TITLE: Prince of Tennis vol. 1
RELEASE: April 2004 (US Release)
COMPANY: Viz Media
Story and Art by Takeshi Konomi
In 1999, tennis player and manga artist Takeshi Konomi created a series known as “Tennis no Ojisama” (The Prince of Tennis).
Published in Shueisha’s “Weekly Shonen Jump” in July 1999, the series became one of the most popular sports manga series created and would eventually lead to an anime series adaptation by Trans Arts and Nihon Ad Systems & TV Tokyo.
Suffice to say, the series became an incredible hit and popular media franchise which would lead to video games and more!
The series begins with a teenage girl named Sakuno Ryuzaki tring to get to the tournament grounds to meet with her grandmother, Sumire Ryuzaki, a high school tennis coach for Seishun.
A group of high schoolers begin bragging about the type of grips, while a 7th grader named Ryoma Echizen is not impressed by the inaccurate information. As Ryoma tries to school the older teenagers, she accidentally gives Ryoma the wrong information of how to get to the tournament grounds and he misses his tournament.
Feeling bad that she gave Ryoma the wrong information, the teenagers on the train spot Ryoma and start teasing him and want to school him on the game of tennis.
And immediately, the 7th grader ends up defeating the teenager with amazing skill. It is revealed by Coach Sumire that Ryoma just returned back to Japan after winning the American Junior Tournament four years in a row. So, good that he entered the tournament to not try for the under-12 but for the 16 and under.
Immediately, news of Ryoma starts making its way at Seishun Academy that the older tennis players want to check out and see for themselves of how good Ryoma is, including the elite at Seishun High School.
Meanwhile, one high schooler named Arai is not so thrilled that Ryoma has arrived and tells him that there’s no room for seventh graders and how they are there to pick up the balls, while the older students are there to play.
Arai, so angered at Ryoma, wants to humiliate him by challenging him to a match but hiding Ryoma’s tennis rackets and giving him an old, badly strung wooden tennis racket.
But Ryoma agrees to the competition, even using a bad racket.
Meanwhile, team captain Tezuka is working on the Inter-Squad Ranking Match to decide who will be the starters and who will compete in the upcoming tournament. And while its customary that only the older students are put into competition, will he allow a 7th grader to compete?
Find out in “The Prince of Tennis” vol. 1!
I first discovered “The Prince of Tennis” back in 2002. Having discovered the anime series, I was instantly hooked by the fact that a series about tennis was created.
Having familiarity with Japan’s past tennis manga such as “Ace wo Nerae!” (Aim for the Ace), the female shojo manga was realistic and dealt with interpersonal relationships. With “Prince of Tennis”, it reminds me of one of my favorite sports manga series, “Slam Dunk” in the fact it deals with team work and each individual having their own special skills.
Whereas, “Slam Dunk” had the unruly students that were gangsters turned basketball players and focused on underdog ruffian, Hanamichi Sakuragi trying to become a phenom basketball player, Takeshi Konomi’s “The Prince of Tennis” is about a 7th grade phenom tennis player and what focuses on Ryoma Echizen trying to showcase his skills against Seishun’s tennis elite, it gradually becomes a series about the Seishun High School team taking on other high schools with an attention to character dynamics.
For this first volume, it’s about the arrival of Ryoma to Seishun High School and because his quiet and aloof nature, people think he’s cocky but the fact is that Ryoma is a tennis machine and not much of the socializing type.
His father was a great tennis player until his injury and it’s interesting to see his relationship with his fellow underclassmen, especially Horio who is not convinced of Ryoma’s true skill as a tennis player, Sakuno who is a girl inspired to play tennis because of Ryoma and everyone just witnessing this seventh grade demolish people older than him in the game of tennis with amazing skill.
Character design by Takeshi Konomi are well-done, the storyline manages to capture the excitement of tennis and strategy and more!
Overall, the first volume of “The Prince of Tennis” is simply delightful. A great sports manga that is addictive and leaves you craving for more! Recommended!