The Yomiuri ShimbunFUKUOKA — A unique short rugby manga titled “RUG-mura Rug-e,” in which the main character is a female office worker who becomes a fan of rugby even though she knows nothing about the rules, is contributing to the promotion of the Rugby World Cup (RWC) 2019 in Japan, which involves 12 prefectures across the country, including Fukuoka Prefecture.
The manga is attracting new fans with its “loose” style, which does not place importance on the rules and statistics of the sport but instead puts emphasis on the sense of unity formed between the audience and the teams. It also focuses on the main character, who becomes totally absorbed in admiring handsome players.
The premise of the manga is that office worker Rug-e learns that RWC games will be held in Fukuoka, where she lives, and starts to make every effort to promote the event.
How to get a ticket to the games and enjoy watching them at stadiums are topics introduced in the manga.
The author is Kinue Yoshimura, 34, an official of the Fukuoka city government and a member of the RWC2019 Fukuoka Committee.
The model for Rug-e is the author herself. She decided to promote the matches using her painting skills because she wants everyone to enjoy them in a relaxed manner.
Yoshimura had already been drawing simple illustrations for the city government’s in-house newsletter. In June last year, she started creating the manga as a series for the city government’s website. Two stories are uploaded every month and 36 stories in total have been uploaded as of Nov. 15.
In episode No. 5, Rug-e decides to watch a real rugby game for the first time, but suddenly realizes — just before the game starts — that she doesn’t know the rules. In episode No. 24, while researching the Japanese national team members, she becomes absolutely mad for Yutaka Nagare from Fukuoka Prefecture, who belongs to Suntory Sungoliath in the Top League.
However, in the next episode, she becomes hooked on speedster Kenki Fukuoka, who is also from Fukuoka Prefecture and belongs to the Panasonic Wild Knights in the same league, after seeing him score a try in a game. “I felt a shock as if a bullet had gone through my brain,” Rug-e says.
“When players make contact, the speed and the sound is amazing. If you hesitate to watch the game just because you don’t know the rules, what a waste!” Yoshimura said.
The manga shows Rug-e’s daily life, in which she wavers between hope and fear over the results for ticket draws and tries to obtain advance agreement from her boss so that she can take a day off here and there to watch RWC games.
Yoshimura’s manga attracts readers because it is based on her real experiences, in combination with depicting how young women think and comical conversations with the people around the main character.
She confessed that she had fallen asleep while watching a student match two years ago because she could not understand the key moments. However, after watching many games, she was gradually attracted by the amazing way players sidestep to ward off opposition players and also the feeling of unity with the audience. Since then, she cheers teams on at various stadiums with a beer in hand.
“Please don’t worry if you are a casual fan, first just come to watch a match,” the author said.
The manga has had a favorable reception and even became a topic of conversation on Twitter, with comments such as, “It will be even more interesting if you make a video of the Rug-e series,” or “It’s funny. I understand it more and more.” She even received some fan letters recently.
According to the organizing committee for the RWC, in a nationwide survey conducted by an outside organization from September to October, 68.3 percent of respondents answered that they know the event will be held in Japan — the highest percentage so far.
While the average number of audience members per soccer game for the J.League top division last season was 18,883, for rugby’s Top League the number was 5,688.