Creator: Takeshi Konomi
Length: 178 Episodes
+ Great cast of characters
+ Entertaining tennis matches
Never before has watching tennis been this interesting! First year middle school student Echizen Ryoma strives to reach the top of Japan and win Seigaku's first-ever National Championship. This series never fails to entertain and you'll find yourself playing tennis after watching this series!
4.5 out of 5 · Highly Recommended
Prince of Tennis Anime Review
Written by: Raye on 10/7/2006
Echizen Ryoma is a genius on the tennis court. In only his first year of middle school, he has won numerous titles in tournaments held around the United States. After returning back home to Japan, Ryoma takes the Seishun Gakuen tennis team by storm, becoming the first ever freshman Regular. Despite his superb skills, Ryoma still has a lot more to learn about tennis, as he soon finds out when playing against some of Japan's finest middle schoolers. Alongside his teammates, Ryoma strives to take Seigaku to the top of country and make his mark in becoming the Prince of Tennis.
The Prince of Tennis develops a bit slow in the beginning, taking its time to evolve into a very enjoyable series. The first episode isn't anything considerably spectacular, but it serves as a nice teaser for what's to come. The story doesn't really begin until Ryoma enters Seigaku and participates in the Regulars ranking matches, an inner school round round-styled tournament that determines the middle school's eight starters. In these episodes, we are given brief introductions of the other Seigaku Regulars, who share the spotlight along with Ryoma as the main cast.
Seigaku's first match is against an unknown middle school by the name of Fudoumine. Again, the series does not illustrate its greatest potential so early in its run. Rather, it serves as yet another teaser. By no means should this be an incentive for anyone to quit watching the show because the best is yet to come. If you fail to be impressed by this first showing, don't worry, the later matches will wash away your skepticism.
Personally, I felt as though the series didn't begin to shine until after the fiftieth episode, around the time when Seigaku faces off against one of their arch rivals, Hyotei Gakuen. The reason for this could simply be because Fudoumine and Yamabuki, Seigaku's second opponent, didn't have many characters that could compete in terms of likeability with the main cast.
While the tennis matches are essentially what the series builds around, the characters remain just as important. The development of Prince of Tennis' large cast is something that not many anime titles can pull off. Think about this: when Seigaku played off against Fudoumine, about twenty characters had already been introduced. By time the anime series finished its run, that number nearly quadrupled. Fortunately, Prince of Tennis makes it very easy for those of us who have a hard time remembering names. Even if a viewer can't remember a character's, it's very easy to reflect back and recall what his signature shot was.
Personality also plays a key factor in characterization. Practically all of the characters have their own unique personality, making it possible for everyone to have at least one favorite. Determined heroes, delinquent punks, and juiced-up badasses are just some of the variety you will find. Of course, female fans may have a harder time in making a decision since the show has many labeled bishonen, the most popular being Fuji and Kikumaru of Seigaku.
The only negative thing about Prince of Tennis is its noticeable drop in a quality storyline after Seigaku played in the Regional finals. Like many series with Shonen Jump manga counterparts, Prince of Tennis "pulled a Naruto" and began to air fillers until TV Tokyo pulled the plug on the show after an entire season's worth of "lacking" episodes. The stand alone fillers were not necessarily awful, but rather, the filler arc consisting of a tournament between Japanese and American players spelt impending doom. Ironically, Prince of Tennis shares the same fate as Slam Dunk, a basketball-themed series, in the sense that it ended before its National tournament began.
Sports-themed anime series have grown in popularity over the last couple of years. There are series about soccer, football, and even one about golf. Prince of Tennis stands alone in the tennis genre, and while it faces no opposition, I believe that it will never drop from its spot regardless of what kind of competition comes along. Forget about the ending and the fact that they messed up the storyline; just remember the spectacular matches and the characters you found yourself admiring along the way. If you have even started playing tennis like me after watching this series, then it's quite apparent that you're more of a fan than you think. Of course, if you still are bummed out by the disappointing ending of the series, be aware that there is an OAV series for the show that showcases the beginning of the Nationals, and that includes Seigaku's first match as well!
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