Ryoma Echizen is a tennis playing genius. He has annihilated all the competition that has been presented before him and now, as he starts at the Seishun Academy, he intends to do the same thing. But Ryoma will be getting a bigger challenge than he expects from the tennis club at Seishun... and then there's the matter of the District Tournament coming up. It’s going to be a busy year.
Sports manga are not exactly few and far between, ranging from basketball, American football and quite a few others. So a manga based upon tennis, which to be fair isn’t exactly the most heart-pounding of sports, needs to do something a little bit different to make it stand out in the crowd.
The words that seem to standout primarily about Prince of Tennis are words like "standard" and "average".
While reading the manga you do feel like that you are, for the most part, enjoying what your reading but there is always something in the back of the head that keeps telling you that there should be more to what your reading. It’s not to say that Prince of Tennis has a bad plot or horrible character design, there is just nothing incredibly standout about the first three volumes.
The manga follows the usual shonen pattern of introducing the main character as an overly powerful person who quickly establishes himself before encountering a situation that needs to be overcome with either hard work or teamwork. It’s all quite predictable stuff.
One positive that was commented on by someone reading over my shoulder was that the manga does actually use real-world tactics from racket sports. But unless you’re familiar with said racket sports, this will do little to improve your thoughts and feelings about the manga.
The main problem with Prince of Tennis is that the main character, Ryoma Echizen is the Sasuke (of Naruto fame) of the series. Quiet, fairly emotionless and always willing to show others up - oh yes, and is on a mission to defeat someone.
While in Naruto this type of character isn’t the primary focus, here Ryoma is the focus and his emotionless take on everything becomes quite boring after a time, giving you little reason to care about what he does, who he beats or what he learns in the process.
Prince of Tennis is by no means a bad manga. The artwork and character design are nice enough and the progression of the storyline is natural and fluid enough to keep you swept up until the end of the book. Just be warned that you’ll be putting down the book and wondering if you should pick up another one.
If you are looking for something to dip into every so often or love tennis, then this could scratch your itch. Otherwise, it pales against the competition.