Jul 21, 2010
Manga review of The Prince of Tennis volume 4: The Black Unit 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.
If seeds in a tournament were guaranteed wins everybody would win the NCAA basketball March Madness brackets every year. There's always a team that comes out of nowhere to shake up the brackets. The District Prelims in Prince of Tennis are no different. It was supposed to be a sure thing that Seishun would be facing Kakinoki Jr. High next. One of its players had even gotten in the face of Seishun's captain, Tezuka, last volume. But Kakinoki is eliminated by the unseeded team from Fudomine Junior High. Fudomine has a bit of a bad reputation because they had to forfeit the city tournament the year before because their captain, named Kippei, had assaulted his own coach! We find out he did it for a good reason. This year they're back with all-new starters and Kippei serving as their defacto coach. Volume 4 mainly covers the first two matches between Seishun and Fudomine. Shusuke and Takashi team up for doubles, while Kaido and his "Snake Shot" is entered in singles.
As with a lot of sports manga that I read, or even a title like Hikaru No Go, I get excited about each match like it's really going to happen. That's the magic of manga that American comic books will never be able to capture. The excitement and thrill of a sport, a game, or just an ordinary event in an ordinary life, is something only manga seems capable of doing. Of course, there is always an element of hyper reality to a Shonen Jump title. I played tennis on my high school team, and let me tell you, I've never heard of any of these giant robot-like shots that I see in The Prince of Tennis. But it's there to make it fun. The thrill to me comes in seeing the characters face off against each other. I'm always in suspense wondering what secret shot each player is going to have and how Ryoma or the other Seishun team members will counterattack. It's not for everybody, but I love that kind of thing. The other thing I like about the series is watching Ryoma kick ass against other players that THINK they are kick ass. There's nothing better than seeing an megalomaniac egotist or bully be knocked down. If anything, Ryoma reminds me very much of Michael Jordan, who knew he was good and didn't hide it but let his game do most of the talking.
My grade: A
You can listen to my podcast review of Volume 1 of The Prince of Tennis here:
You can also read the first chapter of volume 1 for free at Viz: