Prince of Tennis Vol. 1

By Takeshi Konomi
192 pages, black and white
Published by Viz

As the number of comics brought over from Japan and other parts of Asia increases, it’s fun to see genre staples of those countries begin their infiltration into the English language publishing world. Take sports comics, for example. With books like Slam Dunk, Harlem Beat, and Girl Got Game, we’re slowly getting more options of sports comics to read. One of Viz’s new releases, The Prince of Tennis, is an entry into that genre—but in many ways, it actually reminds me more of a certain comic about cooking…

Ryoma Echizen is a tennis prodigy. At the age of 12, he’s already busy defeating players several years his senior, and Ryoma is determined to become the best tennis player in the world. While he may be good at playing tennis, though, he’s not so good at social interactions. When he transfers to a new school in Japan, he’s about to discover that good tennis skills plus bad social skills equals a very bumpy ride ahead for him.

It seems strange to compare The Prince of Tennis to Iron Wok Jan!, but the similarities are strong enough that it’s hard to avoid if you’ve read both books. They both star aloof newcomers who are one of the best in their field. They’re both almost instantly disliked by their peers. Both of them have a younger, inexperienced person who wants to be their friend, and a female acquaintance with whom there’s a strange relationship of some sort forming. The big difference? In Iron Wok Jan!, you’ve got a protagonist with a strong personality. The Prince of Tennis‘s Ryoma Echizen spends most of the first volume as almost a non-entity, breezing through scenes with little more to do than play tennis. It’s not until the end of the first book that you start to see a bit of characterization, with his sudden interest in Sakuno, and getting to see him actually have to solve a problem instead of just hitting the tennis ball really well. It may have been something just as simple as seeing Ryoma figure out how to spin his entire body so the broken racket he’s stuck with does anything of use, but it’s him using his brain, and letting us see just how it works. Seeing someone clobber an opponent in tennis is interesting at first, but what’s much more exciting is seeing him be presented with a real challenge and then follow through with a solution. It’s frustrating that it takes most of the first volume to get to glimpse this, but now that it has arrived, hopefully it won’t be going away.

While Takeshi Konomi’s story in the end only wins out after going to a deuce score (that’s when the players are tied and have at least scored three points, for those who haven’t played tennis), the art easily wins its match. Having played tennis for a summer or two as a teenager, it was a real relief to see that Konomi knows how to draw people playing the game. When Ryoma and his opponents hit the ball, you can see the power in their swings. They move naturally across the court, never coming across as stiff or poised. You can see the determination in Ryoma’s eyes as well, and even when he’s not speaking, you can see his desire to win. (As a very minor nitpick, I must admit that I’m not sure which aspect of the art seems odder: the strange way Konomi draws ears, or Sakuno’s gravity-defying braids.)

The Prince of Tennis Vol. 1 starts off a little slowly at first, but by the end of the volume I think it’s finding its groove. Konomi certainly knows his tennis and makes that evident almost immediately, but it takes a little longer for the same to happen with characterization. If the second volume keeps up this rate of improvement, I think we’re in store for a really good series. And if nothing else, I want to see how well Ryoma defeats the rest of the 8th and 9th graders in Volume 2. Looks like I’ll have my court side tickets purchased and ready to go.

Purchase Links: Amazon.com

10 comments to Prince of Tennis Vol. 1

  • josh

    prince of tennis is awsome too bad there not couler!!!!

  • coutney

    hey does any one know were you can find them? like what store? because I’ve looked all over and can’t find it. THANK YOU!!!!

  • If you can’t find it at your local store, you’re more than welcome to use either of the purchase links at the bottom of the review. Enjoy!

  • marlene

    ellow im marlene francisco im glad to read ani
    anime comics like the prince of tennis!!!and u said
    that prince of tennis is awesome to bad but im not believe 4 ur saying from prince of tennis bcos
    4 me this is the best anime that i ever watched!!!
    thank you

  • Prince of Tennis for me is ok, since I don’t really dig tennis. However, when it comes to sports-themed anime genre, my favorite would be the one with the dude with bright red hair and plays basketball (I’m not going to state the title of the basketball-themed anime because this post is about Prince of Tennis). Anyway, it was fun reading this post. Hope that you could feature more sports-themed anime. Thanks!

  • angelwing871

    i was so sad in the end of the series because his “sudden interest in Sakuno” turned out to be nothing although he did get a little jealous when Kintaro came in but other than that, NOTHING! but over all the series was great

  • dgrayman1994

    i think ryoma has no interest in girls but in the end,he treat her as a princess.i think ryoma and sakuno make a one fine couple

  • i agree with angelwing871.echizen did get a bit jealous at that scene but everything is fine.but i think the ova finals is scary.seigaku regulars have been hurt and futhermore,echizen is playing with yukimura!(child of god)it is really exciting.
    in the end,golden pair won,fuji won and echizen won!hurray!!!!!

  • shield

    oooooooooyyyyyyy

    prince of tenis of the bets animers ….
    i’like this…….
    why not come in indonesia…….

  • farah

    hye.where can i get this book?