Thursday, August 22, 2013

Rewind: The Prince of Tennis

In this post, I try to look objectively at an anime that I used to list as a favorite. "Try" is the operative word here...

I learned early on that I didn't like movies about sports. They tended to be boring, too realistic, and/or emotionally painful. If my parents put on Facing the Giants or The Rookie, I'd probably scoot on up to my room to enjoy something that was not so reality-based. Fantasy and action-adventure books and TV were my first choices. When I started watching anime, I naturally assumed that my genre preferences would remain the same.

I assumed incorrectly.

Echizen Ryoma looks confident as usual as he shows
off his split step in a match against his senpai in ep. 8.
The Prince of Tennis was my first sports anime. I can't remember why I decided to try it. Perhaps it was a recommendation or review on Anime-Planet. Perhaps it was an automatically generated suggestion on Hulu. Regardless, once I clicked on the first episode, there was no going back. One hundred seventy-eight episodes later, I was still hungry for more of my favorite tennis team.

Looking back, I see that The Prince of Tennis isn't perfect. The animation is over ten years old, and it shows. The plot is fairly simple shounen tournament fare. Many of the female characters are annoying, and Horio, an arrogant first-year, is worse. And... okay, actually, it's rather difficult for me to come up with very many things wrong with this show. My biggest beef is that only the first fifty episodes are available on Hulu, so I can't finish re-watching it without crossing my boundaries.

So, what made The Prince of Tennis so great in my eyes?

1. It introduced me to the joy of sports anime. For that, I will be forever grateful.

2. The main character, Echizen Ryoma, was very interesting to watch. His tennis matches and his improvement were amazing. I kept wondering what trick he'd show us next. Yet he wasn't completely invincible, so his matches kept me on the edge of my seat.

3. The other characters, especially the senpai in the tennis club, were endearing and entertaining. From the really cool club president, Tezuka, to the enthusiastic Momo, all of them earned a special place in my heart.

4. Its feel was closer to a shounen action anime than the sports movies I'd seen, complete with special moves and intense aura.

5. It made me laugh.

If you haven't given The Prince of Tennis a shot yet, then I have only one thing to say to you: "Mada made dane."

Or, at least, I'd like to say that to you. Maybe I should tell you to stay away instead, lest you fall in love with it, only to have your fun come to a screeching halt after episode 50. Viz Media doesn't carry any episodes beyond that at all. It's not available via streaming, downloading, or even DVD. And even that is only for the United States and Canada, as far as I can tell.

New Prince of Tennis is available on Crunchyroll. That picks up where the last series left off, I believe. The main reason I liked that was because I was already in love with the characters. Other than that, I was disappointed by it. I don't know how much you'd like it unless you'd already seen a good portion of the preceding series.

In sum: The Prince of Tennis is really entertaining, although I'll admit it's not perfect. Unfortunately, less than half of the series is available legally to U.S. residents. When you count all the movies and OVAs, the proportion gets even more disappointing. If you want the entire story, you'll have to watch something uploaded without license or read the manga (that, at least, is available in the States). So, despite my ravings about this show, maybe you shouldn't give it a try after all.


  1. I've never been much of a sports fan, and even then i'd rather play it than watch it. I've never understood the people that play video games based on sports, but i'm willing to give anime based of sports a go because i've had a few people recommend them to me.
    In any case, it'll be a while before I get to them through my backlog XD

    1. I'm not a sports fan either, so it was a big surprise when it became one of my favorite topics in anime. And I felt so proud of myself when I could explain [American] football rules, albeit very basic ones, to my sister because I watched Eyeshield 21, a football anime. :) And when I hear people talk about great basketball skills, I automatically think of my favorite characters from Kuroko or even Dear Boys. :)


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