Prince Of Tennis
November 17, 2007
I’m not really a tennis fan nor did I turn into 1 after watching the anime series Prince Of Tennis. So why did I initially decide to watch it? There are several reasons. One of them being comedy (obviously) and another being I’m keen to know how the producers could make a sports genre anime into 1 that could sustain the interest of viewers for a long time. I mean, tennis is just a game between 2 sides hitting the balls back and forth in a court, right? Yeah, so there has got to be some storyline, on-court and off-court drama and such.
So how long did the series last? A whopping 178 episodes! That’s right. Count them. And that’s not including the OVAs which are currently being aired in Japan. Having said the hefty number of episodes, such animes would definitely turn down my interest to watch it. Thus, another main reason why I decide to have a go at this one was because the local tv station decides to air it. Remember my last week’s blog on how the local tv stations have a habit of stopping animes with over 100 episodes without even reaching the halfway point? Yup, this is another anime which has fallen ‘victim’ to this policy. Because of that, I decide to go on my own as usual.
I’m not sure if tennis is a popular sport in Japan, but I kinda feel that it’s to stimulate some interest in the game. I think. Not to say that the series tries to promote the sports in any way or such. Perhaps such series would appeal to those who love watching bishounen animes. Yeah, you’ve got several good looking and young handsome tennis player guys here, enough for girls to swoon over. Beware guys, don’t let this anime be the reason why your relationship fails.
The focus of this series is on this junior high school Seishun Gakuen or Seigaku for short. The school was once a force to be reckon with in the world of junior high school tennis but has been in a slump recently, making early exits and not making the cut for the Nationals, which is believed to be what all junior high tennis players yearn to be and play at.
The Seigaku team
The advent of a 1st year student, Ryoma Echizen, is the turning point for the school. He’s got tennis skills that’re superb and way beyond someone his age. Therefore, lots of obnoxious tennis players will look down on him at first because of his size and stature. Who says you can’t play tennis if you’re small and short. Ryoma’s favourite catchphrase is "Mada mada da ne", which literally means, you’re not good enough yet. Often said when his opponents realizes that Ryoma’s a tough nut to crack at the end or Ryoma knows this match is in the bag. If you want to know more details and background about this prodigy kid, it’s best to go to dedicated websites or wikipedia. I’m trying to keep my blog brief.
As one would guess it, Ryoma manages to make 1 of the 8 regular places of the Seigaku team through the school’s intra-ranking tournament. It’s a fair and square tournament to see which members get to participate for the school in local and regional derbys. So let me just briefly mention the rest of the handsome Seigaku regular guys first.
First up is the team’s serious and no nonsense bespectacled captain, Kunimitsu Tezuka. Just like Ryoma, these 2 are the only 2 left handed players in the squad (but Ryoma can use his right hand at times, usually when his opponents aren’t that good or to use some special move of his) and his favourite ‘reminder’ line is "Don’t let your guard down". Then the vice captain Shuichiro Oishi who’s a caring person and is always concern about his other team mates. Then we have the energetic, ‘naughty’ and mischevious acrobatic style playing Eiji Kikumaru. Oishi and Eiji play doubles in tennis and are the number doubles team in their school so much so that they’re being nicknamed Seigaku’s Golden Pair.
Then there’s another mysterious tennis prodigy Shusuke Fuji, whose tennis play is really ‘scary’ when he gets real serious. I wonder if he could see since his eyes is always ‘closed’ most of the time. Another player which uses power playing style is Takashi Kawamura. At first glance, he may look like a shy guy but when he just holds a tennis racket, his character changes dramatically and is filled with passion. Dangerous guy. With that, he’ll say English words like "Great!" or "Burning!".
A 2nd year student who also does some power play is Takeshi Momoshiro. He’s a bit loudmouth but I notice he seems to be hanging around Ryoma on numerous occassions. Like a inseparable duo. Momoshiro does get along well with everyone else except another 2nd year player, the grouchy and intimidating-looking Kaoru Kaidoh. Kaidoh is nicknamed ‘Viper’ mainly because of his special tennis moves which look like a snake and he likes to hiss "Fushuu…". Momoshiro and Kaidoh are always at each other’s throat, quarrelling or challenging each other to just about anything. Maybe that’s their way of getting along well.
If you’ve counted 8 Seigaku regulars already, then you’ve counted right. But the team has 1 more guy who lost out on the regular spot because his spot was taken by Ryoma when he lost to him during the intra-school tournament. He is Sadaharu Inui a 3rd year student and his tennis style playing is data tennis. Data tennis? You see, Inui is an info and data collector-cum-observer freak and he has his own little notebooks whereby he records his data based on all his observations in it. From one’s peculiar habits and to downright ‘useless’ data such as favourite catchphrase. Yeah, really an obsessed data freak. I find that sometimes he’s like a robot because he can actually tell the angle, degree and percentage of a shot being made with absoute accuracy! Ridiculous? Wow. If he’s so good, I suppose he wouldn’t have lost his regular spot, wouldn’t he? But with all due respect, Inui realizes later as the series progresses that data is a living thing and changes each time. So does this mean all his data he has collected is useless? Don’t thing so. Because Inui has been sidelined, he has become some sort of a ‘trainer’ for the Seigaku regulars. He cooks up special training menus for the regulars based on what is good for them and has a tendency to create weird juices as penalty. Don’t ever drink it! It’ll be more than just stomach discomfort. However, only Tezuka seems to be unaffected by his home-made juice. Beetle dung juice anyone?
The other Seigaku support team
It’s not all about those guys. There are other side supporting characters to help propel Seigaku to greater heights. Firstly their coach, an old lady Sumire Ryuuzaki, who’s a good coach and was once the coach of Ryoma’s father, Nanjirou. Over the series you’ll find out that in the past, Nanjirou is some super duper tennis player so much so he’s nicknamed the Samurai but he mysteriously retired when he was at his peak. Now, he looks more like a lazy perverted dad, who does nothing but lying around and read Playboy magazines. Don’t be fooled by his looks, his skills hasn’t gotten rusty and Ryoma still has a tough time beating his dad at his own game.
Back to Seigaku, Ryuuzaki has a granddaughter, Sakuno, who admires Ryoma from a distance. You’ll probably notice this shy girl has feelings for Ryoma but is too shy to confess. Plus, that Ryoma guy is densed. Ah, in that case, nothing more to be said. Also, Sakuno has a poor sense of direction, which is the main cause why Ryoma missed and ‘forfeited’ some tennis match in the 1st episode. I guess in a way, Sakuno feels guilty about it. Sakuno has a best friend which is a total opposite of her, Tomoka Osakada. Tomoka is more outspoken, loud and unashamed of her actions and is a self declared fan of Ryoma. Not that this girl wants to steal Ryoma away nor does she show any romantic links with Ryoma, she’s just a very avid admirer. I find that these 2 ladies are somewhat a manzai comedy duo. Not to say that they remind me of some stand-up comedy, but it made me think of that each time I see them.
Then we have the comic relief, 1st year student, Horio Satoshi, who thinks his 2 years tennis experience is hell of a big. Yeah, this guy is a big mouth and talks more than anything. He thinks he knows it all but has a long way to go. Accompanying him are Kachiro Kato and Katsuo Mizuno, who seems to be more down to Earth and reasonable. I also find that this 3 are like the 3 stooges. Yup, very comical when together sometimes. Only without the regular physical abuse.
Also, a couple of reporters for the Monthly Tennis Magazine, Mamoru Inoue and his assistant Saori Shiba. I’m not sure if they’re Seigaku fans, that’s because I notice that they seem to hang around the Seigaku team a lot as compared to the other rival schools. Maybe so because Inoue is a fan of Nanjirou while Shiba is starting to admire Ryoma’s skills. Yeah, Shiba and Tomoka don’t really see eye to eye in the early episodes as Tomoka things she’s ‘interrupting’ and always tells her to ask her permission if she wants to take snapshots of Ryoma.
As the story grows…
Since it’s a long road for the series from start to finish, you’re not gonna see them hitting tennis balls back and forth in every episode, although each episode has some story relating to tennis. You’ll get to see flashbacks and back story of not only the Seigaku characters (like how Oishi and Eiji ended up as a double pair) but the opponents that they face as well. I mean, that’s one way to prolong a story arc and an episode, right?
Besides that, you’ll see how how the Seigaku characters grow and learn new skills along the way. Each of the Seigaku team members has a unique tennis skill of their own such as Ryoma’s Twist Serve and Drive B, Tezuka’s Zero Shiki Dropshot and Tezuka Zone, Oishi’s Moon Volley, Kawamura’s powerful Hadokyuu, Momoshiro’s Jack Knife and Dunk Smash, Kaidoh’s Snake and Boomerang Snake, and Fuji’s triple counter attack which includes Tsubame Gaeshi, Higuma Otoshi and Hakugei. However, I kinda notice that I don’t really see the difference in those shots. I mean, they do some stance or the way they show the angle which is suppose to set that special move, and then they hit it, and the balls go in. Erm… Nothing different right? Except for Kaidoh’s Boomerang Snake whereby the ball goes sideways of the court instead of over the net or Tezuka’s Zero Shiki dropshot whereby once the ball touches the ground, it will not bouce but instead do a violent backspin on the ground and soon rolls towards the net. Pretty neat, huh, some of the moves? Especially that Tezuka Zone move whereby no matter where the opponent hits the ball, it will always return to Tezuka’s 1 step circumference of where he’s standing. I’m really curious to know how that move actually works. Other than that, the rest looked like… Erm… normally exaggerated.
Also 1 of the ways for animes with lots of episodes is to have that compulsory filler episodes. Yup, after major story arcs, there’ll be a few filler episodes for some good laughs. For instance, Sakuno has to accompany Ryoma to fix his tennis racket and the other busybody guys thinks it’s a date. Of course Sakuno hopes for it to be one too but her shy nature and Ryoma’s denseness ruins it all. Sakuno’s trying hard to make Ryoma realize her feelings but flops. In the end, just when Ryoma is gonna ask her something, Sakuno thinks this might be it. But unfortunately, Ryoma’s just wondering why is Sakuno more talkative today than usual. *Explosion*. Aw, the heartbreak. Other fillers include, the tennis players find a haunted racket, Kaidoh losing his memory or Momoshiro trying his best to get some money to pay for a ramen meal he and Ryoma ate but face obstacles along the way while the store owner ‘holds’ Ryoma as ransom. If he can’t pay in time, they’ll be going to prison.
Then there are other fillers which involves our Seigaku tennis guys playing other sports but using and adapting their tennis skills to it. Is it possible? Like a time whereby their school has some sports festival but the only catch is you can’t play a sport that you’re a club member with. It’s funny to see Ryoma playing table tennis and applying his tennis techniques like Drive B over his opponents (though we don’t get to see how he does it). Then there are episodes of other sports parodies like Prince Of Billards. But the sports parody I like best is the Prince Of Bowling. The Seigaku guys along with Ryuuzaki and the 3 stooges decide to go bowling and form teams of pair. They have to win the game or else the loser has to drink a huge jug of Inui’s special juice. Plus, if you get the ball down the gutter, you get a small glass of it as well. So it’s funny to see one by one the teams having to drink the small little glass and even Inui himself thinks that it’s better to purposely go down the gutter and have a little one rather than the big one. Finally it’s between Ryoma-Momoshiro against Katsuo-Kachiro and the latter team wins. The boys are relieved that they won and don’t have to gulp down that awful brew but it seems Inui forgot to tell them that the winner gets to drink another large-sized special juice. WARGH!!! It’s the devil or the deep blue sea.
There are also comical and nonsensical episodes whereby the teni-puri (the series’ name short form) characters are in cute chibi form. It has no relation to the real storyline and serves as a major comic relief such as a baseball episode, a cowboy episode, some prehistoric episode, a detective episode whereby Inui looses his glasses and everyone is hauled in as a suspect only to realize that his glasses were on his head all the while (you’ll never get to see this guy’s eyes and there’ll always be something to block it whenever his specs aren’t in place. Except for 1 short part at the later episodes near the end of the series. Woah. He has green eyes?), and episodes whereby the Seigaku characters are like 1 big happy family with Ryoma as the mischevious son, Momoshiro the daughter, Kaidoh the toddler son, Eiji the pet cat, Inui the dad, Oishi the mom, Tezuka the grandpa and Fuji the grandma. Get ready to laugh your heart out.
I don’t really know on average how long a tennis match last but in order not to be repetitive and boring, the matches that the schools will play will be based on a team format. Meaning only a set match instead of the usual 5 set match. In addition, it’s the best out of 5 games and it will go in this order, Doubles 2, Doubles 1, Singles 3, Singles 2, and finally Singles 1. The referee says all the scores and terms during the match in English. Hey, I suppose hearing them say, "Fifteen, Love" is much better if it was to sound in Japanese, right?
I also find that there are lots of recycled bits, characters in still-pose shots and zooming in on the characters face or pos just to kill time or to prolong the episode. It’s like deja vu. Have I seen it before and am I gonna see that one coming again? Plus there’s lots of super exaggeration to show the intensity and power of the play. Like when the players hit the ball, you can hear the wind screaming as the ball cuts through the air. If it was that fast, it would be all over in a split second. So everything is slowed down so that viewers could get a glimpse of what’s happening. Then when the ball hits the ground, you’ll hear some terror explosion and if the shot is a powerful one, it’ll leave a mark on the court. I’m amazed a tennis ball could take all this abuse. Also a lot of screen tones to make viewers focus on the ball. If the ball is damn fast, you’ll see multiple balls in a row to indicate that.
During the match, you’ll also notice that everyone’s like an arm-chair critic or rather a keen observer who can tell you what’s happening after just watching or observing a shot. Though it’s to tell viewers what really happened (for blur cases like me), it’s kinda like saying that they know what the players are thinking and could even predict their next move. Usually Inui does this, but over the series, other characters too will have a hand in this I-know-what-he’s-gonna-do-after-seeing-that-1-move.
Remember Seigaku’s 3 stooges and manzai comedy duo? They’ll attend most of the matches that Seigaku will play to provide some cheer and support. One thing that irritates me is that the 3 stooges tendency to state the obvious. Everytime. It’s like the Seigaku players are set to make some move and the the 3 stooges in synchronized harmony or sometimes just 1 of them would spell out "It’s here/It’s coming (insert name of special move here). I’m sure it’s to make viewers familiar with the special move but as the series progress, this has become more than just repetitive and downright annoying. Makes me feel like wanting to smack their heads and shout their mouths.
Also the 3 stooges and manzai comedy duo has some sort of a mood swing. What do I mean? You see, we are believed that whenever our Seigaku players pull off their super special move, the opponents have no chance in taking it. Whenever the opponents get to counter attack the move, those comical quintet’s exciting energetic hopeful mood will instantly change into one full of despair and no hope. What the? This is even more evident when Inui or whoever else explain their usual theory and prediction that because of this and that, so and so, our player has no chance of overcoming this. Hey, you guys should be cheering rather than be gloomy about this. Remember, not only Seigaku players have special techniques, the opponents they face too have at 1 special unique move of their own. And if the opponents unleash this and the Seigaku counterparts can’t counter it, there goes the happy mood too. And if the Seigaku manage to stage a comeback, they’ll be back to their happy cheerful selves again. It’s like a roller coaster ride.
Also during the series, you can guess which Seigaku player is gonna face which of their opponents before match day, the way they interact or say things to the other party. I’m usually right 95% of the time. As mentioned, you’ll see Seigaku’s opponents thinking about their past which is their determination not to lose to the Seigaku players which prolongs the episode in an otherwise short tennis match. And with repetitive and recycled bits… Oh wait, I already said that. See, it’s getting repetitive here too. It’s a wonder how I manage to stay and watch the entire series. Usually after Seigaku beats a major opponent, they’ll become like friends soon after and would want a ‘friendly’ rematch someday. Though you’ll get to learn some tennis terms and definitions, I’m still wondering if those exaggerated moves are actually plausible in the real world. I mean, if they were, every player would try to copy and make it their forte, right? And no, I don’t really remember most of the tennis terms even though they sometimes try to explain using diagrams. Bummer.
Vs Fudoumine Chuugakkou
Okay, I’ll skip the other preliminary matches which seem insignificant. Yeah, those other schools seem like just whipping boys since we have a new and resurgent Seigaku team. Even though Seigaku and Fudoumine both have qualified for the Kantou region tournament, this match is to determine which of the 2 schools will be the champions of the district regional tournament. We see Fudoumine’s a relatively unknown team that withdrew their participation in last year’s tournament because of some internal affairs (something to do with their tennis teacher disbanding the team or what) and it seems that they are determined to reach the Nationals. Also, the Fudoumine team has Ann, the team captain Tachibana’s little sister, as their support. Here’s a summary of the match below.
Doubles 2: Fuji-Kawamura vs Ishida-Sakurai
The match had to be forfeited because Kawamura got injured after pulling off his Hadokyuu move. Fudomine leads 1-0.
Doubles 1: Oishi-Eiji vs Mori-Uchimura
Eiji’s acrobatic moves save the day as the score now is tied 1-1.
Singles 3: Kaidoh vs Kamio
Kaidoh does a new move called Boomerang Snake to overcome Kamio’s speed in this endurance match. Seigaku leads 2-1.
Singles 2: Ryoma vs Ibu
Though Ryoma’s eyelid is injured by Ibu’s Spot shot, Ryoma eventually manages to overcome this and win the match in less than 10 minutes, the time limit imposed by Tezuka or else Ryoma will have to forfeit the match and treat his injury.
With Seigaku winning the prefectorials by beating Fudoumine 3-1, Tachibana admits defeat though he would’ve like to have played a match against Tezuka, who couldn’t play too because Ryoma sealed the win. With that, our Seigaku team heads down to Kawamura’s sushi restaurant and celebrate. Yup, that guy’s dad runs one and sometimes Kawamura helps out, though the sushis he make won’t be as good as his tennis skills. There’s still room for improvement.
Vs St Rudolph
After the district regional tournament, it’s the prefectorial tournament this time for junior high schools who have advanced. Seigaku’s next opponent will be St Rudolph Junior High for the quarter final line up. St Rudolph has a guy who’s a little like Inui with his data collection. He is the brilliant but arrogant Hajime Mizuki. He can make scenarios just by watching people play and makes the best scenarios for his team to win. Also in this school is Fuji’s little brother Yuuta. Yuuta doesn’t like his brother too much because of that comparison thingy, the reason why he decided to go to St Rudolph in the first place and not Seigaku. He wants to play against his elder brother in this match, but Mizuki won’t have it his way. Another short match summary.
Doubles 2: Momoshiro-Kaidoh vs Yanagisawa-Kisarazu
Seigaku scratch pair wins by default after Momoshiro lands some dunk on Yanagisawa’s face, putting him out of commission. What a way to win. Seigaku’s up 1-0.
Doubles 1: Oishi-Eiji vs Akazawa-Kaneda
St Rudolph’s captain Akazawa tries his luck in doubles but even though Eiji’s acrobatic play is stunning as usual, his main problem is his stamina. Though Oishi had to work hard to cover Eiji while he recovers, in the end, Eiji’s stamina ran out again. Score tied at 1-1.
Singles 3: Ryoma vs Yuuta
Since Yuuta is mad that he can’t face his brother, his dangerous twist spin shot is still causing Ryoma some problems. But Ryoma creates a new move, Drive B, to counter the move. Seigaku leads 2-1.
Singles 2: Fuji vs Mizuki
Mizuki’s scenarios are crumbling and he’s trying to save it all. Unfortunately, Fuji teaches this guy some lesson about tennis and in the end allows Seigaku to advance with a 3-1 win.
Yet again, Tezuka is unable to play but even so, I’m sure he’ll beat the crap out of that St Rudolph unknown side character (sorry). In this prefectorial tournament, the 5 teams will qualify for the Kantou tournament. Four of them who have qualified for the semi-finals will advanced and other than Seigaku, the others include Ginka Gakuen, Yamabuki Middle School and Fudoumine (who surprisingly beat a tough opponent Hyotei Gakuen). The 5th spot is to be decided in a play-off between the losing teams of the quarter-finals.
Even though the 4 teams have already qualified for the next stage, but they still need to play each other to decide who wins the title as the prefectorial tournament champions. Meanwhile the 5th team who have qualified for the Kantou tournament is Hyotei by easily beating St Rudolph.
Vs Yamabuki Middle School
Seigaku’s initial semi-final opponents were Ginka Gakuen but they all chickened out after the players did some research that they’re facing some super terror players. Yeah, Seigaku advanced by default. On the other hand, another default match won by Yamabuki because some of the team members of Fudoumine got into an accident, although not a serious one. Tachibana decides not to risk it and forfeits the match. Thus, it’s a Seigaku vs Yamabuki final.
Before that, we see some ruthless violent troublemaking guy from Yamabuki, Akutsu, who goes round bullying and physically hurting other people with his tennis. Too bad, Ryoma got a little taste of his pain. This guy seems to be Kawamura’s childhood classmate and he looks really different now and then. Oh the transformation. I don’t know why that Dan kid always look up to Akutsu as his role model. Anyway, here’s how the match went.
Doubles 2: Fuji-Kawamura vs Nitobe-Kita
I can’t really remember what happened or how they lost but didn’t this pairing lost to Fudoumine too back then? Yamabuki leads 1-0.
Doubles 1: Oishi-Eiji vs Minami-Higashikata
This Yamabuki doubles pair defeated the Golden Pair in last year’s tournament. This time the Golden Pair manage to overcome their past and live up to their nickname to give Seigoku a breather. The score 1-1.
Singles 3: Momoshiro vs Sengoku
Sengoku is AKA ‘Lucky Sengoku’ and thinks he has luck on his side. But his real skill is to see fast moving objects. However, Momoshiro’s Jack Knife allows Seigaku to lead 2-1.
Singles 2: Ryoma vs Akutsu
It’s like a grudge match. Akutsu shows his beast self on court. Not that he turned into one nor did he turn wild and ran a stampede. But after a hard battle (like David vs Goliath), Ryoma wins and Seigaku wins the overall match by the same score line 3-1.
Are we starting to see a pattern here? Seigaku always wins 3-1 and we won’t get to see Tezuka playing at all. He’s just like warming the bench. Maybe he should put himself as Singles 2 or 3. At the end of the match, Akutsu quits the tennis club and tells Dan to look to Ryoma for inspiration. See, you don’t have to be big and strong to play tennis. Just skill and determination. Above all, you have got to love playing it. Though Akutsu has quit, you’ll still see him around though he won’t get directly involve in tennis. And that young pretty lady isn’t Kawamura’s girlfriend, but Akutsu’s mom! Shock!
With Seigaku as the prefectorial champions, it’s time for the Kantou tournament whereby the top 16 teams will duke it out in an elimination match. During the day of the draw, Seigaku is drawn to play Hyotei, which caught many by surprise because both schools are in the same vincinity and they feel like it’s too soon for such thing to happen. Oh well, that’s life.
Another thing is that the Seigaku team has another intra-school ranking and the results is that Inui is back in the regulars. If he’s in? Who’s out? Why, it’s Momoshiro. He’s a little upset that he didn’t make the cut so much so that he went missing during training. Of course after some spacing out and thinking, he realizes the err of his ways and would work hard to come back to being a regular in the next intra-school ranking. However, there’s another sad news. On the day of the match with Hyotei, Oishi injured his right hand while trying to save a pregnant lady from falling off the stairs. Oh no. What’s gonna happen to the Golden Pair? Will Seigaku triumph at the end? Not only that, Ryoma has been sidelined as a reserved. Read on.
Doubles 2: Eiji-Momoshiro vs Oshitari-Gakuto
The scratch doubles pair manage to defy the odds to beat Oshitari’s Tsubame Gaeshi move and Gakuto’s acrobatic style playing. With Oishi cheering them on the sidelines, it’s like a 3-men doubles for Seigaku, if you know what I mean. Seigaku leads 1-0.
Doubles 1: Inui-Kaidoh vs Outori-Shishido
After a long absence, Inui makes his appearance by pairing up with Kaidoh against Outori’s super fast Scud Serve. Another incompatible pair? It may seem that Kaidoh’s only doing the job by running around while Inui’s just standing there. Actually, Inui’s collecting data on his opponents and though they stage a late come back, it wasn’t enough as Hyotei wins this one. Score tied 1-1.
Singles 3: Kawamura vs Kabaji
Dubbed a power match with Kawamura’s Hadokyuu against copycat Kabaji. If you notice this Kabaji is like a zombie following Hyotei’s captain, Atobe’s every single command. Everytime Atobe says "Right, Kabaji", that oversized monkey will say "Yup". Haih… Anyway the match ends in a draw because nobody could continue with Kawamura’s hand bleeding and Kabaji’s muscles stiff and frozen after exchanging super power shots. They’re both sent by Ryuuzaki to get outpatient treatment later. With that, Ryoma gets to be the bench coach. Score still at 1-1.
Singles 2: Fuji vs Jirou
Looks like a grudge match for Fuji that’s because this Jirou guy who loves spending most of his time sleeping, defeated Yuuta in just under 15 minutes. I suppose you need some super move like Fuji’s Hakugei to wake this guy up. Yeah, he gets pretty excited to see it. However, I’m still wondering how Jirou beat Yuuta in less than 15 minutes because he got trounced 6-1 by Fuji in the end. Seigaku leads 2-1.
Singles 1: Tezuka vs Atobe
Finally Tezuka gets to play. Pretty rich boy Atobe has some weird ability to see his opponent’s weakness. Yeah, Tezuka has an old injury, his left shoulders. You’ll see some flashback how when he was a 1st year student, some tennis club member used a tennis racket to hit his left shoulder. Atobe wants to drag this match and test Tezuka’s limits but got more than he bargained for because Tezuka too seems to be dragging it as well. I’m not sure about Atobe’s Rondo Towards Destruction move but it looks like when he hit the ball, the ball will hit some part of the opponent, leaving him stunned and the ball will bounce back to Atobe, enough time for another 2nd shot. The match lasts for donno how long into the tie break until Tezuka’s ball hit the net resulting in Atobe’s win. Though the score now is levelled 2-2, Tezuka’s left shoulder has been injured and he is in pain. Ah well, first match he’s played in so long and it ends up in a loss. At least he gets to show why he’s the captain of Seigaku.
Reserve match: Ryoma vs Hiyoshi
Because of the score tied at 2-2 and the fact that a Seigaku match wouldn’t be complete without Ryoma (hehe, just kidding), it’s the battle of the reserves as Ryoma crushes Hiyoshi to vent his ‘frustration’ for being a reserve. Seigaku advances 3-2 to the quarter-finals.
After a gruelling and hard fought victory, it seems there’re a few injuries at Seigaku. Tezuka decides to go to Germany for treatment. Which means, indirectly Momoshiro gets to be in the regulars as replacement. Next up, for the Seigaku team is Jousei Shonan, who’s coach is the beautiful Hanamura who seems to refer to her tennis players as masterpieces (are tennis players born or created?). Why does she need to wear a white lab coat to coach tennis players? Unless she sees them as test subjects. She too is also like some sort of a scout for new talents and she’s eyeing Ryoma in particular.
Vs Josei Shonan
Well, the Josei Shonan regulars do undergo some unconventional and weird training stints to be the best so much so they become like robots and could almost precisely hit the balls right back at the same spot! It’s quite funny to see and hear the tennis balls bounce off that same spot as if it’s like some synchronized gun shot. So here’s how the match went.
Doubles 2: Inui-Momoshiro vs Kouhei-Youhei
At first I thought the Kouhei and Youhei siblings were girls because they do look and sound like one. With a keen sense of hearing, the brothers can hear and predict any kind of shots. However just when the Seigaku pair is about to win, Momoshiro accidentally drinks Inui’s juice and has to forfeit the match due to stomach discomfort. Bummer. Why in the world did Inui bring his juice here in the first place? Josei Shonan leads 1-0.
Doubles 1: Oishi-Eiji vs Kiriyama-Outa
While the Golden Pair is back, they’re up against an ‘imbalanced’ opponent in terms of size. Yeah, Kiriyama’s like a big giant while Outa is like a midget dwarf. Because of this combination, Outa uses Kiriyama’s body as a springboard to launch himself high in the air and use his Thunderbolt special move to complement Kiriyama’s Canon Volley. But the Golden Pair is too good for them in the end and wins. Seigaku ties the score at 1-1.
Singles 3: Kaidoh vs Wakato
This must be the most amusing match because pretty boy Wakato has got legion of girl fans to cheer him on. Plus, Wakato’s a copycat and is copying moves from famous tennis stars like Pete Sampras. Before Kaidoh could settle with 1 tennis playing style, Wakato changes to the next. Everytime he does that he will say "Change… Over!". And the girls will also follow and swoon over it. Finally, Wakato decides to copy Kaidoh. It’s like playing himself but Kaidoh’s rigid training and vast improvement over the times is the difference between them as Kaidoh notches up another victory for Seigaku. They lead 2-1. Hehe. Pretty boy lost to scary-looking guy. Oh the heartbreak, girls.
Singles 2: Ryoma vs Shinjou
Hmmm… Shinjou looks like Mr Spock of Star Trek. I don’t remember what Ryoma did or said but it did pissed off Shinjou so much so Shinjou decides to use his forbidden technique called Deep Impulse. Erm… I don’t see how but it’s suppose to hurt the opponents real bad. Even Hanamura is against it. Of course Ryoma is quick to learn and overcomes this attack and wins for Seigaku. Another 3-1 victory scoreline.
With that, Seigaku advances to the last 4 and definitely qualifies for the Nationals. Thus, another celebration for the team at Kawamura’s sushi restaurant. But they can’t let their guard down yet as there are still matches to see who will be champion in the Kantou tournament.
Vs Rokkaku Chuu
Seigaku’s semi-final opponents are quite amusing. They use wooden rackets and their coach looks like a senile old man who picked the team’s captain by just pointing his finger to whoever was in front of him at that time. Amusing. But they have to be something to have reach this far, right? Match highlights as follow.
Doubles 2: Momoshiro-Kawamura vs David-Kurabane
Yeah, the Rokkaku team is real quirky. David and Kurabane are like some manzai comedy duo. At least for David. He’s got a habit of making really bad puns everytime. Each time he does that, Kurabane kicks his head for it. Is he trying to be cute and funny? Anyway, Seigaku wins this one and leads 1-0.
Doubles 1: Fuji-Eiji vs Saeki-Itsuki
I suppose Oishi needs some time to heal further so why is Fuji paired up with Eiji? It seems Saeki is Fuji’s childhood friend and they’re relishing a chance to play each other again. Itsuki on the hand is annoying because he keeps asking questions why this why that and even has steam coming out from his noses like a steam locomotive. In short, Seigaku wins again to make it 2-0.
Singles 3: Ryoma vs Kentaro
Rokkaku’s young captain, Kentaro is your usual energetic and cheerful guy and gets his wish to play Ryoma. The game has to be postponed the next day because it’s taking too long. Yeah, lasting till the evening hours. Another excuse for a little filler and drama in an otherwise short match. When it resumes the next day, as expected Ryoma wins. So Seigaku advances to the final with a 3-0 win.
Okay, so that breaks the expected 3-1 win. Maybe because this semi-final match don’t seem that aggressive enough as compared to the rest. The Rokkaku side are quite friendly, even during the match. Now that’s sportsmanship. But Seigaku’s final hurdle will be their ultimate test yet. The players of Rikkai Daigaku Fuzoku or Rikkaidai for short, seems arrogant and think-they’re-the-best-team-in-the-world attitude. Well, I guess it’s like that if you’ve won the National championships for the last 2 years. Rikkaidai beat Fudoumine and during the game, Fudoumine’s captain Tachibana got injured. So looks like we have injured captains from Tezuka to Tachibana and also Rikkaidai’s captain Yukimura is in hospital undergoing some surgery. A win for Rikkaidai will be a perfect gift for their ailing captain.
The scheduled final match is postponed next week because it’s pouring. Ryoma takes this opportunity to play with Rikkaidai’s temporary captain, Sanada, but lost (didn’t really show how). Because Ryoma hasn’t really lost a match before. He’s like so depressed like as though it’s the end of the world. Not until Akutsu returns and indirectly made him see the light again. But this postponement is a blessing in disguise for Seigaku. With 1 week to spare, Ryuuzaki has the Seigaku regulars go on a special training camp to boost and enhance their skills further. Of course it wouldn’t be complete without the 3 stooges and manzai comedy duo who tag along as volunteers. So during the camp stint you’ll see some filler episodes and training in which our Seigaku boys will grow. Even the well respected ex-Seigaku tennis club captain, Yamamoto made his appearance. Also Hyotei has been invited to help train their Seigaku counterparts and each played a one-on-one match. I suppose they have to have that much awaited Ryoma vs Atobe match and as expected Ryoma beats Atobe and later creates a new move called Cyclone Smash. Is it really that powerful? I mean we see exaggerated moves about opponents being blown away by it.
Since this is the finals, every team Seigaku has beaten arrives to watch the match. They really want to see how good Seigaku has grown and possibly would like a rematch in the future. Also, since Momoshiro and Kaidoh is running late, Ryuuzaki is thinking of putting Kawamura and Arai as plan B. Yeah, that Arai guy only talks big. Always saying how he wish to play in the regulars. Yeah, now he’s got his chance, he’s freezing up and stiff. I suppose he’ll never get to play in one as Momoshiro and Kaidoh makes it in time. Phew. Is that good news for Arai?
Doubles 2: Kaidoh-Momoshiro vs Jackal-Marui
It may seem like a joke that half-Brazilian Jackal shaves his head while Marui chows down cake before the start of the match. Jackal does this as an inspiration of his former tennis coach while Marui needs the sugar of the cake to improve his stamina. Yeah, Marui has that Tightrope Walking skill whereby the tennis ball would walk along the net just like walking a tightrope. Is that possible? A closely fought match with Rikkaidai winning and leading the series 1-0.
Doubles 1: Oishi-Eiji vs Niou-Yagyuu
Niou can predict his opponent’s moves, making Eiji annoyed and as a result Eiji gets discourages and the Golden Pair is thrown into disarray. Oishi tries to talk some sense into him but Eiji isn’t listening. Plus, Yagyuu is an ex-golf player and is applying his golf swings for his tennis style! I hope he doesn’t hit a 200 meter shot. That’s way out of the court. Though Eiji manages to finally overcome this setback but it’s too late as Rikkaidai wins again to make it 2-0.
Singles 3: Inui vs Yanagi
One more win and Rikkaidai takes it. Yanagi is Inui’s former doubles partner and since the 2 know a lot about each other, they know what the other can do and the tricks hiding up their sleeves. Can Inui’s data be useful after all this years? Inui decides to throw away his collected data and play it his style only to later find out that Inui didn’t really throw it all away and is just a ploy to manipulate Yanagi. Data can be a scary thing. Inui wins to give Seigaku a lifeline, 2-1.
Singles 2: Fuji vs Kirihara
Another grudge match for Fuji because Kirihara was the one responsible for injuring Tachibana. It’s like the angel vs the devil. You see, when Kirihara’s got his pride hurt, he’ll turn into a devil and his eyes will turn red. Really. I’m wondering if his eye blood vessels bursts or what. Since Kirihara is playing sadistic tennis, Fuji decides to teach him a lesson and unleashes his full potential to ‘rehabilitate’ Kirihara. Yeah, tennis isn’t about hurting people. After this though Kirihara is still cocky, at least he doesn’t hurt people with tennis anymore. Seigaku stages a comeback with the score tied at 2-2.
Singles 1: Ryoma vs Sanada
A rematch between a renewed Ryoma and Sanada. This game will decide who wins the Kantou tournament. Also, since it’s the same time with Yukimura’s surgery, the rest of the Rikkaidai went ahead to the hospital. At first it may seem to be too much for Ryoma to handle Sanada’s invisble swing and serve. But leave it to Ryoma to do the impossible. He repeatedly uses his Cyclone Smash (though it’s taking a strain on his little body) and even closes his eyes to play. Is he mocking Sanada? Well, he unleashes all his powerful potential on Sanada and even Sanada is in shock. Yeah, Ryoma even said that "You’re not good enough" in English. Note the accent. With lots of determination and will power, Ryoma finally beats Sanada and everybody is surprised that Seigaku won the championship 3-2.
Each of the match that Seigaku played either goes into a tie break or a closely fought one. So I suppose it’s okay for the new champions to celebrate once more down at Kawamura’s sushi restaurant. Yeah, it’s true pride comes before a fall and hopefully Rikkaidai would learn from this lesson. On another good note, Yukimura’s surgery is successful.
Vs American West Coast Team
Though the Kantou tournament is over, Seigaku and those who have qualified for the Nationals mustn’t let up yet. Before the Nationals, the Japanese have receive an invitation to play against the American West Coast team. In order to select which player to represent Japanese, Ryuuzaki, Hanamura and Hyotei’s coach Sakaki organizes a junior selection camp with 28 players, including all the 8 regulars of Seigaku, and a handful from other schools like Fudoumine, Yamabuki, Hyotei, St Rudolph, Josei Shonan, Rikkaidai and Rokkaku. The 28 hopefuls are divided into 3 groups and their training and development are regulated depending of the coach of that group. So more drama and character development to see which of them makes the cut. Even the 3 stooges, manzai comedy duo, Ann and Dan join in as volunteers.
During the course of the training, Ryuuzaki got a little ill and is hospitalized. So who’s gonna replace her? To everyone’s surprise it’s Tezuka! He’s back from Germany. Previously after the Seigaku won the Kantou tournament, they went to Germany to pay Tezuka a visit and tell him the good news. The other guys think that Tezuka’s back so that he could snatch a place to play in the invitational tournament but Tezuka sticks to his coachin role throughout the duration. In the end, who made the final 7 all-star? They are Atobe, Sanada, Sengoku, Oshitari, Kirihara, Eiji and… Fuji. Oh it was a tough choice between Fuji and Ryoma. Because of that, Ryoma goes into one of his sulking moods again. But later after a heart to heart talk, Ryoma finds out that he’s actually on the reserve, which isn’t that bad at all. Phew.
Meanwhile, 1 of the American team players, Kevin Smith, another left hander, returns to Japan and goes round beating other schools just to draw out Ryoma. Reminds you like Akutsu’s case. I’m not sure Kevin’s real reason of wanting to beat Ryoma that badly, but it seems that Kevin’s dad was a former tennis player who got humiliated by Nanjirou during his heydays. Because of that, Kevin’s dad mercilessly trains him using Spartan-like methods. Lots of people would see this as a grudge match lasting 2 generations. Though Kevin finds Ryoma (after the gang returns from the camp), he is disappointed to find that he’s on the reserve and may not get a chance to face him. Match day arrives and the American team’s coach, Baker, seems to be putting up some extravagant show for his players. Yeah, looks like another arrogant guy with some hidden motives of his own. Something to do with the sponsors. Honestly, I find most of the American team players not looking like real Americans, if you know what I mean. Let’s find out how the match went. Before that, the line-up of which player to play against whom isn’t mentioned just
Doubles 2: Atobe-Sanada vs Billy Cassidy-Michael Lee
The 2 fearsome players are being paired together up against cowboy Billy with his shotgun hit (literally, that move should’ve blown the ball into smithereens) and rich American Chinese kid Michael. It’s tough for the Japanese counterparts because they’re not used to playing doubles and both have their own ego and pride. In the end, they manage to overcome that and play as a doubles team, thus winning the match. Japan leads 1-0.
Doubles 1: Eiji-Oshitari vs Tom Griffin-Terry Griffin
The brothers sound like Tom and Jerry and I even thought those pretty boys were girls. Because Eiji and Oshitari both have experience as doubles, they seem to be working along fine. Meanwhile Baker wants the brothers to lose as part of his plan to create some dramatic scenario. However, after watching the Japanese pair with all their hearts out and having fun, they decide not to become some puppets anymore and before you know it, the American side wins and the score is tied 1-1.
Singles 3: Sengoku vs Bobby Max
Now this huge Bobby really looks and sounds like a real American gangster. He even insulted Sengoku by telling to go back to his mama in English. But Sengoku plays it cool and pretends he doesn’t know what he’s talking. During the camp, Sengoku has incorporated boxing into his tennis and because of that he manage to stave off the gladiator’s onslaught. Since it’s high noon, the heat is getting to them and it ends with both players exhausted and unable to carry on. Yeah, a no-game.
Singles 2: Fuji vs Arnold Ignashov
Before the match, Baker confronts Fuji to tell him to lose or else that Eastern European Arnold will have to go back to his slum and gangster ways. The reason why Arnold joins the tennis world is to escape it all in the first place. So much so he trained himself till he’s like a robot. Target systems on. Target lock. Target identified. Fire. Just kidding. I mean that Arnold’s so perfect that he’s like a robot. Furthermore, Fuji’s triple counter attack is sealed. In the end we see man triumph over machine and because of that Baker tells Arnold that he’s no longer on the team. Japan leads 2-1.
Singles 1: Kirihara vs Kevin
What a surprise. Everyone was expecting to be Kevin against Ryoma. Obviously that kid is bloody upset. Plus, since there isn’t gonna be another match after this, the American team has no chance of winning, thus the sponsors are doubting the American team’s potential. However, 1 of the sponsors gives a condition to sponsor the team provided Kevin wins. Baker is determined to make Kevin win. Because Kevin is upset he didn’t get to face Ryoma, Kirihara is pissed that he’s looking down on him and unleashes his new move Phantom Ball, which he learned after the match with Seigaku. However Kirihara pushes his limits and injures himself during the match. Baker decides to use that special rule instead of allowing the match to be abandoned and forfeited.
Singles 1: Ryoma vs Kevin
The long awaited match begins with both having a little handicap. Kevin is a little tired from his match with Kirihara while Ryoma starts with a game down. It seems Kevin can do every move that Ryoma can. Yeah, he’s so obsessed that he studied every video tape of Ryoma with detail. Ryoma unleashes his Cyclone Smash to counter Kevin’s attack but his body is getting tired. Because the match is dragging on, Baker loses his temper and hits Kevin, much to everyone’s horror. Then here’s a shocking scene. We know Ryoma is gonna win, and how he does it? Suddenly Ryoma manages to pull off all of the special moves of the opponents he previously beats! Can he do that by just recalling and I believe I’ve never seen him practice those moves before. Natural talent? Ryoma has a potential for greater heights (don’t mean to insult his stature). In the end, Japan wins 3-1. But it doesn’t matter who win or losses, the audience just loved them.
After the match, Baker gets his team to quickly pack up and leave but he’s in for a surprise. Even though they lost, the sponsor decides to sponsor the entire team. Baker is relieved but didn’t understand why she set the condition earlier on. Well, it’s actually a test to see whether Baker is a suitable partner to work with. And his actions earlier on suggests otherwise. Moreover, because Baker has been found spending the funds lavishly on the earlier stint, he has been relieved of all duties. There goes his dream. So I guess it’s fair that everybody in the Japanese camp gets to play. While the American team enjoy their last few days touring Japan, Kevin went on an apologizing spree to the schools he beat up earlier on. This guy isn’t so bad after all. Hey, I’m starting to notice something about Kevin. I think his sunglasses are stuck to his head. No matter how much he moves or sways, it just stays perfectly right on his head. Isn’t it?
Intra-school ranking & US Open
As with Seigaku’s tradition and final story arc, it’s time for another intra-school ranking to see who will become Seigaku’s regulars. By this point, I could pretty much guess 99% who would make it, don’t you think? I mean, look at the other club members. There is a bloody vast difference in their skills so much so I think that they’re whipping boys. Didn’t they improve in time? Didn’t think so. Looks like it’s not the case of a long way to go, but rather there’s no future! Haha. If I could guess 99% who would make the cut, what about the 1% uncertainty? The intra-school ranking is divided into 4 groups of several players and the top 2 of each group will become regulars. However there is 1 group which has 3 of our usual Seigaku regulars. They are Momoshiro, Kaidoh and Ryoma. Yeah, dubbed the group of death by Horio as 1 of them won’t make the cut. So who will be the unlucky one?
At the same time, Nanjirou receives a letter. To cut things short, Nanjirou decides to enter Ryoma’s name as 1 of the Japanese reps for the US Open. Though it pisses off Ryoma but it’s his fault for not taking his dad’s hint seriously (who could ever be serious with this pervert). Soon everyone learns about this and some wants him to go as it’s a chance of a lifetime while others say he wouldn’t because he’s gonna play in the Nationals. Ryoma turns down the chance to play at the US Open even after that chat with Tezuka. During Ryoma’s match with Momoshiro, Ryoma is spacing out and not playing his usual level while Momoshiro is firing all the way. Momoshiro notices this and gets pissed off. He would’ve beaten up Ryoma if the rest didn’t intervene. In the end, Ryoma decides to go. Before he leaves, everyone else buys him a parting gift.
Ryoma arrives at America and is being greeted by the new guy who took over Baker’s position and it seems Kevin is there too. They’re like buddies now. As usual, other tennis players look down on him not because he’s shorter (literally) but because they think he’s a kid. Back at Seigaku, the match between Tezuka and Fuji starts. A match which will decide who gets to be Singles 1 and it’s a match-up that has never happened before (at least it didn’t finished 2 years ago). See, everyone in Seigaku must’ve played each other except for these 2. So a gruelling match with lots of flashbacks and realization which unleashes new potentials for both guys. In the end, Tezuka triumphs. News of Tezuka beating Fuji reached Ryoma and that guy again has that spacing out and indecisive feeling. Ryoma decides to settle things by temporarily going back to Japan even though he has passed the preliminaries of the US Open.
Ryoma’s return has caught everyone by surprise except for Tezuka and Ryuuzaki who has been informed by Ryoma before hand. This is the 2nd time Ryoma plays Tezuka. The 1st time was donno how long ago and Ryoma lost, in which Tezuka told him to be Seigaku’s pillar of strength. It’s a mouth watering match everybody wants to watch. I’ll skip all details but Ryoma eventually beats Tezuka (they didn’t show how but Tezuka admits Ryoma has won) and with that Ryoma heads back to the US without regrets. The final scenes of the episode shows the starting ceremony for the Nationals. Rikkaidai’s Yukimura is also there and will be anticipating to play Tezuka at the Nationals. Also in the US Open, Ryoma faces world number 1, Leyton Hewitt and beats him. Wow. Is that for real? Well, I guess with lots of exaggeration and stuff, might as well go all the way. Another thing is, since the Nationals is gonna be held in Tokyo, 1 school will be admitted to the Nationals automatically, which is Hyotei. So it doesn’t matter if they lost to Seigaku in the first place. At least they’re given a 2nd chance and most likely would like to get their revenge over Seigaku.
Overall, I think I had enough of tennis and won’t be watching the OVA to see how the Seigaku team fares in the Nationals. But don’t worry, I’m guessing that Seigaku will be a powerhouse everyone wants to beat and thus they’ll beat lots of opponents, old or new, along the way. I did a little reading up and it seems Ryoma will be back in time for the Nationals and Seigaku will indeed face Hyotei again along the way. Oh yeah, there’s even a movie released after the tv series ended.
I can’t help notice that the only 2 Seigaku players who have played at every competitive level matches are Ryoma and Eiji. Well, Eiji’s the doubles pair and part of the Golden Pair, he’s indispensible. As for Ryoma, notice how he never lose matches at this level? Even if he’s a substitute or reserve, some compelling force will make Ryoma play. I think I’m starting to become like Inui by noticing such minor details.
Since it’s been a long series, thinking back, the reason why I stayed on and watch this was probably I find the exaggerating tennis play amusing. It’s nice to see what ‘creative’ ideas the players can come up on-court. Of course, I dread everytime whenever there’s a flashback but I suppose all this comes as part of the package to understand the characters better.
The drawing, art and animation as mentioned seems to cater to bishonen fans with not only the Seigaku players looking good, but also players from other rival schools. I suppose this is a guy anime and the producers need to come up with various and different character desgins to accomodate the many gorgeous looking players. With a large number of episodes, some of the minor episodes have its quality compromised a little. But it won’t be obvious. Even during matches, because the focus is on the intensity of the match, you might not notice the lesser details of the surroundings. You could also see lots of lines when the tennis ball zoom pass by.
There are several product placements in the series as well. Of course the name would be slightly misspelled so as not to raise any copyright issues. The most frequent one and the one which I remembered the most is the can drink Ponta, which is Ryoma’s favourite drink. Always seeing him drinking it. Ah, brings back those nostalgic memories when I drank that grape flavoured Fanta drink. I wonder if such drink is still around these days.
There are several soundtracks and BGMs for this series. Most of them sound like your typical hyped-up motivational sports music which keeps viewers in the mood to cheer the match on. Though there are slower tunes and even comical ones. Speaking of opening and ending themes, there are several of them (total of 16 themes, 8 opening and 8 ending themes) but it seems none of them really caught my interest. Some of the themes too have that upbeat tune which very much suits a sports themed genre. Of course there are slower ones, rock-like ones and those which the voice actors and actresses also belt out. Especially the 5th ending song, White Line. That one sounds a little sissy to me. Tennis players singing? Ah well, it’s like an actor trying his luck at singing and then writing a book. All in one. Or rather, don’t put all your eggs in 1 basket.
As for the romance part, I guess at this rate Sakuno won’t be able to confess her true feelings but I suppose she’s just happy to be around Ryoma. No time for love. Besides, tennis is his number 1 love. For me, I didn’t really fell in love with the sport after all. Perhaps my favourite sport is watching anime. And I can do it by sitting down there for a straight 6 full hours! It’s a marathon! No rules, no special moves, nothing but pure enjoyment of the game. Maybe I should proclaim myself as the Prince Of Anime. Not. Mada mada da ne.