Akane-banashi is once again subverting a classic Shonen trope, demonstrating that a significant portion of most tournament arcs is unnecessary.
The tournament arc is a classic manga trope, but in a recent Shonen Jump series, Akane-banashi brilliantly exposes the flaws in the concept. While Akane-banashi is not the only series to deconstruct the trope, it does so with a subtle brilliance rarely seen in the bombastic Shonen genre. This makes it far more captivating and intriguing than the other series.
Yuki Suenaga and Takamasa Moue’s manga Akane-banashi follow the young girl Akane as she pursues her dreams of becoming a professional Rakugo performer. Rakugo is a Japanese performance art that revolves around a single performer telling one of several classical stories. While this may not appear to be a Shonen manga story, the series does an excellent job of adopting many of the standard Shonen tropes, treating Rakugo performances like typical Shonen battles. The unique storytelling style of each performer is essentially a special fighting technique, and the series has even introduced a tournament arc. While the series excels at adapting Shonen tropes to its unique premise, it also brilliantly subverts them.
In Chapter 26, Akane wins the Rakugo tournament in which she competes. This isn’t surprising, given that she was the tournament’s favorite. What is surprising is how the manga portrays her victory. Rather than giving her a moment of glory by showing the announcement of her success, the manga jumps straight to her receiving the prize, leaving the reader to deduce that she won. While this may seem confusing initially, the manga can focus on what is essential to the characters, as Akane only entered the Shonen Batlle-Esque tournament to get an audience with the famed Rakugo master Issho to find out why he ruined her father’s Rakugo career. The actual accomplishment of winning the tournament is meaningless to her, so the manga skips over it. This is something from which other manga can learn.
Most of the time, the actual outcomes of a tournament arc are far less important than the consequences. Whether it’s a prize or reward for a good performance in the tournament or the growth from battling strong enemies, the final rankings usually don’t matter much. Bakugo’s final victory in My Hero Academia is an excellent example of a manga with a tournament arc like this, as Deku’s assistance to Todoroki was far more critical. And yet, My Hero Academia chose not to subvert this trope, including the tournament’s final results, when they could have been omitted without significantly impacting the series.
In a genre often obsessed with explicitly ranking its characters, Akane-decision banashi’s not to show the final results of its tournament arc is very refreshing. Fans are frequently swept up in this obsession, endlessly debating whether certain characters could beat others in a fight, ignoring the characters’ core motivations in favor of seeing them for their fighting abilities. Akane-brilliant banashi’s decision not to show the tournament’s final results reminds fans that who wins a tournament is ultimately the least important aspect of this classic Shonen trope.