In Japan, there is a man known as a professional gamer: Daigo Umehara. Recognized as one of the pound-for-pound best players in the history of competitive fighting games, he currently holds the Guinness World Record for having earned the most money in his chosen career. But before he became Japans most well-known pro gamer, Daigo was but one of many who battled their way through Japanese arcades during the golden age of fighting games. This is his story...
Written by Itaru Orikasa and Maki Tomoi and illustrated by light novel artist Kengoro Nishide, Umehara Fighting Gamers is an ongoing Seinen biographical manga about the early years of legendary Street Fighter player Daigo "The Beast" Umehara as he faces up against—and forms lasting bonds with—other expert gamers in a quest to see who will emerge as Japan's foremost fighting game champion during the Renaissance period of arcade gaming. While the story focuses on Daigo's development for the most part, other notable Japanese professional gamers such as Shinya "Nuki" Ohnuki and Kurahashi also take the spotlight from time to time, interacting with Daigo and showcasing their own innermost motivations for trying their hand at professional gaming.
In 2017, Udon Entertainment (of Street Fighter comic fame) announced that they had successfully received the rights from Kadokawa Shoten and Capcom to localize and publish the manga for Western audiences, under the new title of "Daigo the Beast: Umehara Fighting Gamers!". Early-print copies of the first English language volume were sold and distributed during EVO 2017. Meanwhile, the original Japanese version can be read for free at Kadokawa's Young Ace UP website.
- Adaptational Attractiveness: While Kengoro Nishide manages to render most of the characters as realistically as the art style would allow, a few of the gamers look a lot more handsome than their real life counterparts, Daigo himself included. The only exceptions are Kawamura and Ogou, who more or less appear as they do in real life.
- Animal Motifs: Kurahashi's is the crow. During the "arcades thrive on the law of the jungle" imagine spot, Umehara's is a lion.
- Arrogant Kung-Fu Guy: Well, arrogant gamer guys at least. Special mention goes to Nuki, who legitimately thought he was the best in Japan until Daigo came along ang taught him a lesson, or Kurahashi, whose only goal in life seems to be to crush every opposing gamer in his path until his personal demons are banished.
- Art Shift: Used to great effect whenever the manga transitions between in-game fight scenes and real life scenes, as Nishide takes great pains to ensure the game characters resemble their in-game art as closely as possible.
- Cast of Snowflakes: There's hardly any two characters—even the side ones—who look similar to each other thanks to Nishide's wide range of facial and anatomical designs.
- Cool Bike: Ogou owns one, which he gives Daigo a ride on.
- Determinator: A lot of characters display this trait. Nuki in Volume 1 is perhaps the most prominent example, going as far as to con his friends into buying Night Warriors and Alpha 3 CPS2 PCBs just so he could practice for an upcoming tournament in hopes of finally beating Daigonote . Umehara himself is this in his younger days, dropping coin after coin into a machine whenever he would come up against a difficult opponent like Kurahashi, Okeya or Ogou.
- Fanservice: There's quite a number of panels containing Felicia, Morrigan, Lilith, Cammy and Chun-Li in suggestive poses.
- Friendly Rivalry: Given the subject matter, this manga might as well be called "Friendly Fighting Game Rivalry: The Series".
- Gonk: The semi-realistic style used by Nishide for the characters renders some of them as this, but Daigo's friend Kawamura, who looks positively unkempt, takes the cake.
- It Will Never Catch On: Umehara's high school phys ed teacher believed that dedicating one's life to serious gaming instead of academics and sports is a waste of time; his parents are shown to have greatly disapproved of his gaming habits, in fact, as did his classmate Shiratori. To be fair, e-sports was quite young back then.
- Last-Name Basis: Since this is Japan, even friends call each other by their last name. This includes Umehara.
- Meganekko: Shiratori, Daigo's high school classmate.
- Oblivious to Love: Daigo has no idea that Shiratori is attracted to him.
- Perpetual Frowner: Kurahashi, nonstop. If he's not scowling in anger, he's scowling from depression. Daigo is also this to a lesser extent, although he softens up a bit in later chapters.
- Scary Shiny Glasses: Both Shiratori and Kawamura pull this off at times. Bonus points to Kawamura for having a pair of specs with a cracked lens, making him look either demented or comedic at turns whenever he pulls this.
- Serious Business: This manga does chronicle the growth of Japanese fighting game e-sports, after all, so characters treating it as if it were life or death isn't too surprising.
- Shout-Out: At one point, a couple of gamers talk about going to a convention so they can see the latest Neon Genesis Evangelion releases, while another one mentions wanting to buy a copy of Tokimeki Memorial.
- Shown Their Work: A lot of strategies and tactics specific to games like Darkstalkers and Street Fighter Alpha 2 are discussed in painstaking detail, and arcade terms like LoketestingExplanation are correctly used.
- The Stoic: Daigo is almost always emotionless unless something manages to make him unnerved. Shiratori is also this, which only makes her crush on Daigo go unnoticed even more.
- Vitriolic Best Buds: Umehara and Kurahashi. The two of them had been at each others' throats from the moment they clashed over Super Turbo in an arcade, although they slowly opened up to one another over time. Here's a photo of them 20 years later◊, in fact.