Thursday, January 24, 2019

The guilty pleasure of Prince of Tennis

It has been said that the only genre of sports movies is the scrappy underdogs overcoming the odds. I really want to know who said that but it really seems to be true from The Bad News Bears to Sea Biscuit to The Mighty Ducks to Rocky (well, he did go the distance) to Major Leagues to etc.

To be fair, it’s one of the easiest ways of creating drama and tension. I mean, watching a movie about Michael Jordon being awesome would be fun but we wouldn’t be wondering how it would end.

But that’s a lot of why I really liked the manga Prince of Tennis enough to read a couple dozen volumes of it back when it was first getting published in the U.S. Because it completely subverts that theme.

Ryoma and all of the other players at Seigaku aren’t introduced as newbies to tennis who turn out to be prodigies or who have to learn that hard work and practice can make champions out of them. No, these middle schoolers start out as physical gods who laugh at the laws of physics and just get more ridiculous from there.

In fact, Ryoma is kind of an immature brat :D Although he is a twelve-year-old who has gone Batman levels of training in tennis by his crazy monk dad so he kind of has an excuse for being both arrogant and immature. He’s young and not a prodigy but someone who worked hard to be insanely good.

But I’m getting off track. Prince of Tennis entertained me so much because it wasn’t about plucky underdogs. It’s about the Dragon Ball Z of tennis matches. It’s not about the heroes overcoming the odds. It’s about the heroes overcoming the laws of physics, common sense and reality.

Maybe if I’d seen more subversions of the underdog theme, I wouldn’t have been so charmed by Prince of Tennis. Then again, it jumps into its madness feet first and no apologies. Maybe it’d have been fun no matter what.

But Ryoma and his friends are no Bad News Bears. They’re Greek gods with tennis rackets.

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