As a lifelong fan of "American football," I have always been completely mystified
about how the United States is fanatical about the sport and the rest of the world
just doesn't get it. To that end, I have no idea how soccer is in any way, shape,
or form considered entertaining. Cultural differences aside, I never knew that football
had nearly enough interest in Japan to warrant an anime series, much less one that
has achieved some modicum of success. Eyeshield 21 is a surprisingly good
anime series about American football that spans 145 episodes and a couple of OVA's
for good measure. It has also spawned video games for the Wii, PSP, and Playstation
2. Eyeshield 21: Collection 1 contains the first 13 episodes of the series.
Sena is your typical, nice-guy loser who's about to enter his first year of high
school. Throughout his life, Sena has never been able to make any real friends outside
of Mamori--a girl several years older who coddles Sena like her little brother. To
make friends, Sena looks to join a school club and discovers the football club.
Or rather Hiruma, the leader of the two-person football club, discovers Sena's running
speed. Sena has run from bullies his whole life. As a result, he developed exceptional
speed and quickness that directly correlate to the skills of a runningback in American
football. Hiruma notices Sena putting some slick moves on a gang of bullies and
immediately starts devising a scheme to get Sena into some pads.
Sena is petrified of rough sports such as football, so Hiruma convinces him to join
the football club as a manager--someone who handles the day-to-day operations of
the club. However, to join the football club, Sena agrees to play if the team is
behind. Afraid that other clubs will recruit Sena due to his lightspeed running,
Hiruma convices Sena to wears an eyeshield to keep Sena's identity a secret. As
such, Sena plays the dual role of manager and star football player. He makes excuses
to disappear during games, so he can reappear as the mysterious Eyeshield 21--the
A majority of the episodes in this set are devoted to the action on the football
field. A total of three games occur across the 13 episodes included in this boxset
and each of the games spans multiple episodes. The other episodes follow the trials
and tribulations of the football club practicing and trying to recruit students
to play the unknown sport.
It is fascinating to see how a sport that you have known your entire life is explained
to a foreign audience that has no clue what it's all about. The fooball clinics
at the commercial breaks were informative and similar to the Go lessons of
Hikaru No Go. These football clinics were kind of amusing. As someone
who often visualizes distance in terms of yards and football fields, it was hilarious
to see explanations describing how long the 40 yard dash is in terms of the metric
system. While educational to football newbies, some of the tactics and plays used
during the show would certainly draw a penalty flag, but that's nitpicking when
you consider that there are players with vampire teeth, Go-Go-Gadget arms, and lizard
tongues. For the most part, Eyeshield 21 is an excellent introduction to
football and I can easily see this show creating legions of new American football
Eyeshield 21 ranks high in the sports anime genre and is comparable to Fighting
Spirit, which I consider the best series in this genre. Eyeshield 21
and Fighting Spirit are both alike in that they use nerdy, aloof, underdogs
as protagonists who slowly develop into superstars. Both shows exaggerate many aspects
of the sports they cover and use character superpowers to make them more appealing
to anime audiences. Both Eyeshield 21 and Fighting Spirit also include
a great supporting cast of characters. In fact, Sena's Demon Bats teammates are
more likeable and compelling than the supporting cast of Fighting Spirit.
The one area where Eyeshield 21 does not quite match up with Fighting Spirit
is in sub-plots. Eyeshield 21's story is solely focused on the football
club and their quest to recruit more players and win games.
Eyeshield 21 is at its best when there's football action on the screen, which
is most of the time. The games are exciting and the series moves at a quick clip.
There were quite a few episodes where I was surprised that the credits were already
rolling. It should also be noted that some of the comedy and slapstick portions
are hilarious and there were more than a few laugh out loud moments. When the show
moves away from the football field, the story reveals its warts. The whole notion
that Sena has to wear an eyeshield to protect his identity is weak. Sena is not
some superhero who needs to hide his identity from criminal masterminds. Hiruma
claims that if people find out that Sena runs fast, then he will be recruited by
other sports clubs. Sena also keeps his identity secret from most of the team, which
includes his lifelong friend Mamori whose lack of observational skills is eclipsed
only by Lois Lane.
We know nothing about Sena except that he was bullied his entire life and had no
friends, except Mamori, until he joined the football club. How are his grades in
school? Who are his parents? Are they even at the games supporting their son? What
else does Sena like? Does he have any love interest? I want to know more about him.
I want to know more about his friend Mamori. What about Sena's teammates? Why does
Hiruma have fangs and a loaded bazooka handy at all times? Why does Kurita look
like he's from Hello Kitty? In fact, you get more engaging background story on the
rival team's players Shin and Sakuraba. This critique is made purely out of love,
however. The fact that I am truly interested in learning more about these characters
is a compliment to the show so far. They have 132 more episodes to cover those topics;
I just hope for more in the next boxset.
Sound: The audio is Japanese 2.0 with English subtitles. The sound was average
for a television anime series with no noticeable distortions or other anomalies
to skip past your eardrum and drive directly into your spinal cord.
Video: The series is presented in full-frame 4:3 video. I am guessing that the art budget was limited because
many sequences of animation are used repeatedly in these first 13 episodes (such
as Sena's first kickoff return, which I saw in full, at least three separate times).
As for the transfer quality, the image is vibrant, but there was some minor pixelization throughout the series.
Extras: The only extras are for other anime released by Sentai Filmworks
and the DVD credits. Come on Sentai Filmworks! There are so many possibilities with
football anime extras. At least get a football player to comment on one of the football
Final Thoughts: As an introduction to football, Eyeshield 21 does
good job at covering basic football rules and strategy. The sport of football has
a high learning curve and Eyeshield 21 makes what can be a daunting subject
to newcomers fun to learn. Yes, the story is simplistic and lacks substance, but
it's highly accessible and the action is truly fun to watch. You will find yourself
rooting on the Deimon Devil Bats like they were your own home team. I can't wait
to find out if Sena will develop into a worthy adversary for local superstar player
Shin in the upcoming episodes. This show will likely appeal even to non-sports fans,
but if you like the the sport of football or are intersted in learning what it's
all about,then there is no doubt. Eyeshield 21 is whole-heartedly Recommended.
Bobby is a programmer by trade and a wannabe writer. Check out his other reviews here. You can also check out his blog about harmless nonsense or follow him on Twitter