Prince of Tennis Vol. #05 (Mania.com)
Review Date: Friday, May 13, 2005
Release Date: Wednesday, December 29, 2004
Translated by:Joe Yamazaki
What They Say
With only one victory away from advancing to the city tournament, Seishun Academy fields Prince of Tennis Ryoma Echizen to compete against the mysterious and mumbling Shinji of the Fudomine Team. As the punishing battle of skills unfolds, Ryoma develops a muscle paralysis called "Spot," which leaves him with barely enough strength to grip the racket, much less swing it. Refusing to go down without a fight, Ryoma unleashes a "two-sword fighting style" technique that only talented, ambidextrous players are able to execute. Will Ryoma have the strength to pull himself out of the ditch and beat Shinji? And what awaits his ex-pro tennis player father, Nanjiro, when he comes to watch his son play? Find out in the next volume of this intense sports manga!
The cover artwork uses the art from the Japanese release, featuring Ryoma, Sadaharu, Shusuke, and Kunimitsu standing around in their blue team jackets. The cover is laid out horizontally, giving of a panoramic style of view which is a nice change of pace from normal covers. Since the artwork layout is on its side, the logo, volume count, and other cover text are also laid out in the same fashion. The back cover features an illustration of Ryoma following through on another serve.
Konomi’s artwork features a lot of strong, dark tones, and the print job does a good job at keeping them dark, with no real noticeable fading. The beginning of the book has a picture of Konomi with his fishing rod along with a funny little story about him losing his reel. There are the same character profiles as previous volumes. Chapter headers are present featuring character artwork, as well as chapter closing pages with sketches that are quite humorous.
Nothing more really to comment on with this volume that I haven’t said in the past. The character designs are quite striking with great dark tones used. The action is clean and have exciting panel work. The last big chapter of this volume features a short story pilot that ran a year before Prince of Tennis started in SJ. The artwork is a bit cruder and it is interesting to see how Ryoma’s character and the overall designs have become much more refined.
SFX are translated and retouched. The school grades are translated as 7th, 8th, and 9th instead of using the traditional Japanese grades which was a little disappointing as it removes the cultural aspect.
The slang that was in previous volumes seems to be removed. The are some small subs next to panel text, like the “Fudomine” letters on the jackets. One error I noticed was that the bracket spelled one team as “Hudomine” but in the dialogue was referred to as “Fudomine”.
Contents (Watch out spoilers ahead):
Ryoma makes his singles match debut against Fudomine, as he takes on Shinji, another cocky one who seems to have an attitude just like Ryoma. They battle back and forth for a while, but Ryoma’s twist serves gives him the big upper hand and he is soon up 4-0. But Shinji has been patient with his strategy of alternating topspin and backspin slice shots, and it pays off when Ryoma develops some “spot” paralysis. The returning of the alternating shots somehow freezes up the muscles in Ryoma’s arm for a split second, keep him from getting to the ball in time. The paralysis also causes Ryoma to lose the grip on his racket, which breaks against the net pole, splinters into pieces, and cuts Ryoma on his eyelid. The injury almost costs Ryoma the match, but he refuses to give up, and Kunimitsu tells him he has 10 minutes to beat Shinji or he is throwing in the towel.
So right here is where Prince of Tennis is different from other sports anime titles that I have read. Most titles have an underdog character going up against great odds and as the reader, you can’t help but root for him through his challenges. Ryoma is not an underdog, he’s a tennis phenom. So when Ryoma goes up against a tough opponent with a patch over one eye and a spot paralyzed arm, there isn’t that same rooting feeling but instead I am supposed to be awestruck at his superhuman abilities. While I admit that I was impressed with what Ryoma accomplished, I still prefer that underdog character much more. Ryoma kicks major ass, but he is expected to, so I am not really surprised when he does. During the championship ceremony celebrating Seishun’s victory, I wasn’t even really that excited, as I just expected them to win. This I think is the problem that is holding Prince of Tennis back from being a stand out title. So far everything is just going along as expected.
The best moments of this volume are the appearance of Nanjiro, as he takes on the reporter Inoue, and the sushi dinner after tennis match. Nanjiro is like a bigger, not grown up, version of Ryoma, but he has a personality of his own that makes him enjoyable. He lays around in his robe reading porno under a temple bell, then plays tennis barefoot in his robe while smoking. The way he teases the reporters provides some much needed humor. The sushi bit is small, but it is nice to see the team members outside of tennis, showing off their personalities. There needs to be more of this.
The last 50 pages or so is a short story pilot of the Prince of Tennis that ran a year before that actual manga was even published. The story is similar to the one we saw a few volumes back where Ryoma goes to the country club and beats up on some adults on the courts. In this story, it’s a court jerk that picks on Ryoma and he completely destroys him in a game, making the guy see the errors in his ways. It is interesting to see the beginning designs and how refined they have become.
While the tennis action is great, what Prince of Tennis is lacking is an underdog. Someone to root for when up against great challenges and provides some surprises along the way. When Ryoma is presented with a challenge, it becomes more of a scenario where Ryoma being badass or cool is the major pull. The results aren’t really a surprise, and with no characters to root for, I’m having trouble really getting into the matches as much as I’d like to. Now, this might not be a bad thing for everyone, as I said earlier, I really enjoy the action, but I’m still left with a small taste of frustration at the shallowness of the characters. I crave more moments outside of the tennis courts where we just see the boys hanging out and becoming familiar with their personalities and quirks. Having Nanjiro enter the picture adds another character with some flair and his own personality.
So if you like the tennis action and get a kick out of Ryoma doing his thing with that cocky swagger, you’ll enjoy this volume. For those wanting some more depth to the characters, we’ll have to wait, but in the meantime the tennis is fun.
Mania Grade: B
Art Rating: B+
Packaging Rating: A-
Text/Translatin Rating: B
Age Rating: 3 & Up
Released By: Viz Media
Orientation: Right to Left