[My thoughts on Prince of Tennis, the first Sports anime I ever watched.]
Prince of Tennis is one of the oldest anime/ manga that I follow. I started watching this mess way before even One Piece, and yes it’s still running (unfortunately). Don’t get the wrong idea though, this story is not completely horrible; in fact, the only thing that I actually hate about Prince of Tennis is the tennis. What I don’t hate are the characters, the comedy and the camaraderie, and there’re plenty of those in this story.
Given that this is essentially a story about tennis teams, and that there are lots of teams, each with lots of members, this show has A LOT of characters. The great thing is that they are introduced slowly, so my brain didn’t die trying to remember them all at once. We start off with the protagonist, Echizen Ryoma, who swings from incredibly inspiring to incredibly dull, depending on the episode/ chapter. He doesn’t have a great range of facial expressions but it’s not really an issue because he has enough snark to keep it entertaining. And then there’s his team: The Seigaku Tennis Club which is funny, hardworking and endearing and somehow makes up for some of the tennis nonsense in the show.
As the story progresses, we are also introduced to other rival teams, with characters who are just as strange, amusing and engaging as the Seigaku players (if not more). A prime example would be Atobe Keigo, the captain of a rival team and a very important supporting character, who sort of steals the show every time he shows up. In the sequel (New Prince of Tennis) supporting characters like Atobe take the centre stage, something that I completely didn’t mind because personally, some of these supporting characters are even more fun to watch than the main team members.
Comedy is a key aspect of what kept me attracted to Prince of Tennis. When they’re not playing a match, the boys are usually in some stage of trouble. There’s humour in the form of dubious health concoctions, ridiculous levels of competitiveness and even the supernatural. Basically because everyone’s personality is so distinct, their interactions make it easy for jokes to happen and even serious situations don’t stay serious for long. Seriously, I have laughed myself to tears watching some episodes of this show.
I also loved the friendship and solidarity between the characters in this story. A story about tennis is quite straightforward and there are no plot twists or mysteries hiding behind the curtains. This is essentially a story about the interactions between some very intriguing personalities and tennis is simply the medium that brings them together. Their friendship develops over the course of the story and it is clear that even the rival teams are (generally) friendly. Most of the boys are supportive of each other and work together to develop their special tennis powers. Especially within the Seigaku Tennis Club, there’s a real bond and some kind of brotherhood between the boys, which is what makes them very lovable.
Unfortunately, because this show is Prince of TENNIS, there is TENNIS involved – or rather a type of tennis involving illusions, elaborately named moves and shots that defy all laws of gravity. One must suspend common sense before embarking on this story because it will be a rough ride otherwise.
It starts off innocently enough, with just a twist serve (our protagonist’s signature move) but things spiral into madness rather quickly from there. There’s a snake move, some circus level acrobatics and by the end you’re staring at the child of God who steals his opponents’ senses, plunging them into a pit of despair! And then, the sequel comes along and we even see a character that can create a black hole with a swing of his racket. With such divine powers, these characters could easily outdo the Avengers or the Justice League as superheroes, but they chose to play tennis instead (too bad for the world, I guess).
Even without the magic, the tennis matches are rife with drama. Characters scream a lot, get injured a lot, and some even attain enlightenment in the middle of a match. For the most part, I just try and enjoy the drama but if there is one thing that I absolutely hate, it is when one of the characters says “the match has only just started’ because the match would have been dragging on and on for a few episodes by then. And this happens quite frequently.
I know based on some of the other sports based anime/ manga that I have read and watched that “magic“ is rather inevitable in this genre. However, Prince of Tennis does take things a bit too far, to the point that I prefer to skip over the matches and read everything else in between.
So would I recommend Prince of Tennis? No; not unless you don’t mind the magic and drama involved in the tennis part of it. If you think you will never be able to set aside your common sense, don’t start on this story. Personally, I have had a lot of fun watching and reading Prince of Tennis but not everyone will enjoy a show that has this much stupidity, notwithstanding the numerous fun characters and comedy.