Takeshi Konomi exploded onto the manga scene with the incredible The Prince of Tennis. His refined art style and sleek character designs proved popular with Weekly Shonen Jump readers, and The Prince of Tennis became the number one sports manga in Japan almost overnight. Its cast of fascinating male tennis players attracted legions of female readers even though it was originally intended to be a boys' comic. The manga continues to be a success in Japan and has inspired a hit anime series, as well as several video games and mountains of merchandise.
This popular sports manga explores the difference between practiced technique and innate power. Ryoma is a former U.S. junior tennis champion who attends a Japanese academy, where his skill and natural talent make him nearly unbeatable. The younger students are inspired by him, but he's ruffling the feathers of the older tennis team members. Then the journalists appear, trying to discover the next champion, adding to the pressure. There's lots of tennis action, dramatically illustrated, and the characters, already pretty boys, are made even more attractive with their intensity. Stamina and strategy are significant, with occasional digressions from the story to teach particular moves. One of Ryoma's competitors succeeds with a scary special trick shot; another spends a lot of preparation time predicting his opponent's moves by watching tapes of his play. But Ryoma always manages to figure out his opponents' weaknesses and beat them. There's much more action than characterization, and without careful attention, it's hard to keep the different players straight. The sports manga genre is known for long sequences of sports action that can go on for hundreds of pages; here the matches are shorter, making this a better introduction. It's captivating in small doses, although Ryoma's battle to demonstrate his mastery drives another 20-plus volumes. (June) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.