An unbalanced blend of sports and boy love manga, Ellie Mamahara’s Baseball Heaven (Blue Manga) charts the growing relationship between hot shot rookie pitcher for the Tokyo Elephants, Eiji Uno, and the struggling older batter Ogato. When the former gets drunk and confesses his attraction to his more experienced teammate, Ogato lays down some ground rules. “If you get a perfect game in the next game you pitch, I’ll let you do whatever you want.”
No problem, Eiji blithely responds, but, of course, it’s not as easy as that. The rest of the book charts the duo’s tenterhook-y relationship through two seasons as Uno strives to achieve a milestone only reached 15 times before in the Japanese baseball league. Adding to the complication: an opposing batter named Hattori, who both flirts with Uno and proves a major obstacle to that perfect game.
We’ve seen this basic combination — cocky young talent, weatherbeaten older pro — and it’d be nice to report that Mamahara brought something new to the game. But, unfortunately, she hasn’t. Instead, it’s the same old round of come here/go back familiar to both lovers of movie romcoms and yaoi manga. Perhaps if Heaven delineated its games more dramatically, we’d be swept along by Uno’s quest to reach perfection. But the artist is more concerned with showing her ultra-elongated male leads yearning and bickering, bickering and yearning.
In the end, the sprightliest moments in the book prove to be the one-page throwaway shots of posing team mascots (Elecchi the Elephant, Snaka the Snake) placed between chapters. Now there’s the ground for an entertaining manga romance: Kumaji of the Saitama Bears and Kerorin of the Kumamoto Frogs strolling paw in flipper into the sunset. I’d be dying to see how that worked out…