Thursday, June 26, 2008

Eyeshield 21 (manga, vol. 19) by Riichiro Inagaki (story) and Yusuke Murata (art)

In order to make it into the Kanto Tournament, the Deimon Devil Bats (a high school football team) must defeat the Bando Spiders. At the beginning of this volume, Bando is in the lead and high winds seem to be making things even harder for Deimon. However, Deimon, least of all Sena and Hiruma, don't plan to give up. Sena has finally admitted to everyone that he's not the real Eyeshield 21, but he still has a chance to prove that he can beat the person who is, Bando's Akaba.

This is not the most realistic of football stories. A lot of the characters have weird quirks (Hiruma's a demonic gun fanatic, for instance), and the different teams' themes have a tendency to get way over-the-top. However, despite, or maybe because of, all of that, this is an exciting and enjoyable series, something that also applies to this particular volume. Taken by itself, I don't think this volume is the best so far in this series, but I enjoyed it as part of the story as a whole, because it shows how Deimon finishes the battle to become part of the Kanto Tournament.

As far as character development goes, this volume offers something unusual: information about Hiruma. It isn't much, only a couple panels worth, but apparently even Hiruma has a father out there somewhere, and Hiruma's father wants to do something to repair their relationship. Besides that, this isn't a big character development volume - there's a scary character with dreadlocks who I assume will be getting more time in the next volume, and Sena becomes a bit more self-confident as he continues to improve his skills.

Even if you (like me) don't like football, I recommend trying this series. It's energetic and action-packed, there's tons of sometimes silly humor, and there's buckets of emotion as various players improve their skills and either defeat other players or are defeated themselves.

If you're interested in the next stage, the Kanto Tournament, this particular volume clearly shows what the lineup will be for the tournament.

This volume has a few extras: a few funny pages of "Devil Bats Investigation Files", 24 color pages, a few short biographies for minor characters, and a funny little extra non-Eyeshield 21 comic strip.


  • Hikaru no Go (manga) by Yumi Hotta (story) and Takeshi Obata (art); Hikaru no Go (anime TV series) - When Hikaru discovers a haunted Go board, he suddenly finds himself saddled with Sai, a ghost who was once the emperor's Go instructor. Sai wants desperately to play more Go, giving Hikaru, who could care less about Go, no choice but to go out and find people to play against. As Hikaru learns more about Go, he becomes more involved in it and eventually works hard to become a professional Go player. Yes, Go is a board game and not a sport, but a lot of what Hikaru goes through emotionally is similar to what sports players like the ones in Eyeshield 21 go through. Those who'd like something with humor and tense and exciting (yes, I said exciting and I mean it) matches might like this manga/anime. The anime follows the plot of the manga pretty closely, so you can take your pick.
  • Whiste! (manga) by Daisuke Higuchi - Sho loves soccer, but his school's team won't let him play. He switches schools, practices every chance he gets, and improves his playing. Although Sho's not always the best player on whatever team he's on, he's so hard-working and enthusiastic that his mere presence tends to improve morale. Occasionally he does something on the soccer field that hints at how awesome he could be in the future - without knowing it, he attracts the attention of other players, spectators, and coaches, who are all waiting to see what sort of player he will become. Readers who'd like something more physical than my first suggestion, with exciting and emotionally-charged matches and amazing athletic growth, might like this series. Whistle! has less wacky humor than Eyeshield 21, but both series demonstrate a love for their particular sports and Sena and Sho are both players who encourage those around them just by working hard.
  • Yakitate!! Japan (manga) by Takashi Hashiguchi - Azuma Kazuma's goal is to make Ja-pan - every country except Japan seems to have its own national bread, and Azuma wants to correct this by making bread that would fit in with Japanese cuisine and be loved as much as rice. In pursuit of this goal, Azuma finds work at a branch of Pantasia, a famous bread-making chain. Bread-making isn't a sport, but you wouldn't always know it from reading Yakitate!! Japan - in this wacky manga, people bake the craziest things, competing rabidly against one another. Just as Eyeshield 21 is based on realistic football rules and strategies, despite its wackiness, Yakitate!! Japan also apparently bases at least some of its amazing bread-making on real bread-making techniques. Those who'd like a wacky, humorous manga filled with tense, emotionally-charged competition might like this series.

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