PLOT: Kakino-Kizaka Junior High is about to receive a new student, a true prodigy of the tennis world. Ryoma Echizen is a seemingly tiny, frail 12 year old boy, but his size belies his skill. Once he arrives at the school, he finds older members of the tennis club are exploiting younger students or simply want to challenge him on the courts. Regardless of the reason, the result is always the same: Ryoma easily beats them and wins the day.
STORY: I will confess that I chose this series not because I was all that interested in it personally, or even that I purposefully wanted to look at some sports manga. No, it was because I was aware of this series before I got into anime and manga, thanks to its MASSIVE following of slash-happy fangirls and I wanted to see what might have drawn them to it in the first place. Well, I can say one thing with absolutely certainty: it’s not the story.
This story is the very definition of “cookie cutter.” Our hero is introduced, and once Ryoma enters
the school one of two things happens.
This story is the very definition of “cookie cutter.” Our hero is introduced, and once Ryoma enters the school one of two things happens.
I have to wonder why they even bothered with the school, because we hardly see anyone in class or outside of school. It’s just nothing but tennis, 24/7. I imagine that if you like tennis, you might get something out of watching Ryoma demonstrate his advanced technique. If you’re not a fan (like myself), then all that information just goes in one ear and out the other. It’s also a total sausagefest. There are precisely two female characters: a little girl who serves mostly as a plot device to introduce Ryoma to the story, and her grandmother, who is the head coach for the tennis club. Their contribution to the story as a whole? DIDDLY SQUAT. They might as well not exist. In the end, this is the kind of cliché, dull storytelling that gave sports manga such a bad name in the first place.
ART: The character models are clean and polished looking, but like the characters, they tend to come in only two flavors: generic bishonen and bobbleheaded, demon-eyed child. Honestly, if the mangaka didn’t give them different hair and accessories, I wouldn’t be able to distinguish most of the cast at all!