Maruo Eiichirou (Ei-Chan), a first year honor student, one day decides he's unhappy with the way things are and lacks exercise. He finds a flyer for the Tennis Club and decides check it out. He's instantly captivated by it. With no prior experience and poor physical conditioning, join Ei-Chan as he embarks on a tennis journey using his smarts, dedication and work ethic.
This is a review of this manga from the start to latest chapter.(Around 129)
I will re-edit it when this manga is complete or near completion.
I will also be trying to avoid spoiling as much as possible so sorry if some things may seem vague.
When it comes to sports manga it seems you either love it or hate it. Not a lot of us may have an interest in some sports whether it be football, swimming, baseball or tennis or maybe we do but just not in that specific sport. In order to win the crowd over when it comes to sports manga and
the sport it focuses on is up to the story that comes with it and characters. Let me start off by saying that if you never had an interest in sports manga Baby Steps is the right place to start, if you already do have an interest well then sit down and relax because after you read this review it's time for you to read Baby Steps!
The story takes place in a high school setting in Japan. We are introduced to the very intelligent A-student Maruo Eiichirou(Ei-Chan), a 15 year old genius who spends his time studying and never really thinks about anything else. One day he decides that he needs to stay in shape and looks for some sort of physical activity to do, one thing leads to another and he ends up in the tennis club. This story follows him and the many other characters and what they do to achieve their dreams.
Now like I said vague, but you get the point. The story does take place in a typical high school setting but is top-notch though when it comes to terms of keeping you excited and wanting more. It mixes many aspects of great stories into it such as the comedy, sport, developing relationships(yes, possible romance.) and more keeping you always interested whether it be the intense matches or having the characters interact with one another. The pacing is surprisingly fantastic and always changes at just the right times. Instead of taking up 10 more chapters for 2 pointless matches they'll go through them all quickly in a chapter to that final match we all wait for and instead make that match long and intense over a few chapters.
The way they keep evolving the story with the pacing proves to make itself a great read.
Clean, well-drawn and modern. Works for what it is.
The characters are fantastic in the manga. From the weak genius becoming strong, to the amazing girl always nervous because everyone thinks of her as perfect, and to the delinquent bad ass who is a tennis pro that has a nice side which he tries to hide. We have many different and vibrant characters in this manga.
Every character, main or supporting has a different personality which works for them best and allow them to compliment each other. The characters are not just limited to a handful either as we are always introduced to new interesting characters.
I haven't enjoyed a sports type manga like this since The Big Windup. It kept me glued to my screen constantly clicking wanting to get more and more into the story and even got me interested in the sport which I had no care for at all when I began reading it.
It's the kind of manga that you can just sit back relax and read but at the same time excite yourself when it comes to the matches.
It's not often I'm able to find a sports shounen that mixes so much and yet stays so true to what it is. From the characters, to character development, and evolving story this is one manga that I thoroughly enjoyed. Coming into this manga with no knowledge of the sport or care for it I thought it would have been a drop immediately. However I find myself coming back every week for the next update. It is certainly a manga that is worth a shot for anyone. So don't be taken aback if you have no interest in tennis! Read a few chapters and see for yourself!
This manga attracted me because the main character, like us, is a novice at tennis, or at least I am. Therefore the reader learns about tennis alongside Maruo (maincharacter), who is a beginner to tennis.
The story itself is simple. Maruo is introduced to tennis, decides to do it, and we read along, as simple as that.
The pace of the manga is nice. One does not have to read many chapters before Maruo has his first official match. While Maruo's training is present in the manga, it does not get boring to read and as mentioned we readers learn alongside Maruo there is always something
new that happens, whether this is games or training. The manga is light-hearted. it is a simple light hearted sports manga and character backgrounds have small attention.
For the story of a sports manga to be interesting and to keep the readers attention, the execution of the games must be different from every other sports manga out there. As tennis is a one-man sport, the mangaka's decision to make this manga into a first person narration for the most part during games is obvious. The next step the mangaka next took is to make tennis, a fast paced sport, into a strategic game for the main character. (the pace do not suffer from this) The manga's approach to the games therefore needs a particular main character...
... which is what we have in Maruo. He is a simple, but likeable character. Very logical, level-headed and insanely determined in whatever he do (studies, training, etc) and otherwise a social awkward person. Nothing he does is instinct. Everything that happens in the games are thought out and written down in Maruo's notebooks. While a simple character fueled by instinct can be interesting, this would not match well with a one-man sport manga, there is other supporting characters who gets this role.
As shortly mentioned character backgrounds is almost non-existent in "Baby Steps". Almost all attention is put into Maruo. His starting point, is also the readers starting point, which focuses one the development of Maruo's tennis skills and his fight to be a great tennis player. there is absolutely no drama in this manga whatsoever, it is a easy light-hearted read to the core.
The art is good. The faces greatly differs from each other. The art is also a great help during explanation about tennis or strategic planning during matches. In the course of the manga details in the characters faces improve but I see nothing else that differs from the start of the manga to the latest chapter. My only complaint is why Maruo's hair absolutely must look like a hen's.
I can't put it into words exactly why I enjoy this manga as much as I do, but I do think alot of it can the attributed to the strategy put into the games and Maruo, a MC, very different from most. For what the manga is, it succeed extremely well in its execution. Give this manga a go, it is a easy manga to read in times of relaxing the mind.
Note: I can recommend "Haikyuu!!" if you end up liking this manga. It differs in obvious key points, but my enjoyment is the same.
I honestly don’t really like sports manga. A lot of them that are super popular (Kuruko’s Basketball, Haikyuu, The Prince of Tennis) just don’t intrigue me. Baby Steps subverts all of that, making it one of the best sports manga I ever took the time to read.
Good - Great protagonist: Baby Steps follows Eiichiro Maruo, nicknamed Ei-chan because he gets all “A’s” in school due to his ridiculously meticulous nature. A chance encounter with Natsu Takasaki, a girl who is aiming to become a tennis pro, coupled with a desire to engage in physical activity leads Ei-chan to join STC as an amateur tennis player,
often playing against grade schoolers. Over time, Eiichiro realizes his meticulous note-taking and powerful vision to his advantage. A growing love of the sport fuels him to practice hard and aim to become a pro.
While all sports manga necessitate that the protagonists have some talent, Baby Steps ensures that Eiichiro’s talents are far from godly; Eiichiro must work hard day in and day out in order to succeed. As a character, he falls into more of the Ippo category, but while he is shy, Eiichiro is not timid or that self-deprecating; he’s a polite young man who wants to win with his own ability. Eiichiro’s hard work and realistic, relatable attitude allow him to carry the manga by himself.
Good - Avoiding the trap: The common trap of a shounen manga is what I call the “power level” trap. When an antagonist of an arc is defeated, how do you top that? You introduce a villain with a higher power level (or a set of villains with a higher aggregate power level). This always ends up deflating any tension in a previous arc: how can the main characters have the same amount of trouble against both villains if one is stronger? More importantly, how can the main characters beat the villain? With a super new technique. This repetitive cycle of shounen manga decrees the final antagonist be Gods, and that can occur in many sports manga. Baby Steps avoids this because it develops Eiichiro within the sense of reason. Yes, Eiichiro gets stronger, sometimes during a match, but that’s because we see how hard he works. He never pulls something out of his ass like “Misdirection Overflow” that doesn't even exist in tennis, always improving in a realistic fashion.
Good - Sense of tension: Have you ever seen a tennis match on TV? Have you ever played a tennis match? Any sport definitely feels different for the spectators than for the players, and tennis is one of the sports that has a huge difference. Shounen manga tend to slow down the action in order to feel the tension, and Baby Steps is no exception. However, over the course of its entire 200+ chapters that I have read, Baby Steps never loses that feeling in any of its matches. It is capable of keeping the tension at a realistic level throughout the entire series.
Good - About men but not manly: Many sports manga have to ignore the female side, and depending on the sport and style of the manga, it can often drip with glistening testosterone. Baby Steps pretty much only follows the matches of guys. These high school guys don’t have low hanging balls like other sports manga characters do, making it more accessible for people who can’t take the sheer manly musk of some sports manga.
Good - Not afraid to make its hero lose: Not really spoilers; Eiichiro does not win all the time. He’s no loser, but it’s not completely uncommon. Sometimes he is crushed; other times it’s a fluke; and other times it’s because his opponent is that good. Losing is a part of life, and Eiichiro is no stranger to it. Unlike Ash Ketchum, however, Eiichiro is amazing about learning from his mistakes, and whenever he surfaces at a new tournament, all of his previous opponents note how much time he spent to provoke insane growth.
Mixed - All tennis, all the time: Baby Steps excels in not succumbing to the problems of other sports manga. One of the huge problems that can occur with a sports manga that has its characters in school is that it makes the sport a school sport, intertwining the two. This leads to a multitude of cliché school life drama or slice of life scenarios to pad the time in between matches, as well as giving a bunch of side characters too much screentime. This often adds unnecessary weight to a sports manga, making you wait with begrudging anticipation for the next match. Baby Steps avoids this by making the tennis tied to professional tennis clubs as well as the pro scene, ignoring any school life tainting of the sports formula. But at what cost?
Baby Steps goes to an extreme to solve the problem I just laid out: it’s always tennis. If Eiichiro’s not playing tennis, he’s training for tennis, or talking about tennis, or thinking about tennis, or taking notes about tennis. This manga is probably written with the blood, sweat, and tears of actual tennis players. Having the sport is good, and I’m more invested in the manga because of it, but what about the characters? Apart from Eiichiro, I’m barely invested in anyone, because I know comparatively little about them.
It makes sense for me to know less about certain characters, like many of Eiichiro’s opponents; I know them through the “in-match flashback,” and that’s often enough; giving the characters some dramatic backstory would put a damper on any realism they have. They love tennis, and the manga brings out their personality through their playstyle and monologues. It’s not perfect, but it’s serviceable.
The one important character who doesn’t receive this treatment (and definitely should) is Natsu, the female protagonist and Eiichiro’s love interest. Natsu’s a very cheery girl who plays an instinctive tennis, opposite of Eiichiro’s, and she aspires to be a pro. That’s pretty much it. Natsu is super likeable and doesn’t fall into any typical tropes for a heroine, which makes this hard to notice, but we know so little about Natsu, except how Eiichiro likes her.
The best way the manga could fix this is to give focus to matches that Eiichiro is not playing, but rather follow the matches of other characters and get inside their heads as they go against each other. Unfortunately, that’s also a way to kill the manga; focusing too much on the side characters can devolve into a Bleach situation, where we barely see the main heroes but always see 300+ minor characters’ battles. It’s great that Baby Steps avoids this pitfall, but can’t we see some more Natsu?
Mixed - Passage of Time: For the most part, Baby Steps takes place during the times when tennis is played. That’s part of the reason why it’s all tennis all the time: it doesn’t really try to give a plot during the times when tennis isn’t played. So, through a montage (yes, training montages), the manga skips the drivel and goes straight to the next tennis season. But is absolutely nothing important? It often follows the trend that Ei-chan loses, there are a couple chapters about his tennis, and then it’s the next tournament or next year or something. You sometimes see what the characters are up to during short side chapters. Baby Steps could put in some padding to make the passage of time seem so much less abrupt, and develop its characters! It skips the vast majority of filler and makes you like the characters more!
The other time when "fast forward" is implemented is during a tennis match. Tennis is a long sport, after all. Do we want to see Eiichiro own worse tennis players? Not particularly. We’ll see some frames and then the score. That’s fine. Do we want to see every single return? No, of course not; each arc would be the length of a One Piece arc if we did that. So fast-forwarding is done to prevent us from getting really bored. Unfortunately, it is typically handled in the least graceful way possible; through a bunch of omniscient text boxes. Used sparingly, this is acceptable. In Baby Steps, it utilized to the point that over an entire set of a match can be *explained* that way. It’s far from awful, but manga should take advantage of the fact that it can simply show with characters and facial expressions and not always have to tell. More annoying is how Baby Steps sometimes wraps up a tense tennis match with a text box explanation, instead of us seeing the characters react and think as the Match Point is playing out. In the interest of expedience, it detracts from us connecting more with the match and the characters at crucial times.
Baby Steps is a phenomenal sports manga. It’s always engaging and keeps you on the edge of your seat since anything can happen. If you need a sports manga to read, you really can’t go wrong with Baby Steps, especially if you love tennis.
Overall: 8.3 (rounded down to 8)
Meet Eiichirou 'E-Chan' Maruo. A straight-A honor student and the kind of guy you could get a few study pointers from. Upon entering high school he realizes that up till now his whole life has been about studying and getting good grades. Feeling a need for more exercise, he adjusts his study schedule to exercise on his own time rather than committing to a sports club. However, he is prompted by his mother to go check out the local tennis club. And that's where E-Chan's progress begins.
The manga takes care to explain tennis terminology and rules for newcomers.
It realistically shows the amount of work
taken to train and prepare one's body for a match and how rewarding it is to win due to one's efforts. The reader follows E-Chan as he builds up his physical and mental strength, all the while tackling tennis as he has always done for any other subject: studying. E-chan's method of studying consists of observation, memorization, execution, and repetition. A method to perfect one's accuracy, power, and balance. A method that may remind Prince of Tennis fans of Inui's data tennis.
As the story progresses he gains a rival, a possible love interest and a coach who takes interest in his growing potential as expected of a sports manga. With each match he plays, tennis becomes more and more enjoyable to him.
(Prince of Tennis readers, this may be a manga about tennis but it is not in the style of Prince of Tennis. There are no special skills come into play, there are no "mental states" to unlock and the hero does not develop a super powered move in the middle of the match.)
This is a story about realistic progress. So expect losses. Expect improvement from those losses. And expect those losses to turn to victories.
Read it when you're in the mood for a normal, down-to-earth, not over-the-top sports story.
Tennis has been around in anime for some time now, but the number of series dedicated to it are surprisingly low. In the following list, we'll take a look at five popular tennis anime, including not only iconic classics, but also some newbie gems!
Baby Steps is a very well-paced sports anime that focuses on the growth of a new tennis player named Eiichirou Maruo. Scroll down to check out 15 quotes from the anime that will put your motivation in overdrive!