Ah, the first Prince of Tennis movie… My rewatch of the entire Prince of Tennis series has finally taken me back to the Two Samurai, The First Game movie, an ambitious crossover between The Prince of Tennis, Dragon Ball, the 1997 Titanic movie, and Hametsu no Mars.
The movie follows the Seigaku Tennis Team's regulars, who were invited to play exhibition matches on the cruiseship of a very wealthy business man. However, once they had been told that all of them must intentionally lose their matches, the team realizes they are in the middle of an illegal gambling scheme taking place on a ship miles away from land. To make matters worse, Ryoma Echizen's long lost adopted brother Ryoga Echizen stands in Ryoma's way of… playing genuine tennis??? What thrills lie in store for our middle school heroes as they embark on a quest to forego all common sense and put their lives at stake to play a game that they could play all they want at school, relying on pure luck to survive onboard this ship filled with adults wielding firearms and knives.
Now, the actual movie, while bad as a standalone film, may still be enjoyable if you're a fan of The Prince of Tennis. Its main redeeming quality is just how absurd the whole movie is. It's so stupid that it's enjoyable! Because absolutely nothing makes sense, there's no reason to take anything seriously, and as someone who already appreciates these characters from my childhood, I can just sit back and laugh at the insanity instead of getting depressed by it. Hell, thanks to the Dragon Ball crossover, these middle school tennis players have achieved flight. Yes, that's right, they learned to both control the elemental powers of nature, and flew above the court mid-match. It was probably the biggest takeaway I had from this movie as a kid.
Though, this can't change how objectively dumb most of this movie is. The lack of common sense displayed by all of the characters is almost painful; these middle schoolers shouldn't be so oblivious to the fact that taking their matches seriously could put them in serious jeopardy, and yet they are.
On the note of characters however, there's nothing interesting to be seen here. Sure, it's the same lovely Prince of Tennis characters from the show, but here they are nothing more than the quirks that define each of them: data tennis extraordinaire Sadaharu Inui is the stereotypical nerd who only speaks in percentages, while Eiji Kikumaru is the happy-go-lucky cat-sounding guy. While Shûsuke Fuji is the best character ever just the smiling badass, Ryoma Echizen is the same old all-powerful cardboard cutout he always has been. The only new character that has importance outside of this movie is Ryoga Echizen, Ryoma's adopted brother that disappeared for unknown reasons. Ryoga isn't anyone exciting though, and looks too much like Ryoma and his father, which is odd for an adopted kid.
Hell, even Atobe Keigo is in this movie, and is somehow able to tell that the rich businessman that invited everyone is a fake (because Atobe is a rich kid and would therefore know every rich businessman I guess?) and ends the movie by saving everyone's ass. From what you ask? Well, the answer to that question would spoil the movie, but I doubt anyone really cares. After "skillfully" evading a gunshot that left a hole in one of the machines in the boiler room of the boat, the whole thing starts to explode, forcing everyone onboard (except for the people on the tennis courts because its important to know your priorities in life and death situations) to move into emergency rafts, creating a gigantic panic among the passengers as they realize their deaths will be used as entertainment in some poorly-made movie.
As for the animation, some people might find the tennis matches to be unique and cool, but most of this movie is lacking in the art department. It switches from bad CG animation to bad hand-drawn backgrounds and effects, which are all a sore for the eyes to see. The soundtrack is roughly the same as anything else in The Prince of Tennis, which is a good, but nothing exceptional either.
Overall, this movie is funny, but it's not trying to be. Just because of how ridiculous it is, it's something that had me laughing for the most part. Part of that is just because I've grown up liking this series from a young age and was hooked on this show from then. If you don't have a special place for The Prince of Tennis in your heart, then there's probably no place for this movie in your schedule either. Afterall, it does share something from Hametsu no Mars: the fact that you're probably better off not watching this. Apparently, this was aired alongside the Prince of Tennis short A Gift from Atobe, which was far more entertaining to watch, a fun and almost-touching story to see, and also much shorter than this, so I would recommend you watch that instead.