The third set of The Prince of Tennis starts the show's second season. Though the inaugural season was successful in Japan, that popularity didn't translate into a larger budget for the show. Still filled with pretty wretched animation, flat characters, and amazingly bad tennis, this show has little appeal.
Ryoma Echizen has just started going to Seishun Gakuen (aka Seigaku), 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 is 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.
The focus of this set is the Metropolitan Tournament. Seigaku is one of the favorites, but it's still a tough battle. Their main rival this time is St. Rudolph. This strong club is lead by Mizuki, a teen who has studied the Seigaku players extensively and knows each of their weaknesses. Fans of the show (both of them) will enjoy seeing Momoshiro and the hissing Kaido teamed up for doubles. The two opposites actually compliment each other very well, trying to out-do not only their opponents, but each other as well.
When all is said and done however, this set plays out nearly the same as the last one. The tournament dominates the collection, with only a couple of shows at the beginning and end devoted to other matters (mainly training.) These episodes seem to blend together with what's gone on before, and writing this review it was really hard to recall what actually happened in this tournament as opposed to the previous tournament that took place is set two.
It's no secret that I'm not a fan of this series. I gave the first set a 'rent it' rating and dropped the second set to a 'skip it'. I held out a sliver of hope that the show would improve with the second season, but that's not the case. There's a lot that doesn't work in this series, the animation is done on the cheap with as little movement as possible, the characters are stereotypes, and the main character is very unlikable. I could ignore that if the stories were engaging, but they aren't. The real reason I can't enjoy this show though is because it doesn't capture the sport of tennis. They make up idiotic shots that defy the laws of physics. It's not just Ryoma that has this magical ability, but every player has a signature shot that just wouldn't be possible in the real world. If any player could hit a fast lob across the net, have it hit the other side of the court, and stop without bouncing or moving at all, they'd have Federer and Nadal shaking in their tennis shoes. That's just par for the corse for The Prince of Tennis though.
In addition to that, it's nearly impossible to relate to any of the characters. Ryoma is cocky and arrogant, and since he's already one of the best players on the planet it's hard to connect with him. The things he goes through aren't like anything that I went through in junior high, and I'm sure that goes for everyone else who watches the show. With monotonous and repetitive stories and no one to relate to, this series is not worth watching.
This set presents episodes 27-38 on three discs. The discs come in a fold-out case which is housed in an attractive slipcase. As with the previous sets, it isn't possible to chapter skip past the opening, which is really irritating.
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.
Like Dan Doh did for golf, The Prince of Tennis manages to suck any enjoyment or excitement out the game of tennis. The episodes, which are very similar, tend to run together and none of the characters are likeable or easy to relate to. There are so many good anime shows out there, there's no reason to waste your time on something this poor. Skip it.