What They Say:
The second half of the Metropolitan Tournament begins! The doubles teams power through the toughest matches they’ve seen yet, and Ryoma’s match with Akutsu from Yamabuki Junior High fires up the court. With all the trouble Ryoma’s encountered with Akutsu, everyone’s worried for his safety, but Ryoma isn’t about to let up, not with Akutsu’s coach slipping Akutsu secret strategies! Then the inter-team matches begin, and it’s not the walk in the park the first-years were expecting!
Contains episodes 39-50.
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 good full length shot of Ryoma in an action pose 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 Ryoma in his school uniform 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)
Is this when the show starts to get gay and the moves by the players move become superhuman? Prince of Tennis gained itself quite the following over the years because of either implied boys-love or just the ability of a segment of its viewership to see something that may not have been there. Combining that with a “Dragon Ball Z” approach to boosting abilities and finding more from within, Prince of Tennis sort of jumps the shark but in a way it did that a long time ago if you believe that a junior high school student can do all of this.
Not unlike the previous installments of the series, this twelve episode run of the Prince of Tennis works surprisingly well. The set opens with a pair of episodes that prepares for the finals of the Metropolitan Tournament and ends with a similar pair of episodes that works towards the next major arc. That leaves us with about eight episodes devoted solely to the Metropolitan Tournament finals. The bookend episodes are a good deal of fun though as it lets the characters stretch their legs a little bit and sometimes have a bit more fun. It’s all competitive on some level though, such as the first pair that deals with Inui’s new drink to motivate them or the kind of practice they have to go through in order to determine who will play in the finals.
When it comes to the finals themselves, these eight episodes are pretty good but it does feel like they’re rushing through things just a bit. Some faces from the past continue to appear, such as Fudomine and their quest to become the best, but the focus is more squarely on the new team of Yamabuki. They’ve gotten quite the reputation in recent months because of their skill, but they’re also getting a reputation due to one of their players, a young man named Akutsu. He appeared in the previous set and has a bit of a history with Kawamura as well as setting himself up against Ryoma after hitting a few rocks his way. Akutsu’s personality is that of someone who can excel easily, has a lot of innate talent but no real drive to pursue it. Even worse, once he focuses on something, coming away with a loss pretty much turns him away from the sport.
Akutsu and Ryoma’s match is much the main focus of these tournament episodes, but they do try to give the viewer a bit more tension in the tournament overall as the other matches are fairly difficult. Or at least we’re given the impression they are as some of them, such as the doubles round, is really kept pretty minimal and almost just barely given lip service in being seen. Momoshiro has a really good round in which he gets to showcase his abilities during one of the doubles matches. With some well placed flashbacks to conversations and practices with Tezuka, it’s becoming clearer that Momoshiro really has the potential to be a team captain. He may not be the one to excel in the way that someone like Ryoma does, but he can become more than he is now and likely draw out and inspire others.
When it comes to Ryoma and Akutsu though, it’s really a replay of some of his previous tense matches. There’s an expectation now that Ryoma gets challenged, has some difficulty, figures out the way to beat his opponent and then does so. That happens for a bit here once again, but Akutsu is the kind of opponent that really forces Ryoma to become something more, to take that next step out of playing his father’s tennis and playing his own. What makes this particular match so interesting isn’t watching Ryoma grow, or to see Akutsu finally find the challenge he needs, but to see Nanjiro watching the match. He didn’t come to see Ryoma but rather to rail against the Yamabuki coach, a man named Banda who was involved in a past match that Nanjiro was in. In a way, the match between Ryoma and Akutsu becomes a new representation of that past challenge and we get some good flashbacks to the past as well as current commentary by those involved. Nanjiro continues to steal just about every scene that he’s in.
When it comes to the tennis matches themselves, it’s something that you have to not take seriously and just enjoy. That may be difficult at times since you continually come back to the idea that some of these kids are just too young to really excel like they do. But then you hit up a sports network showcasing young talent and it’s enough to change your mind. The amount of talent that we see from the different schools going through the tournaments offset that a bit though. The moves, the power and the commentary by those watching like Inui is fun if you can watch it with the right mindset. I certainly can’t take the show seriously when it comes to its portrayal of tennis with kids this age, but I can really enjoy the way it plays to basic competitive nature and has all of them really striving to be better and putting in the effort to do so. While some are certainly gifted players, they all work at it and that alone sends a powerful message in comparison to other shows where everything is handed on a silver platter to the lead.
The fourth installment of the Prince of Tennis brings us up through episode fifty and begins to lay the foundation for the next arc. Which would have been the Kanto Tournament if Viz Media hadn’t stopped releasing the series. Unfortunately, the show didn’t do well enough for Viz to keep releasing or acquiring more episodes as it didn’t even get shown on their steaming site. After fifty episodes though, the characters continue to be a lot of fun and they’re slowly being expanded up. Ryoma’s nature as someone who has seen a good bit of the world comes into play nicely at times, especially with his mastery of English, but the show as a whole is really shaping up nicely. With as many matches as we’ve seen so far and the outlandish moves that have been made, I still find it highly appealing and wish that I had been able to see more of it. Prince of Tennis is very much a guilty pleasure and one that I revel in at the same time.
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: January 15th, 2008
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.