Review: ‘Toppu GP’ Vol. 1
Toppu GP, vol. 1
Writer/artist: Kosuke Fujishima
Kodanasha Comics; $12.99
Rated T (Ages 13+)
Even if readers don’t recognize the name Kosuke Fujishima, if they’ve read much manga then chances are they will be familiar with his most famous creation, the long-running series Oh My Goddess! (sometimes translated as Ah! My Goddess!). And if they’re familiar with either the manga or its anime adaptations, then they won’t be surprised to learn that Fujishima is fascinated with cars and motorcycles, which were always so lovingly drawn in great detail whenever they would appear in the narrative.
With his latest work, Toppu GP, that fascination is brought to the fore, as it is about MotoGP, motorcycle road racing.
It stars Toppu Uno, an eleven-year-old little kid with seemingly no real interest in motorcycle racing, at least participating personally—but he’s very interested in the beautiful older girl Myne, whom he calls “Big Sis.” Toppu’s father works as a mechanic and coach for Myne, which means Toppu is always at the local track. He’s so accustomed to closely watching Myne race that he’s become something of a human stopwatch, able to time her laps just by looking, and, it turns out, he’s learned a great deal about the riding and racing of motorcycles just by watching.
Together Myne and his father Teppei convince Toppu to reluctantly climb onto a motorcycle for himself, with promises of Gundam model sets (his other hobby) and, ultimately, a kiss from Myne. It turns out not only is Toppu a natural, he’s practically a prodigy. Seeing the race from atop a motorcycle is a transformative experience, but even that is filtered through his affection for Myne. “So this is what…it’s like,” he thinks to himself, “And this…is the world that she sees.”
One need not share Fujishima’s affection for MotoGP (a sport that is explained in a few paragraphs of prose between the first and second chapters) or motorcycles to find pleasure in the comic, which is a surprisingly effective medium through which to convey the excitement of motorcycle racing. Really, there are few subjects better suited to a form of storytelling that involves speed lines. His enthusiasm for the sport isn’t just effectively communicated, it’s practically infectious.
It helps that the opening pages are set in a present in which Toppu is “the youngest MotoGP world champion,” 18-year-old Japanese rider Toppu Uno. As he straddles his bike on the track before the race, he looks up to the sky and says “Big Sis, I hope you’re watching.”
From there, we flash back to seven years ago, finding ourselves with questions, the intensity of which only increase as the pages are turned. How did Toppu get from being that little boy more interested in plastic models than motorcycles to competing to be a world champion? And what happened to Myne? The transition adds an overlying degree of suspense, atop of that which is found in the various chapters that make up this volume.
About J. Caleb Mozzocco
J. Caleb Mozzocco is a way-too-busy freelance writer who has written about comics for online and print venues for a rather long time now. He currently contributes to Comic Book Resources' Robot 6 blog and ComicsAlliance, and maintains his own daily-ish blog at EveryDayIsLikeWednesday.blogspot.com. He lives in northeast Ohio, where he works as a circulation clerk at a public library by day.
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