Comic Book Spotlight of the Day: Eyeshield 21 vol. 1 – April 2005 (Viz Comics)

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TITLE: Eyeshield 21 vol. 1

RELEASE: April 2005 (US Release)

COMPANY: Viz Media

Writer: Riichiro Inagaki

Artist: Yusuke Murata


In Japan, American football may not be too popular compared to the international futbol (soccer), but there are a few high schools that have football teams and the NFL does have a game played in Japan, helping to spread the game’s popularity.

But in 2002, writer Riichiro Inagaki and illustrator Yusuke Murata introduced American football to a broader audience through their manga “Eyeshield 21″ which has been featured on the very popular Weekly Shonen Jump, has led to several videogames and also a 145-episode anime series which lasted from 2o05-2008. And now for 35 volumes, “Eyeshield 21” continues to entertain masses through its manga series currently available from Viz Media as part of their Shone Jump Advanced line.

“Eyeshield 21″ revolves around a young teenager named Sena Kobayakawa who has passed his entrance exams at his local high school, Deimon Private Senior High School. The school where his childhood friend Mamori Anezaki attends. Both Sena and Mamori are close because all throughout his life, Sena has been bullied and Mamori has been there to protect him.

Living his life as a gopher for other friends, Sena hasn’t had any true friends until he meets the devil-looking Yoichi Hiruma and the very huge Ryokan Kurita who try to get Sena to join their football team.

Of course, Sena doesn’t know how to play football but being the new kid at school, but still he gets bullied all the time by those who try to make him their gopher.

Fortunately, the huge Kurita ends up taking care of them. Out for revenge, the bullies start to pick on Sena once again but Sena is sick and tired of getting beaten up and when they go after him, he demonstrates a skill which he has had for a long time, speed. Because Sena has lived his life running away from bullies, he has improved his skills at running, cutting and doing all he can avoid the bullies.   Immediately, Hiruma wants to utilize him on the Deimon High School Devil Bats football team.

Sena just wants to become a team manager but Hiruma wants Sena to be the team’s running back. And because Hiruma wants to make sure that no one can steal him for their high school or let alone another sport at school, he plans on a disguise that no one but he, Sena and Kurita will know and that is putting an eyeshield on a football helmet and giving Sena a #21 jersey, and going by the nickname “Eyeshield 21″.

For Hiruma and Kurita, their goal is to make it to the Christmas Bowl, where the two best high school teams compete against each other.  But considering the fact that Deimon High have been terrible, with Eyeshield 21, can they beat their first opponent for the season…The Koigahama Cupids?  And will they find enough players for this season?

I have been a big fan of sports-based manga and in Japan a lot of their sports manga and anime are big hits. From the soccer-driven series “Captain Tsubasa”, the basketball series “Slam Dunk”, the baseball series “Touch”, the tennis series “Tennis no Oujisama” (Prince of Tennis) and many of them have this underdog vs. the better team type of mentality.

Yes, there is a banality when it comes to sports manga series but there is often this side of supernatural element that an athlete has. A super kick, a special tennis serving or hitting ability and with “Eyeshield 21″, what makes the series so exciting is that every team has its special individuals with unique talents. But when it comes to the Deimon Devil Bats (the protagonist team), these guys are like a group of misfits put together in hopes to accomplishing their goal of making it to the Christmas Bowl. But they are surely talented. Sena (Eyeshield 21) has this special ability of his running and in this latest volume, he hones that talent and makes himself even better. We also see new characters pop up and joins the team and definitely see how everyone works together, faces adversity together as a team. But for Deimon High School, these bunch of misfits have pride and also have what it takes to surprise everyone they have come up against.

Similar to other sports anime in which there is an underdog getting involved with sports and displays a tremendous skill, “Eyeshield 21″ definitely showcases that into the storyline but with the characters, in this case the team is more like the “Bad News Bears” and with the “The Devil Bats”, the team consists of characters that are just wild and crazy. Actually, all teams have characters that are wild and crazy and I suppose that is what makes “Eyeshield 21″ so interesting and enjoyable.

But I also like the fact that Sena is somewhat of an inspiration to those who have been bullied. Instead of using his weakness as a crutch, he turns his speed to a a secret weapon for the Deimon High Devil Bats but most importantly, for a quiet guy with no friends, the camaraderie of his team is what he needs in his life and definitely gives him the confidence that he needs to play in sports but to be the best he can be on the field.

The story is well-written, the character designs are well-done and I like how there are extra pages of stories and character info. included with this manga!

If you are looking for a sports manga series and love football, “Eyeshield 21″ vol. 1 is highly recommended!


 

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