A Chess Manga That is Still Rough Around The Edges
- Mangaka : Biscay, Cédric & Sanazaki, Harumo (Story); Nishihara Daitaro (Art)
- Publisher : Ablaze
- Genre : Sports, School Life, Shounen
- Published : July 2022 – Present
Along with action and fantasy, sports is another highly popular genre in shounen manga. And throughout the years, all kinds of sports have received their own manga adaptations. From physically taxing ones like American football and cycling, to board games that put a heavy toll on the mind like shogi and go. There’s surely a manga out there that talks about your favorite sport.
Strangely enough, there are almost no manga that talk about chess, despite it being one of the oldest and most popular board games in the world. However, that is no longer the case because Ablaze is here with a new manga centered around chess. It’s called Blitz, taken from a type of fast chess game. So let’s see how good it is through this review of the first volume of Blitz.
Tom is a rowdy and rebellious middle school boy. He likes to do things his way and rarely cares about the consequences of his actions. But if there’s 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 already made up her mind about what she wants to be in the future. Her dream is to be a chess grandmaster, just like her idol: one of the greatest chess players in history, Garry Kasparov.
In order to get closer to Harmony, Tom decides to join the chess club in his school. Unfortunately for him, the club president also has a crush on Harmony, and therefore he doesn’t like Tom being there. Not to mention he also thinks Tom would only play around in the club and would disturb 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, then he will not only accept Tom into the club, but he will personally hand his title as the club president to Tom. Needless to say, Tom accepts the challenge, and so begins his journey into the world of chess.
Why You Should Read Blitz
1. A Manga For Chess Enthusiasts
As mentioned earlier, despite being one of the most popular board games in the world, there are barely any manga that talk about chess. One of the main reasons is likely because chess itself is not that popular in Japan. Or at the very least, it is not as popular as other traditional board games, such as shogi and go.
That is why this manga is great news for those of us manga readers who play chess, either recreationally or professionally. Because now we finally have a storytelling medium that combines our passion for both manga and chess together.
2. A Great Way To Introduce Chess
When Netflix released their critically acclaimed original series “The Queen’s Gambit” back in 2020, the whole world was instantly interested in chess again, which is tremendously good news for the community. Lots of professional players even called that time “The Great Chess Renaissance”. That is the power and influence of a good story.
It’s unclear whether or not BLITZ can achieve the same effect on the readers as The Queen’s Gambit. But at the very least, it can be a great introduction for folks who prefer to read manga over watching hours of a drama series. It can be an entryway for readers who never thought about chess before to hopefully develop an interest in the game.
Why You Should Skip Blitz
1. Lack of Explanation
For a manga that revolves around chess, there’s surprisingly little information about the game itself in this manga. The only technical information about chess here is when Tom starts to learn about the game. Even then, it only talks about the basics of the game, such as the name of each piece and how they move. That is it.
There’s no mention about what the squares on the board mean, there’s no mention of the game’s rich history, nor is there any talk about different stages of the game. Tom wants to defeat the president of his school’s chess club in two months, and yet there’s no mention of different types of openings that he should know, how to survive the middlegame, or what to do during the endgame.
There are 224 pages in this manga and yet there’s not enough time to talk about some of the most important aspects of the game? Sure, we want the readers to be invested in Tom and the other characters. But how can we understand his struggle if we barely know anything about the game that he’s playing?
2. Unfortunate Character Development
There’s nothing new about the premise of this manga. A boy who tries to get into a certain sport in order to get closer to his crush… well, that’s 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 those who have done it first, and for the most part, they all are great manga. Anything will look subpar when compared to one of the greatest manga ever made. So that alone means this manga is off to a rocky start.
And then we come to one of the key story elements in the story – the VR incident. We would usually put a “Spoiler Alert” tag here, but since Ablaze themselves talk about it in the blurb for the manga on their website, it doesn’t seem to be something that should be kept a secret from the readers. So let’s talk about it.
You see, in the story Tom somehow manages to use a chess VR engine to download knowledge, particularly about Garry Kasparov games, into his head. This makes him a chess expert overnight. He can even go toe to toe with a chess junior champion. Remember, at this point, Tom has barely been learning about chess for two months.
To some, it might seem to be a form of a God-given superpower, but to others, it is just cheating. Other characters dedicate years of their life playing and learning chess for hours every day, while Tom somehow gains knowledge about chess through a freak accident and gets champion-level skills two months into learning the game. If that’s not an unfair competitive advantage, then we don’t know what is. And we don’t think that is the path to good character development.
Sure, the main character of Hikaru no Go, a boy named Hikaru, also has that unfair competitive advantage in the form of the ghost of a go master who whispers instructions to his ears. But at least he acknowledges that it is actually someone else who plays the game, not him. Hikaru never once thinks that he’s winning due to his own skill. Which is why he sincerely tries to learn the game in order to not rely on somebody else’s skill during matches, which turns into great character development. Hopefully Blitz also has something like this in store for the story, because otherwise, it only becomes a story about a cheater who doesn’t realize that he is cheating.
Blitz is a great introduction to chess for manga readers who have never thought about trying it out before. It might even spark an interest in some of the readers to give the game a try. But unfortunately, there are still some issues regarding the execution of the story itself in this first volume. Hopefully the next volumes can fix these issues and present a better story.
Have you read Blitz? If you have, what do you think about it? Let us know in the comment section below.