The world of tennis is harsh and highly competitive. Numerous schools from Japan battle it out to determine the best of the best.
Seishun Gakuen Junior High School, more commonly known as Seigaku, is one of the most prominent contestants in this battle of the finest. Their team line-up gets even stronger with the sudden arrival of a young prodigy from the West, Ryouma Echizen, who is determined to prove himself and escape the towering shadow of his legendary father. This fine addition changes the team forever.
Prince of Tennis follows the heartwarming and inspirational story of Ryouma on his quest to become one of the best tennis players the country has ever seen. He pushes himself hard so that he can one day surpass his father’s name and his own personal expectations. Alongside the rest of the Seigaku team, Ryouma fights to make his and his teammate's dreams come true.
Since 2003, there has been a bi-annual musical that features different story arcs of the series. There also been a live action film based on the franchise. Prince of Tennis also has a lot of video game adaptations, a few Chinese dramas and a radio show based on the series.
The Prince of Tennis - a sports-driven anime that debuted back in 2001, depicts the story of Echizen Ryoma and his experiences in the world of tennis. Along with Hajime no Ippo, the Prince of Tennis helped start the rave with sports-driven anime craze, and its not really a wonder why a lot of those anime use many of the elements from the Prince of Tennis - its so good that its still being animated (in OVA form) this very day.
Normally, with sports anime, you see the rise of a certain young star from not being a very good player to being the ace
of their sport. The Prince of Tennis pulled something out of the ordinary and made Echizen an amazing tennis player right from the start. Now you're probably thinking, "Well, where's the fun in that?" Well, Echizen is always going up against top-notch opponents and throughout the show, you'll witness him going from a cocky, immature kid to one who actually respects his opponents (well, sort of anyway) and development of new, exciting skills. Echizen join the Seigaku high school tennis team and participates in tournaments with them. And of course, the overall theme is to aim for the top of the tennis world.
The art is pretty good. It starts off so-so, but before you know it, it gets to that level where you're impressed by it. As for the animation, you'll see a lot of repeated frames throughout the show (as usual with sports anime), but the way they animate all of the new skills and tennis matches is just so amazing, that after some of the matches, you just stare in awe at its magnificence.
The sound, I would say, is probably the weakest point of the show. Although the music presented in the Prince of Tennis does suit the mood and is pretty upbeat at times, there really isn't a score that will stand out to you, where you'll be saying, "Ah!! I need that on my computer/ipod." Nevertheless, its relatively enjoyable
Since the stories are pretty much the same throughout all sport anime (overall), in order for an anime to be amazing - especially the case with sport ones - characters and unique personalities need to be there. And Prince of Tennis does not disappoint in that category. This show unveils so many different memorable characters, that you'll undoubtedly have trouble picking your all-time favorite one from the lot because they are so unique. And the best part about it is that the creators were able to somehow give each character a unique way of playing tennis. With the amount of characters and opponents they present, you'd think that they would have to repeat somewhere. But that's definitely not the case.
With amazing tennis matches, a plethora of unique and lovable characters, and a cocky main protagonist that will get on your nerves at times but you'll respect out of necessity because of his skills, the Prince of Tennis is an amazing sport anime. The best part of this anime is that you will have a hard time knowing who will win matches. Surprisingly enough, all the main characters experience losses matches at times, which makes it interesting to see how each one responds to the agony of defeat.
If you are looking for a sport-driven anime and are in for the long haul - meaning 170+ episodes, the Prince of Tennis is exactly what you're looking for.
Story - 10
The story is very original, where the protagonist comes from America to Japan as a well-developed tennis player. His father has him enroll in Seigaku Tennis Club, where he plays opponents who can challenge his skill, while the team seeks to reach the National Tournament. Although the story sounds simple, there are many episodes that get more in depth by revealing more of the characters and the storyline, which I would rather not spoil.
Art - 9
The art in this anime is spectacular! However, it is a long series, so some frames are repeated throughout games, yet it is still well done to the
point where it will not bother. There is a large cast of characters, and each of the players have there very own original moves, yet the art is detailed so well it is easy to distinguish between all characters. Even the comedic and chibi episodes were truly amazing and had detailed art.
Sound - 8
The sound in the anime was mediocre. The opening and ending themes sounded like karaoke songs, and they were not real catchy... However, some of them were really good, in my opinion. The sound effects throughout the anime were fine, however, so the music does not really take away from it overall.
Character - 10
This is one aspect of the anime that truly made it one of my favorites. There is a huge amount of characters in the anime, and all of them are original and well-designed of course. There will definitely be many characters you can connect to, as there are many types of personalities amongst them. The characters also develop throughout the anime, so a character you may not have liked may become your favorite. Amazing set of characters in this anime!
Enjoyment - 10
I most certainly enjoyed this anime, as anyone else who's seen it has. The great plot, good art and characters play a great part in this animes success. Everything from the action packed episodes to the comedic chibi episodes were truly enjoyable!
Once upon a time in Japan, a manga artist by the name of Takeshi Konomi came up with a manga by the name of Prince of Tennis, and it quickly became one of - if not the - most popular sports manga of all time, doing for tennis what Slam Dunk did for basketball, it caused a massive boost in popularity for the sport in its native country. To this day, it's hard to really say that Japan ever got past Prince of Tennis fever, one look at the various pieces of Prince of Tennis merchandise like the musicals or even the live-action
film, makes it instantly clear just how big of a thing this is for them.
Naturally, such a popular manga was bound to be subject to an anime adaptation, and so in October 2001, an anime version of the mega-hit was released by none other than...J.C Staff? Wait, seriously? Someone thought that that was a good idea? I mean, J.C Staff, a company that is well known for messing up and/or butchering adaptations of great works? (I'm looking at you Spiral) This is a company that for the most part, seems to have very little in terms of "great" budget, and suddenly they're expected to animate 178 episodes of such a huge hit? All of a sudden, Prince of Tennis the anime sounds like it's going to be a disaster.
You know what though? It's not; in fact, Prince of Tennis is actually pretty good.
That's not to say however, that this is the best sports anime out there - indeed, there are definitely flaws with PoT, mostly to do with the animation, which I'll cover later on - and if you've had any animosity towards sports anime in the past then you can immediately forget about liking Prince of Tennis, as it most definitely won't change your mind about them, it's possible that it may make you dislike them even more actually; even sports anime fans that I've talked to have dismissed PoT out of hand calling it "ridiculous" "a joke" and "an insult to the actual sport itself", and whilst I can certainly understand why people dislike certain ridiculous elements of the show, I find comments about it being a joke and an insult to be quite puzzling, because personally, I found that once PoT hit its stride, it was a huge barrel of fun and enjoyment.
The story is typical sports anime fare: Team wants to become the best. Team goes up against many strong opponents and becomes stronger after each match. Team wins some games, team loses some games. It's a tried and trusted formula which, while not really turning any heads in terms of how things play out, provides decent enough motivation for the characters to at least keep you emotionally invested in them for a while.
What's interesting about the story is that, whereas other sports shows would immediately opt for making the main protagonists team a group of underdogs, going up against impossible odds and coming out better for it, the tennis players of Seigaku are actually rather strong by comparison. We're presented with players who are already known at the national level, a player that's regarded by practically everyone as a tennis prodigy, and Jesus himself, Captain Tezuka. These are character archetypes that, in nearly every other sports show, would be reserved for the opposing teams, their sole purpose to make the protagonists team stronger and stronger after every single match, and we're meant to watch them playing for the home team.
So how then does that make the matches interesting?
As mentioned before, Seigaku is constantly going up against stronger and stronger teams, with players that are just as equally strong as them (with the exception of Captain Jesus, who I'll talk about later on), this means that even though there are main characters who are ridiculously powerful, the players are almost never really in a position in which they can just sit back and take the match easily, meaning that it successfully maintains a feeling of excitement and tension, despite the several curb-stomp matches that do occur throughout the series.
One major stand-out of the original PoT's storyline, rather funnily, is the filler. Now obviously, in an anime this long filler is bound to be expected - this could range from anything to funny filler episodes to outright filler arcs - but what's interesting to note is that, well...the filler is actually pretty damn good.
No seriously, I mean it, I wouldn't joke about this even if you paid me.
After about 125 episodes, PoT goes off on its own route because the animators decided that they wanted to give the audience a different Prince of Tennis experience than that of the manga, and it actually pays off rather well, I'm sure the whole Junior Selection Camp thing served in some way as the basis for what would eventually form the plot of New Prince of Tennis; in reality I suppose these filler episodes are nothing more than a clever way for J.C Staff to fully exploit the huge cast of bishonens that exist in PoT, and create new pairings for its ever growing fanbase of yaoi fans (heck I'm a straight male and even I supported some of the pairings). Nonetheless, these filler episodes are at times more entertaining than the actual matches from the proper storyline, they're a strong example of how to do filler, and more importantly, how to do filler well - the fact that I was able to marathon through the final 78 episodes in the space of about two weeks is a testament of how good I personally found the filler.
However, regardless of how good everything else is in Prince of Tennis, there is one factor that threatens to nearly derail the viewing experience almost completely. Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Prince of Tennis's utterly woeful animation.
Artistically speaking, the series fares well, Takeshi Konomi's numerous bishonens translate well to the screen, enough so that that was the deciding factor in why the score isn't less than 5, it's when it actually comes to animating that Prince of Tennis utterly falls down.
You will see stock footage, a lot of it, I lost count of the amount of times I saw the same footage for Ryoma's Twist Serve or Fuji's Higuma Otoshi repeated again, and again, and again. Static images are abound in the anime. It's not often that animation in an anime is so bad that it's actually detrimental to the viewing experience, but in this case, it most definitely is. For whatever reason - perhaps due to J.C Staff's lack of funds - simple shots are repeated in little boxes that suddenly appear on the screen, so you're subjected to the same footage you saw not two seconds ago; randomly, a character will take a shot and the anime decides that for whatever reason, it's going to show the same shot again in a spiral that suddenly bombards your screen. I could quite literally turn this review into a complete list of faults with the animation of the show. The animation is meant to be a medium that conveys the manga format effectively, and it seems as if somewhere along the line, J.C Staff forgot about that little detail, as such, we're presented with matches that, in the manga, would only take about 3 to 5 chapters (I bothered to use the Seigaku VS Yamabuki match as a reference for this) and in the anime, take roughly the equivalent of about 4 episodes by comparison.
In short, it's pretty much total butchery, and something that wouldn't be fixed until the National Tournament OVA's in which it was then animated by the far more capable hands of Production I.G.
Musically speaking, PoT fares significantly better, one of the many things that defines a sports anime - or long running anime in general - is the soundtrack; without a good soundtrack, quite a bit of the effect is lost whenever something dramatic happens, and what PoT lacks in the animation department is something that the sound department makes up for. Cher Watanabe composed an absolutely awesome soundtrack, the opening themes are, personally, among some of the best and really get you in the mood for Prince of Tennis, seriously, just try and listen to "Driving Myself" (by far the best of the opening themes) and not get pumped.
The rest of the soundtrack is also pretty good, I remember plenty of moments when the music was the best thing about the show, particularly when tracks like "Mission", "Hangeki" and "Koutekishu" were playing, it's hard to not at times feel a big goofy grin appear on your face when the soundtrack is at its best.
Voice acting is equally strong, there are plenty of arrogant characters in Prince of Tennis, not least Ryoma, Atobe and Kirihara, and the voice acting is able to pretty much hit all the right notes when it comes to performances, whether it be one of the arrogant characters or one of the softer characters, or perhaps one of the stoic characters - it's hard to fault the voice acting, with the exception of the really annoying little kids that pretty much form Ryoma's fan-club, their voices grate significantly and any attempt at humour with these characters falls flat down on its face.
Also, a word of advice, avoid the dub at all costs, they never did dub the entire show but what they did dub was pretty poor; it seems as if practically no one was taking the anime seriously enough to bother contributing something that can actually be considered a performance.
As you will no doubt know, sports anime and manga are usually not reliant on their story (even if, in this case, it's actually pretty good), the sport is usually the lifeblood of its respective anime or manga, but it's the characters that really make it stand out. If you were, for instance, to try and watch Eyeshield 21 without Hiruma, you would be stuck with an anime that, while having its moments, doesn't have a strong enough cast for you to keep yourself interested in it. Thankfully, PoT's characters are strong enough to keep your interest, you will definitely find at least one character among this cast that you can actually bring yourself to like. Like yourself a cocky, confident main protagonist who knows what he's doing? Then you'll probably quickly find yourself fawning all over Ryoma. Do you like relaxed, composed characters with strong poker faces? Fuji's the one for you. Do you fancy unbelievably arrogant, king-like characters? Look no further than King Atobe himself.
Of course, those are just the base character traits, over time, the characters (especially Ryoma) develop into more than that, becoming much more likeable, more sympathetic and much more worthy of you rooting for them. Gags that originally weren't funny, such as Inui's special juices or Kawamura's Engrish, gradually become chuckle-worthy, heck even downright funny, and that's because of the way the characters develop.
Unfortunately, the characters aren't quite perfect, and that's due to the fault of one character: Captain Jesus - I mean, Captain Tezuka.
Tezuka is, hands down, the worst character in the show, so naturally, he's one of the most overpowered too. He's bland, dull, has practically no emotions whatsoever, and is just completely uninteresting as a character and as the team captain; Kabaji had more character development than Tezuka, and the only thing he said was "Yes"! Of course, this also makes him practically unbeatable, with only really the best of the best standing a decent chance against him. The only thing that Tezuka is good for is providing Ryoma with at least some motivation to start getting better, and even that's only a small catalyst.
Despite its faults - and woeful animation, which it should be noted, does actually start to improve in the last 8 episodes - I thoroughly enjoyed Prince of Tennis, it was a fun ride with some excellent filler, a strong cast of likeable characters and a great soundtrack. It most definitely won't change your mind about sports anime if you didn't like them to begin with, especially when it starts bringing in elements that take it from almost believable to downright Super Saiyan, and I wouldn't really recommend it if you're just starting to get into sports anime either, perhaps after you've seen something much more realistic like say, Hajime no Ippo and fancy something that isn't as bothered by the laws of physics. Still, it's a great ride once it gets going and well worth the time you put into it, especially as you're rewarded by Production I.G's glorious animation in the Nationals.
Prince of Tennis, in my opinion, is like .. superpower tennis. Not in a bad way, but that's what makes this show enjoyable. Ryoma is your typical tennis prodigy who overcomes players more skilled then he is. Story overall was good, with some bumps and twists along the way. The episodes that contain side-stories and stories where the characters are chibis are hilarious. Best I thought was bowling and Snow White.
Art was good, though when in tennis matches, you'll notice repetitions such as their special techniques and missing the ball. That's okay, unless you don't like the moves. The good thing is the art's
pretty consistent. I'll give my opinion that the English dub mixed with the animation is such a pain to watch.
Sound? Yeah, it gets a thumbs up. Music is good too, especially Wonderful Days, where it's sung by some of the characters. Dream Believer, love that song!
Characters, haha there's A LOT. I'm not talking 20, there's got to be somewhere around 50 or more. Plus they're pretty all unique. Well, except some players that use their wit. They just look different. You'll love some, you'll hate some, that's a possibility. Sometimes it's hard to believe they're only in middle school. Shocking right?
Enjoyment, I enjoyed it. The show is really funny. I mostly remember it being funny just because of Inui. Him and his special drinks.
Overall, the show gives a lot. Maybe not romantically, though you get Sakuno crushing on Ryoma, who, of course, doesn't notice. If you want to get a good laugh, watch the special episodes that don't really correspond to the storyline. So stop reading and GO WATCH!