What They Say:
Ryoma and the Seigaku tennis team have reached the Metropolitan Tournament, the pinnacle of youth tennis. First up, the “golden pair” doubles team of Oishi and Kikumaru are forced to resort to the unusual Australian formation to throw off their opponents. Then Ryoma faces the “Lefty-Killer,” who uses a dangerous and devastating twist spin. To fight back, the Prince of Tennis must resort to amazing acrobatics and outrageous innovation!
Contains episodes 27-38.
Viz Media has covered the bases for this series with a simple set of audio tracks. Both the Japanese track and English track are stereo mixes encoded at 192 kbps. The show doesn’t really do a lot with the audio however as both the dialogue sections and the action sections of the tennis matches don’t really provide any impact. Everything comes across clean and clear and the tracks are free of distortions or dropouts, but the show doesn’t have a lot of impact when it comes to the soundtrack. The music is the only area that really sounds full in that sense but overall it is a solid if somewhat underwhelming mix considering the material.
Originally beginning its broadcast run in 2001, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original full frame aspect ratio. The source materials for this look to be in excellent shape and the resulting look on this release is fantastic. The series has a lot of bright bold colors to it, from the uniforms to the backgrounds, and it all maintains a very solid feel here. There are many areas where it’s just large sections of color, such as the sky or the tennis courts, that I expect more background noise and break-up in it. But the end result is one that is just lush and very appealing. There are small areas of complaint here and there, a touch of aliasing during a pan, a soft moment in the source during the pause frame before commercial break, but they’re very minimal. At most, some of the reds on occasion exhibit a touch of chroma noise. But across three volumes and twelve episodes I found the show to be stellar looking.
One of the things I like about a company such as Viz Media is the potential for a proper amount of synergy between their manga and video releases. Prince of Tennis manages to find that mix just right with this release. Styled after the manga releases, the entire thing is done up in a digipak with a slipcase. The side panel reflects the DVD aspects of the set but the design mirrors that of the manga, allowing it to sit side by side with those releases. The front panel has a great shot of Ryoma leaning to the side set against a light blue backdrop while the back panel is a standard keepcase layout. A cast shot is done lightly in the background while over it there are a mix of stills from the show, a summary of the premise and a clear listing of the discs features and extras. The bottom portion rounds things out with a mix of production credits. What little technical information they provide is on the bottom of the box as there is no technical grid here. The digipak inside is similar to the front cover where it has character art on each of the panels. The interior panels where the discs are have a piece from the show that is of an empty tennis court. The insert has a two panel spread of Inui and Momo together while the reverse side lists the episode titles by volume and plugs the manga and Shonen Jump.
The menu design for the show mirrors the covers in that it’s a mix of cover art and tennis courts. Similar to the show itself, it’s filled with a lot of bright bold colors and has a very good feel to it as a bit of instrumental music plays along. The text for the navigation is well done and they do naturally go with a tennis ball for the cursor icon. Access times are nice and fast and the discs have little on them which makes navigation quick and easy. The disc did not read our player presets and defaulted to English language with no subtitles.
The few extras on this release are all on the last volume, not that I expected much in the way of extras. The original previews for the series are included here as is the original Japanese opening and closing sequences. Unfortunately these aren’t quite exactly original in that they’re clean versions of the Japanese opening and closing sequences with the original music to them.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
As silly as it gets sometimes with the moves that are seemingly unbelievable, particularly for middle school students, Prince of Tennis serves up nothing but pure simple entertainment for me. This set brings another twelve episodes out in one handy set which covers all the way up to episode thirty eight out of the one hundred and seventy eight that are there. And that’s just for the TV series itself. Regardless of the length of it, these episodes have quite a bit of infectious fun to them that kept me coming back to it very quickly. It doesn’t hurt that each episode is barely twenty minutes in length either when you remove openings and closings. And with that god awful replaced music for them, how could you not skip them?
Oh, that’s right; it’s not easy to skip the opening since the authoring for it is completely incompetent even after this many episodes.
While there isn’t a huge delay between sets, this set starts off very well by having a down episode just before the Metropolitans begin. It’s down in the way that it really does a wonderful job of reacquainting us with all the characters as Ryoma’s cat, Kalpin, wanders through the school in search of the cat toy that Ryoma accidentally brought with him. Everyone is going about their normal school business and a bit of practice so there isn’t anything revelatory here, but it works well in reminding us that they have lives outside of tennis and it touches upon just about everyone. It may be quiet and without any real action to it, but to start off the set after coming down from the previous tournament, you couldn’t ask for better.
With its heavy focus on the Metropolitan Tournament, everything moves along fairly quickly as there are numerous matches to get through. On the plus side, the Metropolitan Tournament is covered in its entirety here while providing a pair of episodes from the next arc that’s focused on training at the end. The tournament itself is spread across about nine episodes which encompasses about four full matches. Not unlike the District Tournament, there is more time given to some than others, new moves are pulled out of a hat and everyone finds themselves challenged by the opposing team. I’m not expecting anything that’s radically different when it comes to the series but rather I’m enjoying the way it plays. In the end, there can only be winners and losers in a tennis match and Seigaku has to get further in order to get the Nationals.
What works in the shows favor though is that the team is not infallible. The opponent for the Metropolitans is St. Rudolph, a school whose manager is also a player named Mizuki. Mizuki is the equivalent of Inui in that he’s done some wonderful research on Seigaku and has worked hard to really drill into them what to do against their opponents. He’s also got something of an ace up his sleeve by having Shusuke’s younger brother Yuta on the team. That provides some extra incentive for Yuta but even there Mizuki really shows what he’s like. He’s intent on winning at all costs and will use whatever means necessary, which essentially means that everyone is but a pawn to him. This does make Inui seem a bit more decent, but that only lasts until his next special vegetable drink is ready to be used on his teammates.
Across the arc, the challenges aren’t a surprise since Mizuki has plotted so carefully and studied everyone’s weaknesses. The pairing of Momo and Kaido together is obvious yet it still pleases immensely. Each of them has continued to work hard on their abilities and unlike the Golden Pair, they thrive on trying to outdo each other. Seeing their first meeting a few years prior and how they ended up like they are is certainly cute but it adds some welcome history to them. The Golden Pair for their part are impressive as well as their doubles match proves to be one of the most difficult ones of the series yet. That these kids are so often challenged is good to see but it’s also very good to see that even though they rise to each challenge, they may not be able to conquer each of them.
Though all of the matches are enjoyable, some are more so than others. There is a certain fun in watch Ryoma go against anyone, especially after the way Tezuka took him down as well as seeing the regular beatings he gets from his father. He’s not infallible but he is a very imposing player. His ability to learn quickly and adapt to situations is what helps the most, so watching him play and deal with what gets thrown at him is just fun. At the same time, the match between Shusuke and Mizuki is priceless. Shusuke has been an underused character overall but he really gets to shine here as we see more of his past with his brother and how his protective ways have worked over the years. While Mizuki isn’t exactly threatening Yuta, he’s using him in a way that’s destructive and Shusuke finds a beautiful way to really put him in his place.
When it comes to sports series, the Prince of Tennis is essentially what you’d call a guilty pleasure because of how it works. It’s simple in its design, it plays to the pretty boys and their super skills that defy believability and it has such an air of importance to it at times that you just have to laugh. At the end of the day though, each episode is simply fun to watch and I’m genuinely curious as to how it will all play out even having read a good chunk of the manga along the way. The cast is slowly getting fleshed out as time goes on and some of the off the court material is becoming more interesting while not overshadowing the actual court material. This set of episodes is great in that it contains the entire St. Rudolph’s arc while starting in on the next one where everything takes a surprisingly violent turn. It’s pure fluff but it’s so much fun that I cannot help but to gobble it all up.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Original Previews, Japanese Opening, Japanese Closing
Content Grade: B+
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: B
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B-
Readers Rating: [ratings]
Released By: Viz Media
Release Date: October 23rd, 2007
Running Time: 275 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70″ LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.