So there was a YA novel that kind of tells the same story as volume 4 of the graphic novel Fence Volume 4 Rivals; one the one hand, few surprises, on the other, it wasn’t the EXACT same story, just the same kind with similar character development (at least for some characters). I’m reasonably sure the comic series was first, and that the novelization might be by another author. The basic premise is reasonably common: sports story (high school fencing team) + hate/rival to friend/something else?. Earlier volumes also hinted at possible Nicholas (sort of main character at first, but not quite as much now) achieving his dream of getting his father’s attention, but his father (famous former Olympic fencer) may not know he’s Nicholas’ dad given that Nicholas appears to be the result of an affair, and to add to the drama, his recognized son (Jesse, whom we finally meet briefly) is himself a top level fencer with some connection partially revealed here to Nicholas’ roommate/target rival Seiji. There are also several other members pf Nicholas’ team, several of whom have their own issues, goals, relationships, and so on. Harvard the typical team captain and his roommate and fellow fencing team member Aiden (pretty boy, flake, has deeper issues) get a lot more attention in this volume, but this is stuff that’s already been started in the novel I mentioned, plus it’s not like this wasn’t hard to see coming if you’ve ever seen any sport/school story written in the past 20 years or so.
For the most part, this is a fluffy story of a bunch of kids working to achieve various goals, learn to be a team, and probably learn about themselves, blah blah blah. The thing that bugs me a bit is that Nicholas’ had a bunch of story set up in early volumes, but most of that seems to have been dropped here in favor of Seiji; granted Seiji seems more interesting and less predictable as a character, so developing him makes sense, but Nicholas gets absolutely no development at all. He’s still the natural ability that desperately needs formal training to get to the level he wants, and all he really wants is acknowledgement. Here, he’s mostly just annoying.
I do appreciate the hints about Seiji and Jesse, because it really gives more depth to Seiji beyond the far too serious, socially awkward genius who actually works really hard stereotype.
The things that’s also got me wondering is whether or not there’s going to be any graphic novel follow through, since I seem to remember this might be the final volume of the series; I hope I’m either remembering wrong or just getting it wrong since there’s a lot more that could be here. The novelization is fine, but especially with something as technical as fencing, having the visual is quite helpful; plus, there’s a lot that could be done with faces for nuance that’s hard to do with words. We’ll see.