[A review/ ramble on the rather ancient Eyeshield 21 (anime+manga)]
This is one of the sports anime/manga classics that I think almost all fans of sports anime/ manga would have watched or read at some point. Eyeshield 21 brought us the very clichéd story of an underdog American Football team (the Deimon Devil Bats) that attained glory and success through hard work and determination. It sounds like every other sports anime/ manga, yes, but Eyeshield 21 had a very distinctive feel to it.
That’s probably because it’s the flashiest of the lot. In fact, Eyeshield 21 was a bit like a costume party. The characters borrowed from very diverse elements – there was a demon, a cowboy, a lizard, a knight and even a train, to name a few. Imagine all these guys playing a sport together – there was never a dull moment. I couldn’t ever take the story seriously, but I enjoyed it nonetheless.
Eyeshield 21 had a long list of characters (as is the case with most sports anime/ manga). There’s the protagonist, Sena, who is the titular Eyeshield 21. Ironically, in a show brimming with odd people, his character design was remarkably unremarkable. There’s a very sound reason for this though – being “normal” meant that it was easier for the audience to relate to him and like him. But this also meant that he didn’t steal the show.
The character who really stole the show (at least for me) was Hiruma Yoichi (apparently his name can be literally translated to mean ‘devil in broad daylight’). The captain and quarterback of the Devil Bats, he was shrewd and unpredictable, and his antics contributed a lot of the humour entailed in this show. Hiruma is a standard example of just how outrageous some of the characters in the story were. If the captain of protagonist team is a firearm-wielding demon, that says a lot about the rest of the characters.
Eyeshield 21 was a long story, but the storyline (in spite of being cliché) was well-executed. The protagonist team built itself up from scratch, gathering its members slowly and training relentlessly. It was a slow and painful process and it took a long time before we saw the complete set; when they did eventually get there, and were acknowledged as the team with the best offense in the prefecture, it was quite a grand moment, worth the wait.
The anime adaptation of Eyeshield 21 got a lot of things right. It was vivid and colourful, and captured the element of fun. I also liked the different musical themes which played at all the right moments, adding to the drama.
Of course there were also downsides to the show. Firstly, there was the abrupt ending to the anime series. The show finished off after the Devil Bats competed with the White Knights, but did not show the rest of their journey. I understand that this has to do with the anime catching up to the manga but I was hoping for a continuation at some point. Unfortunately, many years have passed and it’s never going to happen.
Then, of course, there’s the usual magic show instead of actual sports. The characters also had the tendency to talk a lot (both in their heads and out loud) even in the middle of the action. It irked me a lot; I often found myself yelling at them to shut up and move. I guess that meant that I was engaged in what was happening and it was entertaining, in spite of all the silliness.
Entertaining is actually a good word to sum up this series. Even though I know close to nothing about American Football (not big in my country), I enjoyed the show enough that when the anime ended, I picked up the manga and read it all the way to its (rather expected) conclusion. All in all, Eyeshield 21 was a wholesome experience of the sports anime genre, staying true to every trope but never ceasing to be fun. In this day and age, I wouldn’t actually recommend anyone to watch it, but if you have, well, good for you I guess.
(So if you have watched Eyeshield 21 and have any thoughts to share, do leave them here!)