Genres: Romance, Comedy, Shoujo
"A manga which I personally feel is one of the most underrated of all-time - not just in the shoujo genre, but in all of romance, period.
Lest we forget it didn’t even earn an anime adaptation for crying out loud (still screaming to this day on why). Don’t get me wrong, the general recognition is there. However, seldom do I see this on the list of people’s favorite romance manga; even if it’s for the shoujo demographic, the story and premise could’ve easily pulled in general romance readers like a magnet. ’ll dig into the dirty areas on why.
Story Rating - 9/10
While not “out-of-this-world” unique in terms of premise and story development, what makes Last Game a special one are actually (in my opinion) the well executed details which seldom get noticed among readers. Here are some of those:
- Many subtle literary themes can be found in and out of the plot. We see Momoka’s struggles in the past with her body image after being bullied as a kid, and Yanagi’s persistence to achieve “self-earned” progress in various aspects of his life rather than being privileged thanks to his family’s richness.
- The premise establishes itself at a perfect pace to build up the actual story conflict regarding Naoto and Kujou. The few chapters near the beginning which were dedicated to their background and how they met - that pulled me in as a reader immediately.
- You won’t believe me when I say that the comedy was integrated into the story perfectly, followed by a lack of unnecessary melodramatic moments. You heard me - a shoujo that doesn't mess with needless drama, and involves a rather “mature” love triangle.
- A series of conflicts scattered consistently throughout the plot, rather than shoved into one grand finale like a ticking time bomb. I can say it was still somewhat of an emotional rollercoaster, but the waves were more calm than other stories I’ve read.
Art Rating - 10/10
Amano-sensei’s art is top tier, and perfectly befitting that of the romance genre. Even dating back to her previous works such as Katakoi Triangle, her art is consistent and absolutely emphasizes on the cuteness of her characters. She utilizes chibis occasionally, and if lack thereof, Amano-sensei makes sure whoever’s in the spotlight for any given panel shines in that said spotlight. The hair and the eyes in particular stand out to me, and she utilizes subtle decorations (such as flower stamps) to make the cuteness of Naoto or Kujou really pop out. I see this a lot in shoujo manga in general!
Now, one complaint I’d pull out is that her character designs seem to be too similar in appearance across her multitude of works. For example, Souma looks like Tomo from Wasureyuki, and Naoto looks like Haruka from Katakoi Triangle. Now granted, it seems to have gotten better with her new releases, so I’ll stop there.
Characters Rating - 9/10
On the surface we see an obvious pair of MCs sharing the stage, bouncing comedy off of each other while both boasting contrasting personalities. We also have an excellent supporting cast that not only gets introduced early, but applies a small but perfect amount of influence on Naoto and Kujou’s decision-making throughout the story. Now given that the plot didn’t cover massive territory (it was 60+ chapters in which the majority depicted the characters’ college life), I understand the limitation on the number of characters. What I hope to see next time around from Amano-sensei’s work are deeper dives into the pasts of not just the MCs, but supporting cast too. How did Shiori fall in love with her now boyfriend? How can we introduce different or unique personality traits to make the characters more different than one another?[Spoilers] And finally, oh boy did I feel bad for Naoto at times. Largely with prejudice given that I’m a guy reading the story, but we beat around the bush regarding his love for Kujou for so long, and the man genuinely tried hard to win her love. The dude is constantly called a stalker by Souma, and his hints of romance are ignored by Kujou due to her obliviousness and lack of social awareness. The final date we see in the series? A farm, where Naoto waits two hours for Kujou to enjoy herself.
Overall Enjoyment Rating - 9/10
This was a “fun” rollercoaster story to ride! The plot points etched into my head as much as the cuteness of the art, and I could argue that Last Game is the pinnacle of a well-done wholesome shoujo manga. That. Deserves. An. Anime. Adaptation.Plus - guys, you’re in college. You can do more than just act cute around each other, you know. Don’t just beat around the bush and not hold hands until chapter 55, while giving readers very few kissing scenes on top of that.
At that time, and at that time as well... Yanagi has always rushed to my side. That's why, this time, I'm the one who will go to where Yanagi is.
GIVE THIS AN ANIME ADAPTATION...