Monday, October 27, 2008

The Prince of Tennis (manga, vol. 26) by Takeshi Konomi

Shusuke continues his match despite his temporary blindness. He's doing a great job, but Akaya's determined to win. It's a tense match, and when it begins to look like Akaya can't quite keep up, he achieves something called the "selfless state," which allows him to use the shots of every player he's ever played against. The only reason Shusuke manages to win is because of a tip Ryoma yells out and Akaya's physical inability to keep up the selfless state for long. The next and final match is between Rikkai's Genichiro Sanada and Seishun's Ryoma Echizen. Everything is riding on this match - although Ryoma is good, he may be too young to handle Genichiro. Apparently Ryoma's aware of this, because he starts using the selfless state right away.

Ryoma has played against many tough opponents, so he has a lot of shots to draw from, but Genichiro uses Furin Kazan, a mode of playing so powerful and effective that his opponents always lose their will to play. However, Ryoma seems to be able to handle even Furin Kazan while in the selfless state - at least until it becomes apparent that the energy drain from the selfless state may be tiring him out too quickly. Suddenly, Genichiro brings out the real Furin Kazan, and Ryoma is too exhausted to fight back. By the end of the volume, Ryoma appears to be near defeat.

In this particular volume, Konomi seems to have dropped any pretense of writing a mostly realistic tennis manga. I mean, come on. Characters who can mimick any shot that's ever been used against them, as swirls of selfless state power whirl around them? A tennis player capable of playing excellently against someone from a number-one ranked team while temporarily blinded? I suppose Furin Kazan might be possible (I'm not entirely sure what's involved when Genichiro uses it), but the others seem far-fetched.

That doesn't mean the series isn't still exciting - it's fun to see what sorts of things the characters will do in an attempt to win. It's just that it was even more fun when there was a possibility that the matches could theoretically happen the way Konomi wrote and drew them. I'm looking forward to seeing how Ryoma manages to win his match (he can't lose, or it's all over for Seishun getting into the Nationals), but I'm not expecting that he'll manage to win in any kind of realistic way.

Sometimes I wish that Konomi would allow readers to see Ryoma's thoughts during matches. He sounds cocky and confident when he talks to Genichiro during the match, but he knows that the selfless state is sapping his energy - is he actually worried and afraid inside, or is there no doubt in his mind that he'll win? If the former is true, that it would be nice to see that, because it would make Ryoma seem a little more human. If the latter is true, then Ryoma really needs to lose a little more often - confidence is nice, but too much confidence is just annoying.

As far as extras go, there are a few pages inserted here and there throughout the volume, basically just a few parts of the "Rikkai Question Corner" (Rikkai team members answer questions submitted by Japanese readers) and a short author note.

Read-alikes and Watch-alikes:
  • Naruto (manga) by Masashi Kishimoto; Naruto (anime TV series) - Naruto, a young ninja, is determined to become the best ninja in his village, but he must first learn teamwork and better fighting techniques in order to survive all the tests he needs to pass in order to become a full-fledged ninja. Those who'd like another lengthy series with intense matches (in Naruto's case, these tend to be life-and-death battles) might want to try this title. In addition, Prince of Tennis's selfless state makes me think of Sharingan, a technique a few characters in Naruto use that allows them to copy other people's moves.
  • Rurouni Kenshin (manga) by Nobuhiro Watsuki; Rurouni Kenshin (anime TV series) - During the violent Bakumatsu era, the assassin known as Hitokiri Battousai paved the way for the Restoration, killing many. Years later, this man, now known as Rurouni Kenshin, has given up killing and chooses to wander from town to town. After he helps a woman named Kamiya Kaoru, his wandering life becomes more rooted, at least temporarily. Kenshin is willing to fight to help others, but he does whatever he can to avoid having to kill. Those who'd like another lengthy series with intense matches (again, in this case the matches are life-and-death battles) might want to try this title. In addition, a bit of the commentary at the end of this volume of Prince of Tennis compares a technique Genichiro uses to a technique a swordsman might use; it reminded me of some of the descriptions of new techniques Kenshin uses.

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