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Manga / Harlem Beat

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From bottom-left to top-right: Mizuki, Naruse, Kiriko, Sawamura, Kobayashi, Kosuke, Sakurai, Umakure, and Imagawa.

Harlem Beat (ハーレム・ビート, Hāremu Biito) is a basketball manga by Nishiyama Yuriko, known in U.S as “Harlem Beat” from volume 1-9 and “Rebound” from volume 10-29. It was serialized in Weekly Shonen Magazine from 1994 to 2000.

Nate Torres (Naruse “Narucho” Tohru in the Japanese version) just wanted to be someone; he tried on basketball club only to find himself ended up as a mere benchwarmer. A chance meeting with his Childhood Friends Kusuda Mizuki brought him to the world of streetball, and after his unexpected win against famous streetball player Shu, Naruse renewed his resolve to be a basketball player. Along the way he met Ozaki Kosuke and Sawamura Masahiro, and then together with Mizuki, the four of them formed a streetball team named Scratch.

Nate’s progressions as basketball player proved to be a great asset to his high school team, Johnan. With supports of Sakurai Shuuji, his senpai; Yabe Kiriko and Imagawa Kiyoshi, the team managers; Umakure Hiroaki, team captain; Kobayashi Sumisugu, and other members of the team, Nate tackled the world of high school basketball and continued to mature as a player.

Not to be confused with Harlem Beat wa Yoake Made by Kazusa Takashima.

Harlem Beat contains examples of:

  • Accidental Athlete: Nerdy Sakurai lined in a wrong queue, entered a streetball game and boom, he was hooked.
  • The Ace: Sakurai, Takagi from Kanakita.
  • Alternate Universe: There are two omake segments in the manga; Super Ultra Basketman Shu (adventure of Shu in Superman flavor with Narucho as his sidekick) and Fantasy Harlem Beat (the characters cast in RPG-like fantasy world).
  • Animal Motifs: Naruse is a monkey, Sawamura is a fox, Kiriko is a shark, and Kosuke is a gorilla.
  • Art Evolution: The art started in rough and realistic style before it gets softer and ‘prettier’.
    • Subverted with Bucky. In Skykiss 3 on 3 Championship arc he has normal looks except for his bucktooth, and he also has average height. When the series reaches Basketball Interhigh Championship arc and supposedly Growing the Beard, Bucky ends up drawn with cartoonish gonk art style and shorter than Gun Takakura from Johnan.
  • Attractive Bent-Gender: Sawamura, even Kosuke fell hard for him before the reveal.
  • Aw, Look! They Really Do Love Each Other: Nate and Tomomi. Kiriko and Sakurai had their moments.
  • Bash Brothers: Sawamura with Nate, with Kai in his past and during his brief Face–Heel Turn moment in ‘J’ Invasion Arc, and he later developed similar setup with Kobayashi.
  • Berserk Button: Try to diss or hurt Imagawa in front of Kobayashi (as Hayashida and Mikami can testify for you). Or just try to hurt his teammates, and Kobayashi will be out for blood.
  • Betty and Veronica: Mizuki as the Betty and Kiriko as the Veronica to Sakurai.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Sakurai is the least confrontative senior player in Johnan basketball team, but in Johnan vs Kyan match, he slaps Kobayashi and proceeds to chew him out for getting obsessed in avenging Imagawa instead of focusing in the match. Sakurai's angry outburst startled the whole Johnan team and seemingly scared the Shibuya street basket guys as well.
  • Blackmail: Kiriko’s standard M.O to make the team (especially Naruse) to do her bidding. Sawamura sometimes.
  • But Not Too Foreign: Kyan's Zukeran Tatsuya is half-American.
  • Calling the Old Man Out: When Masahiro Sawamura meets his long lost dad accompanied by a woman and her son in volume 14, he is batshit angry, assuming that his dad lives a happy life with a new family after abandoning him and scolding him for not trying to look for his son again. Sawamura even goes as far as threatening to beat up his dad in front of his street basket pals. Fortunately, Sawamura is stopped by Naruse before he does something irreversible.
  • Chick Magnet: Sawamura, complete with fangirls brigade. Sakurai is also popular among the ladies.
  • Clark Kenting: Shu of Three Men is the alter ego of Sakurai Shuuji. A darker version is Akutagawa Hideaki, a gentlemanly businessman, as the real ‘J’.
  • Combat Commentator: Usually done by Threemen’s Hoop kids, Okuda from basketball magazine, and Kuwata.
  • Cool Shades: Three Men team, Shades, Ultraman (his shades even shaped like Ultraman’s eyes!), and Kojiya twins from Kyan.
  • The Corrupter: J aka Akutagawa attempts to persuade Naruse to follow him in his journey and abandon Kosuke, Sawamura, and Mizuki. J who admires Naruse's growth both as a basketball player and as a person (so much that J calls Naruse as his hero), believes that Scratch is only holding Naruse back and Naruse deserves better teammates. Naruse declines, claiming that Scratch teammates are his heroes and everyone can become hero for someone.
  • Cute Sports Club Manager: Johnan’s opponents usually thought that Kiriko was this. They have NO IDEA.
  • Dark and Troubled Past: Oh Lord, Sawamura… Kiriko, Kobayashi and Mikami to an extent.
  • Death Glare: Kobayashi’s trademark. Akutagawa from ‘J’ Invasion Arc weaponized it as ‘The Eyes of Medusa’.
  • Defeat Means Friendship: Almost all rival teams become this with Johnan.
  • Defrosting Ice Queen: Kiriko was such a Jerkass before Sakurai and Johnan guys defrosted her, same with Sawamura before he joined Scratch and Johnan. Kobayashi also mellowed out during the story and he later smiled more. And then there’s Mikami after Johnan defeated his team.
  • Delinquents: Kiriko, Kosuke, Sawamura, the WHOLE Kyan team.
    • Musashimaru used to be this, he admits that he stopped getting into gangfights long ago after experiencing a Jerkass Realization and nowadays he only focuses in basketball. He also does not attack anyone without provocation.
  • Determinator:
    • Getting punched, kicked, beaten up? Naruse will still play, come hell or high water. Sawamura could only use one arm? Then one arm he’ll use. Ankle injury? Don’t worry, Sakurai still storms the court like a badass.
    • Gun Takakura and Saito from Johnan, when compared to the bulky Umakure and the genius Sakurai can only be described as "hard workers" at best. Even more so when Kobayashi, Isomura, and Imagawa (before his injury) joined the club and were revealed to have better skills than Gun and Saito. This becomes much clearer when Naruse who is a complete beginner albeit gifted with jumping power, and Sawamura who, despite being a genius scorer, has low stamina, the two freshmen end up starting matches ahead of Gun and Saito in the nationals. Works actually in their favor in a match between Johnan and Kanakita. Kanakita does not really know how to deal with Gun and Saito as there is not enough data about their playing style. Gun and Saito keeps double-teaming Takagi and eventually steal the ball from him, which boost Johnan's spirit.
  • Devil in Plain Sight: Kiriko is a witch in plain sight.
  • Dogged Nice Guy: Kosuke to Mizuki, Mizuki to Sakurai, Sakurai to Kiriko although they later became the Official Couple. What a delicious Love Triangle.
  • Dub Name Change: Initially applied, then abandoned in the TokyoPOP translation However, the initial set of characters had their Americanized names grandfathered in: Naruse and Ozami, who were introduced with their full names, remained "Nate Torres" and "Kyle Ozman" respectively, while Mizuki and Shuji, whose full names were not revealed until later, had one changed name alongside one unchanged one, making them "Mizzy Kusuda" and "Shuji Shurman". Sawamura was initially referred to as "Masa", but the manga eventually switched to using his full name. Characters introduced afterwards generally kept their original names.
  • Expy:
  • Eyes Always Shut: Imagawa, Saito and Kemp.
  • Fanservice: Most notably the summer camp’s furo scene and the Beach Episode
  • Mr. Fanservice: Sawamura, Kobayashi, and Sakurai often featured in splash-pages with fanservice-y flavors.
  • Ms. Fanservice: Mizuki. Kiriko, to an extent.
  • Foreign Exchange Student: Tsukuba's Kow is one from Russia.
  • From Zero to Hero: This series basically tells the story of Toru Naruse's growth from a mere benchwarmer to an underdog basketball player, and eventually becomes a streetball legend himself, all in span of one year.
  • Glass Cannon:
    • Sawamura. Prolific three-pointers, sucky stamina and prone to injury.
    • Joker. Possessing excellent dribbling skill and powerful slam dunks, he is also balanced in strength, accuracy, and intelligence, capable of game-making and scoring many points single-handedly. Too bad his injury stopped him from reaching his peak potential, and he grew bitter from that experience. After Naruse and Scratch "rehabilitated" Joker and he regains his love for basketball, he can only play street basket for a short time while being a Deadpan Snarker.
  • Game-Breaking Injury:
    • Imagawa and Kiriko in their respective backstory.
    • For "villain" example, Joker and Coach Mikami also count. Joker was beaten up by thugs hired by his envious teammates in the US, thus preventing him from playing in NBA. Coach Mikami in his prime was good enough to play for Japanese national team but was forced to retire early after an injury, therefore he Took a Level in Cynic.
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: Nate and Sawamura, Kobayashi and Imagawa.
  • High-School Hustler: Kiriko and Sawamura often gambled on Johnan games.
  • Hot-Blooded: Kosuke. Higa Yuuta from Kyan; the reason his team was disqualified in previous year was because he started a fight.
  • In-Series Nickname: Mizuki calls Naruse “Narucho”. Sawamura calls Kiriko “Witch” and Kobayashi “Umbrella Guy” (based on the image of aloof umbrella maker during Jidaigeki). Takao nicknamed Kobayashi as “Musashi” for his samuraiesque attitude. Zukeran Tetsuya from Kyan was often called “Kemp” for his resemblance to Shawn Kemp. Those Three Guys from Threemen’s Hoop only known by their nicknames.
  • Japanese Delinquents: Kyan High School's main players are all yankii, although they don't wear the stereotypical look and hair style.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Kosuke may be crass and Sawamura had a Heel–Face Revolving Door syndrome, but both really care for their team. Kiriko often gets on the team’s nerves, but she’s a Lovable Alpha Bitch.
  • The Lad-ette: Kiriko.
  • Love Interests: Mizuki and later Tomomi to Naruse. Kiriko to Sakurai and Sakurai to Mizuki.
  • Mood Whiplash: In volume 14 manga, after three funny segments (the uncanny billiard game, the moment Naruse gets stranded in a red light district and almost gets panic attack, and the moment Naruse is forced to "date" Tomomi), the story then shifts to an angsty moment where Sawamura meets his dad.
  • No Social Skills: Kobayashi had a hard time being integrated to Johnan team before Imagawa befriended him.
  • Opposing Sports Team
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business:
    • After Musashimaru gets injured in a Skykiss street ball match between Notorious and Picks, Naruse breaks a wooden plank with Ice Picks name written on it and angrily swears vengeance upon Ice Picks. This comes from the guy who forgives Keigo Mikami for injuring Sakurai (accidentally, but still...)
    • When Johnan loses to Kanakita, Sawamura is seen swearing and slamming a paper cup. He rarely shows anger for things that don't involve money, free meals, or his disappearing dad (before they make amends). For the first time in many years, Sawamura shows a passion for his team
  • Perpetual Frowner: Kobayashi, Mikami before he thawed out, Amami.
  • Revisiting the Roots: The story about Naruse's development starts with street basket game and ends also in street basket game.
  • The Rival: As the main character almost every ace of other teams is this to Naruse, but Amami Sasuke is his main rival. Kuwata had a Friendly Rivalry version with Kobayashi and Nate.
  • Tiger Versus Dragon: The first time they clashed, Sawamura versus Kobayashi was drawn this way.
  • Tsundere: Kiriko with everyone, especially Sakurai. Mizuki towards Kosuke and Sawamura.
  • Sensitive Guy and Manly Man: Sakurai-Umakure, Imagawa-Kobayashi, Takao-Yuuta.
  • Smoking Is Cool: Kiriko, Sawamura (before they got serious in Johnan team), Kosuke. Yuuta and Takao bonded over smoke.
  • Sugar-and-Ice Personality: Kobayashi and post-Interhigh Mikami.
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome:
    • Johnan loses to Kanakita after two of their key players are forced to leave the court due to injury.
    • Scratch loses Three Men's Hoop because the area used by Naruse and gang to play streetball was actually someone else's property that had discontinued development for unknown reasons, and when the area development is resumed, the gang have to find a new place to continue playing streetball. Not even Naruse persuading the project manager or Sawamura suggesting to go on a strike can save Three Men's Hoop, but at least the gang are allowed to keep the hoop's basketball ring.
  • The Stoic: Kobayashi, Amami.
  • Those Two Guys: Saito Nobuyuki and Takakura “Gan” Iwao. Heck, they even have combo move and rarely enter the court without the other! Shades, Ultraman/T-Rock and Bucky from Threemen’s Hoop are those three guys.
  • Time to Unlock More True Potential: Naruse often get some new moves for the next game.
  • Tomboy and Girly Girl: Kiriko and Mizuki. Subverted appearance-wise in that Kiriko fits Yamato Nadeshiko stereotype (she always looks good in yukata or kimono) and was seen wearing skirts more often than Mizuki, but Mizuki is the one that's more caring and ladylike between the two.
  • Tournament Arc: Being a sport series about basketball, this trope is inevitable.
  • Trickster Twins: Kyan's Uzumiya twins, both on and off court. Their primary gag is having one of them insult someone in English and the other deliberately mistranslate it as a compliment.
  • True Companions: Scratch and Johnan team.
  • Unknown Rival: Poor Matsudaira. Sakurai and the Johnan guys never seemed to recall him or his team.
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: Sawamura with both Kosuke and Kobayashi. They bickered outside the court but had good chemistry during the game.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: In Skykiss Championship arc, Musashimaru was injured by a player from Ice Picks nicknamed Orange. Naruse angrily swears revenge on Ice Picks, and Musashimaru immediately chews him out, calling him stupid for trying to avenge him, something he doesn't asks for. Musashimaru tells Naruse to forget about revenge and focus on playing basketball properly.

Alternative Title(s): Rebound