What They Say:
Welcome To The Gridiron Of The Damned! Huge hulking bodies throw themselves at each other, while a tiny lithe body runs between them for the goal! No, it’s not a game of Football, it’s Sena Kobayakawa trying to evade the monstrous Ha-Ha brothers down the halls of Deimon High School! But wait! Sena’s incredible skills at not getting caught have been spotted by the devilish (possibly actually demonic) captain of the school’s embryonic American style football team, and when Sena asks to be the teams manager, he gets thrust onto the field as a running back instead! But there are two BIG catches ‘” first, to keep the identity of their new ‘star’ player an absolute secret, Yoichi makes Sena wear an opaque visor on his helmet and gives him the alias of ‘Eyeshield 21.’ And the second catch? Well, in order to hit his fastest ‘speed of light’ running mode, Sena usually has to be absolutely terrified… not that THAT will be a problem with the monstrous players that he’ll soon find himself running from! The insanity hits the streets when the feet meet the cleats in EYESHIELD 21 ‘” Collection 1!!
The audio presentation for this series comes with just the original Japanese language track encoded in stereo at 224kbps. Some of the series was dubbed when it was on Toonami Jetstream, but that stream had edits to it and it likely didn’t make sense to include it here or it wasn’t available. The Japanese mix here is a fairly standard center channel kind of series where there’s no real directionality or placement in it. There are no problems with the audio encoding but it’s fairly lifeless in a lot of ways as it lacks impact during the big action sports scenes. Dialogue is decent throughout though as it’s clear and problem free but it’s all coming from the center channel.
Originally airing in 2005, the transfer for this series is presented in its original full frame aspect ratio. The thirteen episodes here are spread over two volumes in a six/seven format. Eyeshield 21 has a pretty bright and colorful approach to its animation so it has an almost plastic-like feel to some of the animation. The transfer for the show is good as it captures the look of the show very well with a clean look where the colors have a solid feel to them. There’s a bit of cross coloration popping up in a few areas and a noticeable amount of line-noise during some of the panning sequences, but overall there’s little to take serious issue with here. This is a fairly average budget show and there are times where it ups the ante in animation quality and detail, but most of the time it’s about what you’d expect from a sports series.
Eyeshield 21 gets a standard single sized keepcase with two discs inside that don’t use hinges. The front cover artwork is decent as it has three of the lead characters in their uniforms looking a mixture of serious and silly as the football is thrust down in front of Sena. The background is pretty eye-catching with the green of the field which is also nicely contrasted by the logo which has the vibrant reds and more of the green. Selling a sports show can’t be easy in general and this one does a decent job at it with what they have. The back cover uses more of the field layout, though it feels a bit darker because of all the text from the summary but I do like the overall color and feel of it. Sena gets a nice action shot along the left side and there’ a fair number of shots along the bottom in a star-shaped grid. The production credits and the technical grid rounds out the rest of the bottom of the cover though this is a release where you feel like you can take issue with the runtime as the episodes are shorter, about 23 minutes even with translated credits, making this a 300-minute title total. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reverse side cover.
The menu design for the release uses the same elements as the cover with the gridiron in the background and character artwork in the foreground. It looks brighter and more vibrant in the menu than the cover and the detail is a bit more apparent. Underneath the character artwork and logo we get the individual episode selection as well as the special features selection which is all laid out in a simple but easy to navigate fashion. It still feels odd to not have a language submenu, even just for subtitle only shows, but that’s what twelve years of conditioning will do to you. Everything loads quickly and navigation is a breeze here.
The only extras included are the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on the thirty-seven manga volume series of the same name by Riichiro Inagaki, Eyeshield 21 is a one hundred and forty-five episode series about Japanese high school kids playing American football. Sports series tend to do pretty well in Japan overall with some very high profile titles over the years, both in manga and anime form, as they tend to run for awhile and ride particular favorites of the time, or sometimes inspiring the sport to become more popular as well. I’ve typically enjoyed sports anime over the years even for sports I’m not a fan of (looking at you, Dandoh and Hajime no Ippo) and have watched a pretty wide variety of them, even becoming a strong fan of several. Eyeshield 21 feels a bit different since football just doesn’t feel like it would have much of a following in Japan and it’s hard to find some real information on it since it’s easier to find information on traditional football, i.e. soccer.
Eyeshield 21 focuses on freshman student Sena Kobayakawa who is now attending Deimon high school. It’s an important place for him to go to as he finally gets to go to school with his childhood older girl friend Mamori. The relationship the two have is kind of awkward and the kind that invariably bothers me as it progresses if nothing changes. Sena’s small and kind of wimpy so he’s been taken advantage of throughout his life in a number of ways. During the earlier years he was saved by Mamori who would use her being older and more confident to thwart some of them, but since they weren’t in the same school for awhile Sena has had to survive on his own. For Sena, Mamori still views him the same way so she’s trying to make sure he doesn’t get picked on easily this time and that he actually makes some friends. Especially since his version of friends in his last school was with him being a lackey for the most part.
Unsurprisingly, Sena’s overwhelmed by the amount of clubs and activities that can be had and he stumbles into a situation where he suddenly finds himself involved in the football club. The club is actually pretty small with just two real members in Hiruma, a young man with a devil face who is a solid quarterback, and Kurita, a huge teddy bear linebacker who is feared among other teams. What Deimon Devil Bats do is during the initial games of the seasons, they get a lot of stringers from other clubs to help out but they never make it past the first game since they get beaten. If anything, the other clubs participate in order to scout out potential new members for their own clubs. What Hiruma discovers with Sena, who initially just wants to be a club manager, is that Sena is a master running back. Hiruma first sees him fleeing from a bunch of no good kids out in the city and he’s able to turn, evade and flee in such a way that it practically makes Hiruma drool.
Since Hiruma doesn’t want the other clubs to poach him, he gets him to play by wearing his eyeshield (rules be damned overall I guess) and he manages to debut him as one of the most amazing new discoveries. It’s from this that Sena now lives a double life as he’s both Sena the manager to everyone and the mysterious Eyeshield 21 that is blazing down the field. Mamori continues to be concerned about Sena’s being taken advantage of and she ends up getting involved in the club, though she hasn’t figured out that he’s living the double life. Other club members are definitely interested in what’s going on though and slowly but surely the football team starts poaching members from other clubs instead.
Being a sports series spawning from the Shonen Jump world, it’s pretty obvious where much of it will go. They’re going to slowly bring in more players and everyone will turn out to be special in some way, making them a kick ass team that we get to follow for quite a few episodes through a number of games. The opening thirteen episodes of the series cover a lot of familiar material, especially for a sports show, so let’s just condense some of the pros and cons of the show so far.
On the positive side, the games don’t last overly long, a couple of episodes at best, and we only see three actual games during the first set. The cast doesn’t deal just with the game itself but also other character building issues as we see some things dealing with bullying, friendship and so forth. Some shows will focus solely on the game, which has its advantages, but I also like ones that bring in a little more than just that in order to humanize the characters more outside of their game personas. The football side of it is done well overall with plenty of action and some relatively tight plays where you don’t spend forever watching it in slow motion, replays or different angles. It gets right to the point and moves along.
On the downside, the first couple of games are pretty predictable overall. We get the standard team that nobody wants to play on until some radical new player changes everyone’s perceptions. The outlandish nature of Hiruma with his guns blazing gets old very quickly. The regular gag that starts to come into play with Sena playing a double life really can’t last long, or at least, it shouldn’t last long, because it’s a drag on the show. I can get with not letting other people know, but the whole arrangement with practices and Mamori really makes it hard to suspend disbelief with the show. What really proves aggravating overall is the subplot with Mamori only seeing Sena as completely incapable of either defending himself or making actual friends, which is what she wanted. She can only see everyone taking advantage of him. Of course, that plays into the double life as Hiruma abuses Sena often to keep Mamori off the trail as to what’s going on.
Eyeshield 21 was a manga title I tried when it came out but it didn’t grab me all that much. The anime plays out a little better since I think the action translates better in animation than manga and the character designs are a bit more accessible. The opening salvo of episodes here are probably the more predictable ones of the series as it introduces the setting, does a bunch of basic “what is football” kind of bits and gets the ball rolling with the core cast of characters while bringing on a few more teammates. There are things to like and there are things that are aggravating. I’m not sure it’s a show that I’ll be eagerly looking forward to, episode by episode like some sports series, but it’s one that could be a bit more interesting once it gets past these predictable setup pieces.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closing
Content Grade: C+
Audio Grade: B
Video Grade: B
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B-
Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: May 18th, 2010
Running Time: 325 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 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.