Friday, May 14, 2010

3. The Prince of Tennis

Konomi, Takeshi. Prince of Tennis Volume 1. ISBN: 978-1591164357. VIZ Media. First Edition, 2004.

Plot Summary

12 year old tennis phenomenon Ryoma Echizen has just moved back to Japan from America. His father was a former Japanese tennis star whose career was cut short because of an injury. Ryoma has already made a name for himself in America as a premier player, and now as he enters Seishun Gakuen Junior High School, he has to make a name for himself all over again. Making the 7th grade team is not going to be a problem, but if Ryoma wants to compete in tournament play, he has to find a way to make the 8th and 9th grade varsity squad. This is a problem because 7th graders are not allowed to compete for a place on varsity unless the captain allows it.

Ryoma's natural talent and skill set pose a problem for him on the tennis court because the older players feel threatened. He quickly becomes the target of cruel pranks by those who feel threatened, but Ryoma has the last laugh because no matter the prank, he is able to keep his composure and let his tennis play do the talking. When the captain decides to let Ryoma compete for the squad, things heat up, and tempers fly.

Critical Evaluation

In the world of tennis, Ryoma Echizen is a true gunslinger. He is distant, calm, cool, collected, and at a moments notice he is ready to play. Takeshi Konomi's The Prince of Tennis gives the sport of tennis an exaggerated sense of action and flair that make each page and each panel a thrill to read and watch. Ryoma is able to serve the ball with such speeds that a fireball almost seems to strike the ground as his serves go whizzing past opponents. The heightened exaggeration of action is what makes this title visually compelling. Each match and each challenge for Ryoma gives readers the sense that they are watching actual physical combat like they would see in a boxing match or martial arts event. This focus on physicality and the bravado that comes from success makes The Prince of Tennis series a predominantly male targeted title. Teen girls may also take interest in The Prince of Tennis because of the attractive athletes who romp around in skin tight shirts accompanied by uninhibited muscles.

The dialogue at times seems forced and the simple storyline by no means qualifies The Prince of Tennis into the realm of literary greatness, but the action isn't half bad, in fact, it is down right entertaining. This book and this series work because they are entertaining. The Prince of Tennis is the equivalent of the summer popcorn film, you watch the alluring action, and before you know the movie is over and you weren't really sure what it was about to begin with. The title conveniently ends right when thing are about to get good so that teen readers will be hooked for the next volume. Tennis might not be the most popular sport in the world, but author Takeshi Konomi is on to something special. By taking a sport and intensifying the game play, he can attract both tennis and action fans. I only hope that he writes a croquet series next.

Reader's Annotation
Tennis is a game of skill, stamina, strength, and endurance. For seventh grade tennis player Ryoma Echizen, mastering this skills at age 12 is not going to make life easy amongst the older tennis players at Seishun Gakuen Junior High School.

Author Information

Takeshi Konomi is a Japanese mangaka, or cartoonist, best known for his work on The Prince of Tennis manga series. The Prince of Tennis began publication in 1999 and concluded in 2008 with over forty volumes. In Japan the 40 volume series has sold over 40 million copies. The popularity of this series has led to film adaptations, video games, radio shows, and even musicals in Japan.

manga, sports

Curriculum Ties

physical education, tennis

Book Talking Ideas
Why are the other players threatened by Ryoma?
Do you feel that sport of tennis is accurately represented in The Prince of Tennis?

Reading Level
Grades 6+

Challenge Issues

Reason For Selection
Manga is completely unknown territory for me. For years I've seen teens huddled together on Barnes and Noble book store floors reading the puzzling literature. For this blog assignment I wanted to explore materials that I was unfamiliar with and I knew that at some point I would be picking up my first manga title. Now when I see teens reading their books in the opposite direction and backwards I will no longer be in the dark.

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