Hate is not the opposite of love. I hate The Prince of Tennis. I can no longer watch it without hurting myself. The most honest rating I can give it is about 3-4 hard facepalms per episode (the kind that leaves a mark) along with occasionally 6-10 facepalms of the regular kind. Hate is not the opposite of love. This is because I care about The Prince of Tennis. My wife loves both the show and the manga. I care enough to say how much it blows and yet be such a big deal in our household.
The first thing to acknowledge is that The Prince of Tennis anime played its part in getting me into tennis. I had been a casual spectator over the years, watching the odd grand slam every few years. After sybilant and I got married in December 2006 we were looking for shows we can enjoy together. Nothing too serious, something light and comedic. We had enjoyed Yakitate! Japan but found it a bit too… stupid, for lack of a better word (doesn’t mean that it isn’t AWESOME). Neither of us were particularly inclined to like sports anime, but both of us are big fans of the delightful Slam Dunk, so when I got hold of The Prince of Tennis we decided to give it a try.
We watched 170 episodes in like three weeks LOL.
I can’t explain it well, but the thing was so damn addicting. So hell, Legend of the Galactic Heroes at 110 episodes was a piece of cake for us. The Prince of Tennis was fluffy, lighthearted fun — with charming slice of life episodes spaced in-between long training arcs and tournament arcs. As sports anime goes, matches are always dramatic and every match had that gripping, cliffhanger feel. Every new opponent was a new problem to solve for the boys of Seigaku. Here are a few of our favorite moments:
- The first match between Atobe Keigo and Tezuka Kunimitsu. This was really awesome, being true to my feelings at the time we watched it. Tezuka battled a tough elbow injury to stay in the match. Gripping stuff.
- Inui and Kaidoh training to become a formidable doubles pair (admittedly, even the fujoshi-baiting parts which were lulz).
- ‘The Prince of Bowling’ (and most of the alternative sposts episodes except ‘The Prince of Volleyball’)
- Tezuka’s welcome party by the all-Japan team. Tezuka’s team mates and rivals, did all sorts of performances, including a musical number.
- Sanada and Atobe doubles pair: ‘Tango no Destruction.’
A Prince of Tennis fan would notice that all of these are from the TV series. We weren’t able to watch any of the OVAs until much, much later. And therein lies the problem. Sometime between these viewings, I actually learned to play tennis. Dear old mechafetish was a varsity player in the high school and college levels, and was only too happy to find someone to play with to get back into the game after not playing for 8 years — and a fellow mecha fan in the bargain!
What happened was that alongside anime, tennis has become my primary hobby. In fact a big part of my RL otaku activities revolve around tennis because the people who I watch anime with (and blog anime with) are the people I play tennis with. I’ve spent a considerable amount of time and resources in researching and acquiring the best gear, the best information, the best places to play for the least expense, etc. And yes, I’ve since been following both the men’s and the women’s professional tennis tours; and I now have a good sense of how actual tennis professionals do awesome things in match play.
Also, I started learning to play just before I discovered anime blogs and the vast network of information there is about anime and manga. Within the span of my playing tennis as a hobby, I have also started watching around 100 shows (approx.) and finishing 60 of them, and possibly I’ve read over 2,000 blog posts and have written over 100 myself. Inevitably my discernment and appreciation of shows have been influenced.
So now The Prince of Tennis is quite unwatchable to me. The methods it uses to make matches compelling and dramatic seem so cheap and forced. I mean, they were cheap and forced before, but I was more forgiving of it. The core of the problem I have with this show is that what I see here hardly resembles tennis at all. Basquash seems closer to basketball than The Prince of Tennis seems closer to tennis. I am not asking a high level of realism, NOT AT ALL. It’s just that save for the costumes, the tennis racquets, the tennis courts and balls, and a few of the sports’ rules, this is hardly tennis. Some examples:
- It has been increasingly difficult for me to stomach the 1-set match system. Play best of three sets, it’s just how it’s done! The Prince of Tennis uses 1-set matches because it will be very difficult for it to make a longer match interesting (so it seems). But matches can occur simultaneously, games can be ‘micro’ time-skipped, and tournaments can go on for more than one day. It is particularly difficult to watch how supremely fit teenagers suffer ridiculous fatigue in the middle of the 4th game of a single set.
- The show likes overhead strokes. I don’t blame it. Overheads are fun and exciting. I don’t even mind that there’s a whole lot of JUMPING overheads, (something that raaaaaaaaaaaaarely happens in tennis EVAR), and JUMPING HIGHER THAN IT TAKES TO DUNK A BASKETBALL TOO. What I do mind is that anyone and everyone is hitting overheads when the ball is a straightforward ground stroke. YOU CAN ONLY HIT OVERHEAD SHOTS WHEN THE BALL IS SENT HIGH ABOVE THE NET TOWARDS YOU (from a lob or a forced moon-ball). SO WRRRRYYYY ARE YOU HITTING JUMPING OVERHEADS AGAINST LOW SLICE SHOTS? UNPOSSIBLE! AT LEAST ATOBE SOMETIMES FORCES HIS OPPONENT TO LOB THE BALL TO SET UP HIS ‘RONDO TO DESTRUCTION’ OVERHEAD TECHNIQUE. THIS SETTING UP HAS NO REASON NOT TO HAPPEN EVERY TIME. THERE ARE MATCHES WHEN ECHIZEN RETURNS EVERY SINGLE SHOT WITH OVERHEAD TECHNIQUES. THIS IS UNFORGIVABLY LAZY PORTRAYAL/depiction. See that I am less concerned about realism than simple storytelling/depiction gaffes. (It would be like watching a singer sing with her mouth closed, and see her go silent while her lips move).
Part of the reason the above gaffes happen is that in order to make the characters and the tennis interesting, the show fully relies on fantasy techniques to liven up the matches. It’d be like Naruto or Rurouni Kenshin, only instead of martial arts you see tennis. Again I wouldn’t mind this so much if the techniques were thought through a bit more, and were set-up properly to be executed by a player. No. We just get lazy H4xx spam every match. In the final, Yukimura and Echizen did nothing but trade H4xx (and in Echizen’s case, reach the pinnacle of pinaccles of H4xxology).
Without the H4xx, and the token shounen messages of ‘believe in yourself,’ ‘trust your friends,’ and perhaps ‘good will overcome,’ and yes “Tennis is fun isn’t it?” what is The Prince of Tennis left with?
If Slam Dunk was claimed by fujoshi who delighted in the subtext of athletic pretty-boys. The Prince of Tennis pandered to them. I have nothing against pandering. It’s just that The Prince of Tennis completely stopped pandering to its core shounen audience; or at least, to me.