From 2004 -2010 I lettered a book for Viz Media called Whistle!
The story and art were by Daisuke Higuchi. I lettered pretty much the whole run and in doing so became a big fan of Higuchi as a storyteller. The following is a brief bio that ran in the series’ final issue.
Daisuke Higuchi’s manga career began in 1992 when the artist was honored with third prize in the 43rd Osamu Tezuka Award. In that same year, Higuchi deputed as creator of a romantic action story titled Itaru. In 1998, Weekly Shonen Jump began serializing Whistle! Higuchi’s realistic soccer manga became an instant hit with readers and eventually inspired an anime series, debuting on Japanese TV in May of 2002.
In a nutshell, Whistle! is about a young middle school boy named Shō Kazamatsuri who’s one and only dream is to play soccer but because of his small stature he has to overcome adversity after adversity to do so – he also serves as an inspiration to to his friends and teammates, drawing them closer together – classic underdog story.
Note: For the uninitiated, the accompanying pages are read right to left – not left to right..
The following pages show a great sense of design as Daisuke Higuchi freezes a moment and shows different aspects of a scene. In the scene on the left, the opposing team has just made the winning goal. In the scene on the right, Shō’s teammate Hiroyoshi has accidentally made a goal for the opposing team.
More of the same, but in these two cases the focus is on characterization…
The following is from a particularly strong sequence from Volume 12.
First a little back story from the previous issue; Shō has just made a near impossible shot tying the game – but the coaches see something else…
The scene that follows opens with Shō and his friend Tatsuya showing up at Tatsuya’s father’s house (who he is estranged with). Tatsuya’s father is a soccer coach for a rival team and has some old soccer footage he wants Shō to see – at the same time some other coaches are meeting for lunch, and Akira (the female coach) echos Tatsuya’s father’s sentiments.
There’s so much to love in that scene.
• The way the dialogue bounces back and forth between the two characters speaking.
• The look of sheer joy on Akira’s face as a young girl followed by the more reflective aspects as an adult.
• The projector on the bottom of page 42 seen as just a glowing light.
• The end shot of Shō as he stares entranced at the footage of a father he never knew.
Stephen King in his book “On Writing” states, “I think the best stories always end up being about the people rather than the event, which is to say character-driven.”
There are a million underdog stories out there, the ones that resonate come not from the story construct but from how deeply you’re invested in the characters. Higuchi’s strength as a storyteller is her engaging cast of characters.
You can check out Whistle! at your local library’s manga section.
To purchase, go to Viz.com or Amazon (to name a few).
Whistle! © 1998 by Daisuke Higuchi. All rights reserved.