Eyeshield 21 Vol. #03 (Mania.com)

By:Jarred Pine
Review Date: Sunday, August 28, 2005
Release Date: Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Creative Talent
Writer/Artist:Riichiro Inagaki / Yusuke Murata
Translated by:Allison Markin Powell
Adapted by:

What They Say
Wimpy Sena Kobayakawa has been running away from bullies all his life. But when the football gear comes on things change-Sena's speed and uncanny ability to elude big bullies just might give him what it takes to become a great high school football hero! Enjoy all the bone-crushing action and slapstick comedy that this heart warming coming-of-age story has to offer.

Sena faces a brick wall in the form of hulking über-athlete Shin of the White Knights. Rather than run away, Sena runs at full speed straight at this exciting new challenge! But will Sena's frail body hold up to all the brain-jostling tackles that Shin dishes out?

The Review
Continuing to impress the heck out of me, Eyeshield 21 is without a doubt the strongest sports manga title on the English market, thanks to Inagaki’s great characters and sense of humor along with Murata’s stylish and nicely detailed artwork.

Viz continues to use the original cover art from the Japanese tankubon, with the colors looking quite vibrant and shiny. The English logo is very similar to the Japanese version. Another color character illustration is located on the back cover. The print job is very good, sharp tones with very little noticeable fading. Extras include the “Sports-A-Go-Go” chapter inserts, supporting cast biographies which are hilarious, the humorous Deimon High School Newspaper, and a preview illustration for the next volume. Overall a solid presentation for this release.

Murata’s artwork is a real treat and fits Inagaki’s story perfectly. The panels are extremely energetic, with flashy action sequences and creative perspectives. The character designs are wonderfully detailed, with some great line work for shading and highlighting of facial features. Check out the close up of Coach Shoji in chapter 19 for a great example of Murata’s strong work. Murata also balances the strong realistic designs with some exaggerated ones that add a nice comedic effect. There is also just a lot of little things in the backgrounds that matches Inagaki’s slapstick humor and style that helps give this manga its own personality. Great work.

SFX are translated and retouched, which looks really nice and doesn’t feel obtrusive like other Shonen Jump titles. The dialogue translation reads really smooth and matches all the character personalities quite well, although it is debatable if Hiruma’s “Damn pipsqueak” is a harsh enough translation. Last names are normally used, unless the characters are familiar enough with each other to use first names. There is a running joke about Taro Raimon’s name, as everyone gets his name wrong calling him “Montaro Rai”, which is a good effort on Viz’s part to try and minimize translation loss.

Contents (Watch out spoilers ahead):
“Everyone who plays on the field will be made to suffer from humiliation at least once or twice. […] The first-rate athlete will summon up all his effort to rise up to the challenge.” After a humiliating loss to the Ojo White Knights, Sena must now begin to realize his strength and learn from the loss in order to become better, whether it’s practicing lateral drills in the rain or doing sprints at light-speed with assistance from a rabid, hungry Cerberus. And how does Lucifer’s lap dog Hiruma handle the loss? By somehow getting the Principal to build the team a bigger clubhouse, equipped with gambling tables and pachinko machines that are used to steal money, or “gather funds”, for the football team.

If the football team is going to get any better, they are going to have to recruit and pick up some of the new incoming first year students. The one position they desperately need to fill is receiver, someone with sticky hands and great speed. Sena meets the perfect candidate for the job, the chimp-looking Taro Raimon, whose dreams are to be a baseball player. The only problem for Monta, as Hiruma affectionately calls him, is that while he is unbelievable at tracking down fly balls, he can’t throw the ball accurately enough to save his life. So where does an athlete whose only skill is catching find his calling? If Sena is unable to convince Monta to join the team, then leave it to Hiruma’s conniving schemes to trick him into joining!

Inagaki does just about everything spot on for a sports title, using a standard formula ingested with steroids mixed with goofballs. Our main protagonist, Sena, and the rest of the team have a lot of raw talent that they will learn how to hone and grow from their losses in order to become better. The underdog formula is extremely clichéd and possibly overused, but Inagaki keeps this fresh with his slapstick and unexpected humor. I love the contrast between Sena’s hard effort and Hiruma’s trickery and devilish nature. Sena is out putting up flyers, practicing, and recruiting while Hiruma is polishing his King Cobra for intimidation and taking money for equipment needs from the students in his gambling parlor located in the clubhouse. Each one is helping out the team in his own way, and I find myself laughing uncontrollably at the unorthodox and sadistic ways of Hiruma, especially as he dresses up as Eyeshield 21 for the reporters on TV in order to stir up some controversy.

I am also enjoying the other small webs beginning to be spun in the background that hopefully will grow into something bigger down the line. Shin is quickly becoming Sena’s biggest rival and hero, giving Sena a large source of inspiration. Ojo’s Sakuraba is learning the hard way about what it takes to be an athlete, hopefully learning from his injury. The Devil Bats will meet the White Knights again, hopefully at the Christmas Bowl. There’s also mention of a kicker that evidently quit the Devil Bats team, a sore spot for Hiruma that he doesn’t wish to talk about. There is just enough little bits of development in the background allowing the story have a much more richer feel, which in turn is more engaging to read.

The flashy action sequences and slapstick humor of the first two volumes were done quite nicely, but soon the story has to kick in and characters must start developing in order to make this title a successful sports manga. Inagaki lays off on the slapstick a touch, keeping enough of it around to entertain, allowing for some time to grow for our young, unlikely hero Sena Kobayakawa, as well as folding in some new teammates into the mix. There are also some nice little threads of future storylines developing in the background, making this story feel much more rich and engaging.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. E21 is by far the most entertaining sports title on the English market right now. It’s also one of the more exciting, humorous, well-illustrated manga out there being released. I honestly count down the days to when the next volume will arrive. This title is not only a MUST for sports manga fans, but also any manga fan who enjoys great comedy, action, drama, and stylish artwork. Get on the Deimon High bus immediately, before Hiruma sends Cerberus out to deliver you a copy. Highly recommended.

Mania Grade: A-
Art Rating: A-
Packaging Rating: A-
Text/Translatin Rating: B+
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Released By: Viz Media
MSRP: 7.95
Pages: 200
ISBN: 1-59116-874-0
Size: B6
Orientation: Right to Left