Saturday, May 8, 2010

Video Backlog: "The Prince of Tennis"

Publisher: Viz Media (USA)
Format: Region 1 DVD, NTSC, Japanese Dialogue with optional English Dub and English Subtitles
Length: 50 Episodes x 25 minutes
Production Date: 2001 - 2002
Currently in Print (as of writing): Yes

Story Outline: Tennis prodigy Ryoma Echizen enrols at Seishun Academy (known affectionately as Seigaku), a private junior high school with a talented tennis club which is feared by other high schools that come up against them in competition. Though first year players generally end up doing track work and picking tennis balls, Ryoma ends up on the team of “regulars” who are the key players in defending Seigaku’s title in tennis championships. However Ryoma doesn’t have an easy time in getting to become one of the regulars, and he keeps having to up the ante every time he meets a new foe on the tennis courts.

Mini Review: Sports anime and manga are pretty much formulaic when it comes down to the basic structure of them. First you have the main character which strives to become an elite player usually from an underprivileged background, you have the rather mean challengers who ultimately become friends with our hero, a spots journalist that sees potential in our hero, a coach that also sees that same potential, a love interest and clueless hanger-on’s who are pretty much there to fill in those reading watching who have no idea about the rules of the particular sport. Most of all there must be techniques or abilities displayed by the sportsmen which are absurdly superhuman. Pretty much this show ticks all those boxes. Except Ryoma is a conceited little jerk. While just about every other character is quite likeable, I just felt cold towards Ryoma. His precocious talent is explained away by his father Nanjiro Echizen who was a world champ. Ryoma has essentially copied all of his moves.

In the 50 episodes that have been released in English (I doubt Viz will release another DVD set, let alone the remaining 128 episodes), the romance between Ryoma and the girl who is smitten with him, Sakuno, never develops. Instead we are pretty much treated to an almost nonstop barrage of tennis battles, some more absurd and physics defying than others. However I think the best material here is the character interactions of the other tennis players. They’re infinitely more interesting than Ryoma who is quite dull and almost emotionless. Inui, Eiji and Momo are the most interesting. Tezuka and his injury is a very interesting subplot, but we are only given tantalising hints during these 50 episodes. However when tennis is not the focus and it tries comedy, the results are pretty disastrous and cringe inducing. There’s some really stupid stuff like the street tennis court (oh no, it’s the toughness of street tennis!) and some odd translations like calling the umpire a “chair judge”. Like what is that? A guy which judges chairs at a furniture craftsman competition? Overall kind of mixed, but well worth a watch. Pity the 50th episode ends on a cliff hanger part way through a tennis match. Stupid Viz. 6.5 out of 10.

Remaining Backlog: 21 months (it's much easier this way than listing the number of discs).

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