Twelve-year-old tennis prodigy Echizen Ryoma returns to Japan after winning back-to-back junior tennis championships in America. He enters the Seishun "Seigaku" Gakuen, one of the seeded schools in the tennis nationals. Despite still being a freshman, Ryoma manages to become a regular due the skills he acquired from constantly battling his father, Echizen Nanjirou, a professional tennis player. With the goal of winning the National Championship, the Seigaku team learns about friendship and teamwork and develops new and complex techniques. Along the way, Ryoma finds his own playing style and discovers the true meaning of tennis.
Summed up, this series starts out at an acceptable (and even entertaining) level of Shounen, but then transitions into a truly absurd and silly level of Shoun. And as it became more Shoun-bound, the repetition in the flow of matches and the contrived nature of the drama became more unignorable and made the overall series a lot less entertaining. Like, Ryoma's super rookie status becomes less special as we start seeing more and more super rookies on other teams. And the selfless state, which was admittedly pretty dumb even when it was first introduced, becomes less special as it's revealed that a bunch of rivals from later in the series can either access this state (and its offshoots) or can neutralize it. Also, earlier in this series, it felt like we were learning about actual tennis tactics and techniques. But it wasn't long until the exaggerated nature of the matches and the singular focus on special moves and what amounts of superpowers eclipsed any portrayals of actual tactics. And related to this, it's kinda dumb how matches were won and lost on the usage of special moves alone. Like, if Kunimitsu is actually an excellent tennis player then shouldn't fe be able to play in a way that doesn't require fem to destroy feir arm from overusing the Tezuka Phantom? And as the series goes on, it feels like most of the matches involve people mimicking or being able to replicate other peoples' special moves, which then makes the special moves which the matches are built around feel a lot less special. The artwork is fine, I guess. I've heard that some people absolutely love it, and I personally don't think that's deserving. The proportions are weird, with the faces often being too small for the bodies and with the legs being too long. Sometimes faces will also look flattened. Other complaints: The coach doesn't do nearly enough coaching and feels pretty useless. There aren't enough sideplots or hooks to the story, as can be seen from how the series rushes through the matches later in the series instead of having each moment matter. I don't appreciate the implication that homophobia is an acceptable norm (in the match starting in chapter 322). It's stupid that Ryoma got amnesia. It's stupid that everyone treats Masaharu's match against Shusuke as though it were some long-awaited Kunimitsu vs. Shusuke match. The true nature of the Pinnacle of Perfection was both corny and also seems to contradict the idea that the three doors within the selfless state were discovered using laboratory equipment. In addition to the series just generally getting worse over time, the ending ending itself was also really crunched up and uninteresting. I honestly considered rating this even lower than a 5/10 because of how bad the last half or so of it was, but the first portion was engaging enough that I think it makes up for the ending to a certain degree.
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