Hello, and welcome to the second manga review of my series I Read It So You Don’t Have To. In this segment, I’m going to review Shonen Jump titles that are fully available on Manga Plus, where you can read official releases for free. I aim to cover whatever fits this criterion in their library, whether I enjoyed it or not. I might compare the titles to well-known series, but it’s to give the reader a taste rather than pitting them against each other. The reviews will contain light spoilers. Hope you can come across a title you might enjoy.
Title: Moon Land
Genre: Sports, Shounen, Slice-of-Life
Author & Artist: Yamagishi Sai
Release Year: 2018
Status: Completed, has 79 chapters + extras.
Amahara’s first time meeting with gymnastics is peeking through the local gymnastics club’s windows when he was little. He seems like he’s in a daze when he’s watching, but he’s not very athletic. A kid from the club, Shuichiro, encourages Amahara to try it out and they become clubmates, as well as friends. Amahara has a very “matter-of-fact”ly attitude towards anything in life, and that mindset shows itself in his gymnastics as well. His ultimate goal is to have complete control in his movement, that’s why he devotes all of his time to the utmost basics and never had any interest in competing.
Since this is his last year in middle school, the coach signs him up for a competition where Amahara has serious clashing opinions with another gymnast for the first time, Sakura Dogase, who is the elite, talented star of youth gymnastics. Amahara doesn’t back down on being effort-oriented instead of just focusing on results, but he is equally bewitched seeing how closer Dogase is to physical freedom compared to himself. So, Amahara does what any shounen protagonist would do and joins the same high school as Dogase to team up with him!
The name Moon Land comes from the New Moon Salto technique Dogase does in the 2nd chapter. I spent a lot of time trying to find a video on it, but apparently, this salto is most commonly called a Tsukahara, named after Tsukahara Mitsuo who is a phenomenal gymnast and a 5-time Olympic Gold Medalist. Here’s a high bar routine from the 1970s.
What works in Moon Land?
- Gymnastics, as Akira (a childhood friend of Dogase and currently Amahara’s classmate) puts it, is a sport where people only focus during the Olympics and forget about the rest of the time. This is justifiable, considering the sport needs specialized equipment, a proper gym, and adult supervision or guidance. This was also the reason to my surprise over getting Taisou Samurai last season, though there was less focus on the actual sport and more on interpersonal dynamics. Hence, for me, it’s certainly a positive trait to have a different sport than The Big Three at the center. I loved watching gymnastics on TV when I was a kid, it certainly took me back.
- This is more of hope on my part rather than what the series has. I’ve only read 20 chapters after all. However, the school has a girl’s gymnastics team as well where Akira is a member. It’s not often where we see both boy’s and girl’s teams being explored together doing the same sport, but in Moon Land, both teams practice side by side in the gym. Crossing my fingers to see more attention given to the girl’s team. Akira is such a sweetheart!
- Most of the time, it’s easy to get a feeling of the movement done in the series. Although, watching the said techniques on Youtube and seeing real athletes in action improves the reading experience.
- I didn’t know much about the specific rules and scoring system in gymnastics, and these parts can become boring, wordy, or confusing if not handled well in sports series. Moon Land was good in this sense as well. In one of the extra chapters, mangaka talks about their first meeting with the gymnast Mizutori Hisashi, who has won several medals in international events and now is a professor. He is also the supervisor for the technical aspects of the manga.
- This one specific scene from Amahara’s childhood made me giddy inside! Amahara loves bugs and in chapter 8, he brings several caterpillars inside. His little sister immediately starts to cry and her mother is uneasy around them. Seeing their negative reaction, Amahara says he should throw them out but his mother was so heartwarming.
What doesn’t work in Moon Land?
- Foils are important for such stories, and their characterization plays a huge role in making or breaking the story. In sports anime, these foils are usually the talented people who have been practicing ever since they are kids, and have the means to study under the best. Sakura Dogase is exactly that, and he only has results in mind and focuses on difficulty levels in his routines. However, his characterization felt a bit unbalanced to me. I wondered if Kageyama from Haikyuu was the same at the very beginning, went back and read the first 2 volumes once more (totally for scientific purposes, okay?). While Kageyama was also blunt, demanding, and rude at times, we also see him being goofy or wavering. These different sides give depth to his character, while Dogesa ends up all tsun and no dere. His character will possibly develop later on in the story, however, it was very hard to get used to him, and still think he’s a bit too simplistic.
- This one is more neutral, but the story strictly sticks to the sports manga structure and tropes up until now. There’s comfort in familiarity and that’s why tropes work, although it’s sometimes nice to see small additions or derailment.
My overall impression of Moon Land is positive, and I’ll continue reading the manga. I’m not sure if it’s apparent from my blog, but I’m a huge enthusiast of sports anime and manga, so I got into Moon Land with an already positive mindset. I wouldn’t say it’s so gripping, or it stands out in a very specific way, but it’s still a fun read, especially for other sports anime lovers like me. Or maybe you’re a gymnastics enthusiast and want to read a manga with a more down-to-earth approach to the sport! Moon Land has a satisfying plot with more than decent art style, cute characters, all the tension, and adolescent angst you are to get with sports anime. Here’s a promotional manga PV done by Shounen Jump:
Hope you enjoyed my review, the next title will be Witch Watch by Shinohara Kenta. Take care and see you on Friday for another BL recommendation!