The boys table tennis club of Ina Junior High School has 6 members – the minimum for club status. The squad are quite a bunch: the kid with armpits smelly enough to be a national treasure and enough body hair to be Chewbacca; the preposterously effeminate kid; the quiet, innocent-looking kid with one outstanding piece of adult anatomy; the non-stop sexual fantasising, perverted kid; the two cans of hairspray-a-day narcissist kid; the inexplicably greying, balding exhibitionist kid.
All their characters are celebrated in this manga. Inachu is a triumph for inclusive diversity – all people are foolish, all the fools are included. I recognised these kids. I have seen them before. I went to school with them, maybe you did too.
The 6 boys are not the only characters immortalised. There is also a loving portrait of their club coach, Shibasaki Sensei, a fumbling, mumbling, weak-willed old teacher who operates as the staffroom pashiri – slave/runner (one of his main jobs is placing bets on horses for other teachers). Even his crapness is somehow heroic.
Little of the storyline is related to actual table tennis. Joining the baseball team`s summer camp, they get beaten senseless on the first day and spend the rest of the summer washing uniforms and running after balls. The following year, summer camp is held at the ryokan of their coach`s old friend – who is inexplicably a monkey.
A girl in my guesthouse read Inachu when she was at Junior High School. She didn`t like it. “It`s dirty, isn`t it?” Yes it is, but so was being a teenager. I wish I could have read Inachu when I was at school.