Ryoma and Genichiro's match (Seishun and Rikkai's last match of the Kanto Tournament finals) continues and ends in this volume. Things aren't looking good for Ryoma, who's struggling to hold his own against Genichiro's "Furin Kazan" shot. However, Ryoma's teammates know he's not going to give up. Ryoma figures out a way to beat Furin Kazan - he enters the selfless state at just the right moment and cancels out Genichiro's Furin Kazan with an opposing Furin Kazan ("destroy like fire" is weak against "fast as the wind," etc.). Genichiro figures Ryoma will manage to exhaust himself before the end of the match, but apparently this exhausting pace is Ryoma's "optimal pace." Amazingly, Ryoma's shots actually increase in speed. Flashbacks reveal that Ryoma had played similarly exhausting matches against Kunimitsu. Flashbacks also reveal that Kunimitsu asked Seishun's coach to put Ryoma in No. 1 Singles in order to unlock his immense potential.
During Ryoma's match against Genichiro, Genichiro and others see a samurai in Ryoma, calling to mind Ryoma's father (whose nickname as a pro tennis player was "Samurai Nanjiro"). There's even speculation that Ryoma's spectacular skills aren't necessarily the result of natural talent, but rather were drilled into him as a child by his father without him even realizing it. In the end, Ryoma wins the match with his "Cool Drive" shot, which causes the ball to skid across the court rather than rebound.
The six teams that will be competing in the Nationals are Midoriyama Junior High (6th place), Yamabuki Junior High (5th), Rokkaku (4th), Fudomine Junior High (3rd), Rikkai (2nd), and Seishun (1st). The volume ends with a summer-themed break - Seishun and Rokkaku are holding a joint training camp at the beach. In the spirit of fun and competition, they're holding a beach volleyball tournament in which the losers have to drink Sadaharu's Special Solution (sardine juice). Everyone gets paired off, but readers will have to wait until the next volume to see how the volleball tournament turns out.
You know, I was almost hoping Ryoma might lose against Genichiro. I'm not entirely sure about this, but I don't think losing against Rikkai would've hurt their chances of getting into the Nationals (I know that contradicts what I wrote in my post for the previous volume, but that's because I'm just thoroughly confused about how the tournament works), and I kind of think Ryoma could stand to lose a game. He's just creepily good, and apparently he's capable of playing beyond his physical limits. I think he probably sweated several pounds away in this match. Everyone loses sometime, but I don't think I've ever read a Prince of Tennis volume in which Ryoma didn't win.
I really hate the selfless state, and I'm hoping that this is the last time is shows up. Unlike some of the techniques the players in this series use, the selfless state doesn't feel all that realistic, and since Ryoma seems to have limitless endurance it also seems a bit like Konomi's cheating. However, the energy of this volume was great, and I liked getting to see Kunimitsu again, even if only in flashbacks.
The beach volleyball match should be fun, although I kind of wonder about a bunch of tennis players playing volleyball. I'm sure Konomi will find a way for the different players to imitate their signature tennis shots during the games, even though they shouldn't be able to - after all, just because someone can play one sport really well doesn't mean they can play another just as well or with as much control. I'm just going to have to suspend my brain and enjoy the humor - Sadaharu's special juice may be an old joke, but it's one I still enjoy.
Overall, this volume was okay. This might turn out to be the last volume of this series I'm ever going to read, because I've never liked this series enough to feel like buying it, and no libraries in the area I've moved to collect it. As far as extras go, there's a note from Konomi and a few pages of "Rikkai Question Corner."
Read-alikes and Watch-alikes:
- Whistle! (manga) by Daisuke Higuchi - In this series, a hard-working boy named Sho transfers to a new school just so that he can get a better chance to play soccer. Although he isn't very good at soccer, he practices long and hard and gradually improves his skills. Others begin to notice him, and Sho becomes part of his school's team. Even though he isn't usually the best player, people notice him because his cheerful, determined presence tends to improve moral and his flashes of brilliant playing hint at future greatness. Those who'd like another series featuring exciting sports competition that is represented in a realistic way (at this point, even more realistic than Prince of Tennis) might like this title.
- Eyeshield 21 (manga) by Riichirou Inagaki (story) and Yuusuke Murata (art) - Sena, a freshman in high school, has been bullied for years and, as a result, has learned to run really fast. His talent is spotted by Hiruma, the hilariously sadistic president of the American Football Club, who forces Sena to join the club as the mysterious "Eyeshield 21." Those who'd like another long-running series featuring intense sports competition might enjoy this manga. Even if you don't like football, I'd still suggest this series - Inagaki, aware that many Japanese readers might not know how football works, explains many of the rules (so even American readers who don't know the rules can follow along) and keeps things fun, even for non-football lovers, by cranking up the wild and weird humor.
- Hikaru no Go (manga) by Yumi Hotta (story) and Takeshi Obata (art); Hikaru no Go (anime TV series) - Twelve-year-old Hikaru is looking through his grandfather's things for something he can sell when he comes across a haunted Go board. Sai, the ghost of a long-dead Go instructor, is delighted that Hikaru can see him and basically forces him to give him opportunities to play Go. Hikaru is reluctant, at first, but he gradually learns to love the game and starts on the path to becoming a professional Go player. Those who'd like a manga series with exciting one-on-one competition might like this manga. Yes, I did say that a manga about a board game has exciting competition - Hotta and Obata do an excellent job of making the Go matches both exciting and believable.
- 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 series featuring lots of intense competition (in this case, often in the form of life-and-death battles) and characters whose abilities "evolve" as the series progresses might enjoy this title.