The first season of The Prince of Tennis comes to a close with
this second set of episodes. Though the series is incredibly popular
Japan, with manga volumes, CDs, stage plays, and even a weekly radio show,
the end of the first season of the anime left me cold. With horrible
animation, not much of a story and frequent flashbacks, the show loses
most of the charm it had in the first half.
Ryoma Echizen has just started going to Seishun Academy, a junior high
(7th -9th grades) renowned for its strong tennis club. As a 7th grader,
he's supposed to spend his time with the club picking up tennis balls and
running drills, but Ryoma is no ordinary pupil. He's the son of Nanjiro
Echizen, a former tennis pro who mysteriously quit at the playing while
at the top of his game, and an exceptional tennis player himself.
The regulars (the members who get to play in tournaments) of the Seishun
Gakuen tennis club are not slouches themselves however. They take
tennis very seriously and play to win. Having earned a slot on the
regular team by performing well in the first school tournament, Ryoma is
ready for first real tournament of the year. Seishun does well in
the early rounds, but winning the tournament isn't going to be as easy
as they hoped.
For the final round, Seishun is pitted against an unknown school, Fudomine.
They pulled out of the tournament cycle last year, for mysterious reasons,
but now their back and tearing up the court. With a strong will to
win and the skill to make their dream a reality, Seishun is in for a tough
time. With Ryoma scheduled to play the second to last match, he'll
have to play his best to beat Shinji Ibu, a player who has a kick serve
just like Ryoma's.
That tournament takes op the first half of the set. Afterwards
the show relaxes a bit and has a couple of comic episodes, including one
about a serial purse snatcher who keeps knocking down Kaido who is out
jogging. The pace picks up again as the team starts to practice for
the next tournament. The season ends with a two-part duel when the
head of Seishun's Tennis Team challenges Ryoma to a match. Will the
pint-sized player be able to beat Seishun's best man?
Like the first boxed set, this group of episodes has a lot of problems.
The worst thing about this show is the animation. For such a popular
manga I was really surprised that the animation was done on the cheap.
There is very little movement, and every economy has been taken.
When Ryoma or an opponent enters the court, they pan across a still image
of the player. When people are walking, only their heads are shown
with a moving background. What's worse is that this show about tennis
doesn't show many volleys. Instead of watching the ball go back and
forth over the net, the camera will focus on one player hitting the ball.
While the background consists only of colored streaks the player will hit
the ball, (sometimes they won't even animate that movement and just have
a still image in an action pose) and then they cut to the ball landing
on the court. Yes, it saves money but it sure looks bad.
Another money saving technique that is often used is to replay scenes
from earlier episodes as recaps. I don't mind this every once in
a while, but nearly every episode has a one to two minute replayed scene,
often coming from the previous episode. This was really too much
and got to be ridiculous by the end of the set.
As for the show itself, there's not much meat here. Ryoma is arrogant
and aloof, and he doesn't even have to work to be a good tennis player...he
just is one. The mystery about his father's retirement from tennis
at the top of his game was intriguing in the first half of the season,
but it's barely mentioned in this half.
The tennis itself is absolutely stupid. Players jump straight
up 6-9 feet in the air, the ball magically gains and looses momentum at
will, and the techniques employed are flat out impossible.
Kaido has his "Boomerang Snake" shot where he hits the ball off the court,
but once the ball has passed on the outside of the net pole it curves back
in. The team captain has a shot where the ball lands on his opponent's
side of the court and doesn't bounce, it just rolls away...towards the net!
It is impossible to suspend ones disbelief when idiotic things like that
While the first half held some promise, this section doesn't build on
that at all. If anything the show has gotten stupider and any of
the charm that the earlier shows contained has been eliminated. It's
not quite as gripping as other sports anime and lacks excitement both on
and off the court, which made me wonder more than once why I was watching
This set presents episodes 14-26 on three discs. The discs come
in a fold-out case which is housed in an attractive slipcase. Also
included with the discs is a small 'poster' of Ryoma and his cat Karupin.
Viewers have the option of watching this show with the original Japanese
soundtrack or an English dub, both in stereo. I alternated between
languages and found that I enjoyed the Japanese track better, but not by
a whole lot. The English dub is good though I found the voices of
the girls to be rather annoying. Neither soundtrack was very dynamic,
but then again tennis isn't the most aural of sports. The quality
of the audio was fine, though nothing to write home about. There
are optional English subtitles, though signs (and written match pairings)
are not translated.
The full frame image looks pretty good, which isn't too surprising since
the animation is so basic and sparse. The lines are tight and the
colors are solid. On the digital side things also look good.
Aliasing isn't a problem and neither is macro blocking or cross colorization,
the flaws that plague animation the most. Overall the disc reproduces
the show well; it's just a shame that the animation wasn't better.
The extras are pretty slim in this set. The only bonus items are
clean versions of the original Japanese opening and closing and a couple
of Japanese promo spots (without English subs.) There are also trailers
for two Shonen Jump anime series and a slide with information on how to
subscribe to the magazine.
This show, which started off pretty weak, has gone downhill. The
animation is just as bad and the characters are still paper thin but the
tennis has gotten much worse. What's more, the little charm that
the first half of this season had has pretty much been eliminated.
This show has gone from "not bad if you're really bored" to "painful to
watch." Skip it.