Author: Amano Shinobu
Genre: Comedy, Shoujo, Romance
Last Game isn’t a title that would typically strike you as a Shoujo manga. And certainly, at first glance, I was under the assumption that it was another one of those fantasy video game-inspired action series. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
The plot of this manga revolves around Naoto Yanagi, the heir of a successful business conglomerate, and Mikoto Kujou, a plain-looking but intelligent girl from a low income family. Used to being the best at everything, Yanagi’s world is overthrown when Kujou, a transfer student at his elementary school, bests him at everything from studies to athletics. From then onward, a strange one-sided competition is established between the two as Yanagi becomes obsessed with reclaiming his position at the top.
However, after years of being in the same school and no victory in sight, college aged Yanagi decides to carry out one last game: to make Kujou fall in love with him and then break her heart. Except, things don’t exactly turn out as planned when he realises, to his horror, that he is the one that has fallen in love.
My first thoughts heading into this manga was that it had an interesting premise and choice of time frame. Very few Shoujo manga I’ve read in the past focus on college aged students, so I enjoyed how this setting had a subtle yet fresh impact on the story. The foundation of their relationship, beginning in childhood, also adds a slightly unique twist to the telling of this tale. I went into it invested in finding out how their relationship would evolve after all those years, especially as they face the cusp of adulthood together.
Diving into the story, there was nothing heavy nor serious about the plot. From start to finish, it was a simple and light hearted read, which I found to be a pleasant break between the copious amounts of angst and drama that can sometimes come with Shoujo series. However, even this series was not exempt from love triangles, as it encompassed most of whatever plot this series had. At times, this cliche made it painful to read, especially if you are like me, and already too familiar with how they’ll play out.
The overall romance in the series also faced slow progression. Thanks to the main heroine’s dense personality, most romantic advances took longer than usual to register in her mind. A huge running gag in the series centered around this personality trait of hers, and after awhile, that also got a little bit stale. The romantic development wasn’t spread out in that sense and became rather rushed towards the end of the series.
Despite that, I still enjoyed reading this series. It wasn’t a story that took itself too seriously, and so I found it easier to look over the parts that were lesser developed or cliche. Instead, I focused on the comedy which is its main highlight. The characterisation contributed heavily to my opinion on this, but I’ll be explaining more on that below.
Verdict: A light hearted and comedic read without too heavy a plot. However, the romance was a bit rushed towards the end of the series.
It is not rare for a Shoujo manga to be carried on the strength of its characters, and Last Game conforms to that fact. The characterisation in this series reminds me vaguely of Tonari no Kaibutsu-kun and Kimi ni Todoke; both feature a plain-looking, studious heroine that is dense when it comes to love, and a charming popular hero who falls in love with her despite it. Personally, the contrast between the two was what made the series so endearing to me, but I also understand that it could seem overused in the mind of others.
The only thing that remained novel despite it all is the role of Naoto Yanagi, Last Game’s main male lead. At first, it came as a surprise to me when I realised the series was being narrated by the male lead instead of vice versa. Yanagi as a character seems like a stereotypical blonde hero at first glance (a la Usui Takumi from Kaichou wa Maid-sama), but narration soon reveals his overzealous and oftentimes flustered nature when it came to the object of his affections.
As for said object of his affections, Mikoto Kujou couldn’t have been a plainer female lead. There may have been a time when “blur and dense heroine” was new and inventive, but after reading a dozen different iterations of the same character, you can’t help but get bored reading about her. Fortunately, Yanagi combined with the other quirky side characters brought enough life to resurrect this series. I enjoyed myself the most while reading about their day-to-day hijinks.
Verdict: The female lead may have been boring, but the rest of the characters make up for it. Overall a fun group of characters to read about!
The art style in Last Game was as typical as Shoujo mangas come. I was pleased by its consistency and beauty in general, but nothing else about it stood out to me. I could also appreciate the character design, which made it easy to distinguish characters from each other. Other than that, I have no additional complaints nor compliments.
Verdict: Art style is pleasing on the eyes, but nothing more and nothing less.
Short enough for a binge read one lazy afternoon, and light hearted enough to lift your spirits after a long busy week; that’s how I would describe Last Game. It doesn’t stand out much compared to other Shoujo series, but it has an interesting enough premise and characters to make your time worth it. For those looking for a simple but satisfying love story, give this one a shot!