All-Rounder Meguru vol. 1 – Hiroki Endo

3 out of 5

A low-key – for now – sports manga, All-Rounder Meguru is a very professional affair, well-paced and balanced in tone, and clearly indicates a care for a supporting story for its dual leads – Meguru, an up-and-coming Shooto fighter, and Takashi, a childhood friend or sorts and MMA fighter, who went down a darker path when his father was killed by yakuza.

For this first volume, we mostly see things through Meguru’s eyes, and his is a life of relative normality: some girl problems, school / life balances. Endo has some light dramedy sprinkled throughout Meguru’s experinces, making the book partially into a slice-of-life affair. He has the skills for Shooto, but pursues it with wavering passion; Endo pads this – not uninterestingly – with very detailed coverage of training routines and the various bouts. Some of the choreography can be a little confused, but only because this isn’t arted for action so much as accuracy, so you can sense Endo trying to find the best way to depict smaller, more technical moves, and I’d suspect if you’re more familiar with such moves, they’d make instant sense.

Meguru finds himself a bit more dedicated to training when he reconvenes with Takashi on the mat, but the latter is completely uninterested in reliving the past – he’s a much more brutal and tactical fighter than Meguru, and we come to find out how much of his life has been dictated by plotting long-form revenge upon his father’s attackers.

All of this is groundwork, though; there’s not much urgency in these chapters, and you’d just sort of have to have faith in Endo from his past manga to really stick with it, as it’s not an outright sports manga yet – there are no stakes involved in these matches, and we’re not being overly sold on either protagonist – nor is there an overall arc or direction established. We’re just getting to know Meguru and Takahashi. Thanks to the artist’s incredible confidence and skilled pacing, and acting, it’s also never boring… while you’re reading it. The trick is, once you put it down, there’s nothing immediately beckoning to pick it back up or go to the next volume.

However, given how realized the characters and world feels, it’s a good chance that this slow approach will reap rewards over time.