting ideas of masculinity and femininity. For Yae, as a boxer and with her short hair, she’s often compared to a boy and is expected to act very masculine. But her actual personality is a mixture, and in fact is shown to be quite troubled from people place assumptions on her. I find in a lot of series that when a girl is criticised for being masculine, it’s often flipped off as a joke and not discussed. With Yae, you could see the effects that such comments had on her, at one point a girl tells Yae that her hand is big like a boy’s. Yae then becomes concerned about holding hands with Satoru and stressed about her own body. Through the support of Satoru and her boxing friends she finds the strength to be herself and show her more feminine sides. Growing up, I too was criticised for being masculine, for simply having a pixie cut, my actual personality is very feminine – I love sewing, having soft toys all around my room and my favourite colours are pastel. So seeing Yae slowly becoming more confident in herself was very inspiring to read.
Probably my favourite part of this manga is how wholesome the relationship between Yae and Satoru is. Even though Satoru is smaller and weaker than Yae, he’s not bitter about it or frustrated at his own situation (nor should he be!). Instead he just wants to see Yae achieve her very best, he studies as much as he can about nutrition and coaching so he can support his girlfriend. Yae and Satoru lift each other up and inspired one another to do better. I also love how Yae is shown to be really in love with Satoru and acts on her love. In some manga series, the female characters are just so shy and blushing – they just don’t do anything. But Yae will ask Satoru to hold her hand, or even check him out when he’s in his boxing outfit!
As you can tell I absolutely adore this series! Yae is now one of my favourite female manga characters, and I can’t wait to see how her relationship with Satoru continues to develop. If anything, the series teaches readers about strength and perseverance, and the importance of surrounding yourself with positive people. I highly recommend any manga readers give this series a shot. An 8.5/10 from me!