Fri, 7 August 2009
Manga review of The Prince of Tennis Volume 2: Adder's Fangs by Takeshi Konomi. Translated by Joe Yamazaki. Adapted by Gerard Jones. Originally published in Japan by Shueisha. Published in US by Viz Shonen Jump, $7.95, Rated A for All Ages.
Ryoma is facing his first real challenge in the Seishun tennis team ranking tournament in which the top 8 players will rise to the top and become starters. These 8 players will represent the school at all tournaments for the season. Ryoma's challenge comes in the form of Kaido, one of the current starters whose nickname is "Viper". Why Viper? Because not only are his physical mannerisms and menacing personality like that of a dangerous serpent, he has a special shot called "the snake". He is able to hit the ball with such intense spin that when it touches the opposite court it bounces away from his opponent. His plan is to make Ryoma run back and forth trying to hit balls until he is exhausted. You don't think Ryoma is just going to let Kaido's strategy unfold without a challenge, do you? And waiting in the wings for the winner is Inui, also a starter, whose keen analytical mind makes him a tennis playing version of Shikamaru from Naruto.
Two reporters from the magazine Pro Tennis Monthly, Mamoru and Saori, show up to see the Ranking tournament. Their hope is to discover a new talent that will ignite the tennis world. We also get first wind of a school that has almost as high a standing in the tennis world as Seishun: Rikai Junior High. I'm sure it's only a matter of time before these two titans collide.
Ryoma Echizen is quite a unique protagonist than the usual Shonen Jump hero. Usually, the main character starts off relatively weak or clueless or has to go through constant battles, get defeated, train intensely, kick butt for a while, get defeated, retrain etc. Repeat ad infinitum. But Ryoma appears in this series to be a total finished product. He is already highly skilled, has already trained for years, has already experienced all kinds of adversity. Ryoma perfects new moves just by briefly reading about them. He appears to be at the top of his game and is able to beat all comers. So who is gonna stop this kid? Somebody is, I'm sure. If Ryoma just kicks everyone's butt, how can there be any progression in the story? So far, I haven't seen him get too worried about anyone he's played. He's always calm and cool. But I think his hubris is going to catch up to him somewhere in the next couple of volumes. So maybe we're just delaying the training cycle? Another one of Ryoma's weaknesses is his lack of people skills. He only cares about tennis. He tends to blow off people, especially absent minded Sakuno. It will be interesting to see if this aspect of his personality changes and he softens up a bit.
My Grade: A
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Fri, 7 August 2009
Manga review of Naruto Volume 39: On the Move by Masashi Kishimoto. Translated by Mari Morimoto. Adapted by Deric Hughes and Benjamin Raab. Originally published in Japan by Shueisha. Published in US by Viz Shonen Jump, $7.95, Rated T for Teen.
Orochimaru is dead! Long live Sasuke! After deciding that he was stronger than Orochimaru, and thereby had a greater chance to kill Itachi, Sasuke used Orochimaru's own transference technique to absorb the evil shinobi's power. He now sets about putting his own team together to help him take down Itachi. Last volume he was joined by Suigetsu, a descendant of Zabuza, who was the first real test for Cell 7 way back in the first 4 volumes of Naruto. Then Karin, a warden of one of Orochimaru's prisons, who has extremely useful tracking skills (she also has a crush on Sasuke!) was enlisted. As volume 39 opens, Sasuke's band has arrived at another prison to pick up their last member, Jugo, a ninja whose bloodlust transforms him into a crazed monster a little bit like the Hulk. Jugo also happens to be the source of Orochimaru's curse mark. The ironic thing is that Jugo wants to stay in prison. He's actually a nice guy but gets possessed by sudden urges to kill. He sought out Orochimaru to see if he could be cured!
Meanwhile, two teams of Leaf ninja are sent out to find Itachi. The reasoning being that if they find him, they will either find Sasuke, or if they can capture Itachi, be able use him as bait to draw out his younger brother. One team is comprised of Yamato, Sai, Sakura, and Naruto. The other, Kakashi, Hinata, Kiba, and Shino.
One of the strongest aspects of this series is Kishimoto's ability to make every character, no matter how supporting or minor a role, into living breathing people. Every character has something they want, a motivation for what they are doing. There's nobody in this manga that is just there for window dressing. Now, that's not to say that all of their motivations are for GOOD.
Kabuto comes off as a very tragic figure. We find out in this volume that he has grafted part of Orochimaru's body onto his own. The problem is that, like a living thing, Orochimaru's essence is trying to take over Kabuto's body. Kishimoto's genius is to show us that contrary to all our perceptions of the evil that Orochimaru has done to this world, Kabuto saw him as his father! That's right, Kabuto saw Orochimaru as his only family! Kabuto had no memory and was used as a spy for most of his young life before being taken in by Orochimaru. Weirdly enough, he grafted the body part on in a twisted imitation of Naruto. Now, he too, seeks out Sasuke, but for revenge. It's just so cool that Kishimoto has now made Kabuto into a abominated Naruto. Naruto is still working on taming his inner demon. Will Kabuto be able to conquer his?
As usual, great writing, great art. This volume also has 2 Sasuke tear out bookmarks.
My Grade: A+