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Title:
  Prince of Tennis vol 4 (Ongoing Series)

Distributor:  VIZ Media

Author:  Takeshi Konomi

Suggested Retail Price (SRP):  5.99

Number of Pages:  200

ISBN:  978-1-59116-438-8

Reviewed:  27th September 2009

Reviewer:  Rich (Webmaster)

 

Prince of Tennis has proven to be quite a popular sports manga, blending the one-on-one action of a typical Shonen Jump fighting series with more realistic settings and opponents.

This volume continues Seishun Academy's progress through the District Preliminaries, where they line up against the tournament's dark horses - Fudomine Junior High.  Seishun are top seeds in the tournament but the unseeded Fudomine blew away the second seeds Kakinoki Junior High in the semi-finals, and Seishun are now firmly in their sights!  Coach Ryuzaki decides to take no chances against them and fields a strong line-up with two specialist doubles teams and Ryoma finally let loose in his first singles start of the tournament.  But Fudomine are a very different team from when Seishun last played them, their lineup is now made up of 8th grade debutants and the reckless aggression that saw them disqualified  from a previous tournament appears to be a thing of the past.  Even the supremely talented Seishun starters may have some trouble against a group of talented and disciplined unknowns who have some real tricks up their sleeves...

Prince of Tennis has been a bit of a strange series so far in that it's main character Ryoma Echizen is both supremely arrogant and has yet to suffer any kind  of defeat.  His biggest challenge has been adjusting to playing doubles, but he has so far managed to breeze past

pretty much everyone put in front of him.  In this volume he is part of a top seeded team who are living up to expectations and crushing everyone else they come up against.  Often with Shonen Jump series the main character is self-effacing, or a talented underdog.  In this he is a supremely talented junior who thrashes everyone he faces and so far his attitude has made him somewhat unlikeable.  It is interesting this time to see him relegated to the background for the majority of the volume and the other Seishun starters given central stage instead.

In this volume we get to see two doubles matches which really show how talented the Seishun and Fudomine players are, as well as an epic singles match between the unstable Kaoru and Fudomine's speed demon Akira.  This match is probably the highlight of the volume, pitting Kaoru's resilience and stamina against Akira's raw pace and ability to return unreachable shots.  This volume really benefits from expanding the other characters and reducing Ryoma and his fan/classmate Sakuno to small asides, without golden boy Ryoma at the centre of the story there's a lot more tension in the matches and it's interesting to see different tennis styles depicted.  So far the series' big downside is the seeming invincibility of Ryoma, and you feel that he needs a comeuppance in order to take his character to the next level.  By showing the other Seishun

characters in this volume and demonstrating how skilled the Fudomine players are it ramps up the expectation for Ryoma's match - could this finally be the one that really pushes him to his limits?  Could this be the one he loses and makes him work to improve himself?

Well, we'll have to wait till the next volume to find out, but this one was an interesting instalment to an interesting series.  Yes, to an extent it is by-the-numbers sport manga, but it is unusual for the story to be from the point of view of a Manchester United rather than a Bath City, and this makes a good change from the usual underdog stories.  The pressures are different when you are expected to win every match rather than lose them all, and for the most part Prince of Tennis gets this across quite effectively.  As with previous volumes the artwork is excellent and the tennis scenes are drawn with a real sense of speed and power, and it's good to see not only the Seishun players fleshed out a bit but also their opponents.  Prince of Tennis volume 4 is a step forward for the series, and hopefully this bodes well for future volumes.

Extras 

 The usual ads, plot summary and next volume preview are joined by short character profiles for some of the Seishun starters and some amusing little one-frame comedy asides between chapters.  There's also a page advert for a competition that was open to Japanese fans but closed prior to the UK publication, which is a bit pointless.

Ratings

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