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Sunday, November 19, 2006

The Live-Action Prince of Tennis Movie

Poster of The Prince of Tennis live-action film

Prince of Tennis is a faithful adaptation of the popular manga and anime series. When I said faithful, I meant to say that characters perform superhero feats in tennis games, levitating thirty feet into the sky to return a serve, causing stormy clouds to gather above the stadium (darkening the skies, covering the sun) when one decides to concentrate, performing mid-air acrobatics, unleashing devastating serves that could engulf a tennis ball with flames, or creating some kind of vortex or force field which causes the ball to fly towards his direction no matter where the opponent was aiming.

Yuu Shirota as Tezuka in Prince of TennisIt's like Shaolin Soccer, but with tennis, and a cast of young Japanese actors who resemble their anime counterparts, a definite fanservice for the female audiences. I remember the days when I was subjected to episodes of Prince of Tennis at the uni's Anime Club (Justin and I were not-too-proud members of the club) weekly screening two years ago, and the hardcore female anime fans around us would scream, gasp, sigh at the sight of those studlicious manly characters of the anime, and shriek even louder when the gay undertones (or overtones?) become even more apparent (... like one character resting his hand on another character's shoulder, or one character staring intensely at another character which can also be interpreted as looks of lust). Hardcore anime fans do have the special abilities of making even affect the most confident of men like me when they make you realize that no matter how desirable and deliciously hawt you know you are, you can't really compare with the impossible beauty of anime male characters that they so desire. Bah.

Anyway, this film is sure to make female viewers happy, although I did enjoy the over-the-top, entertaining tennis matches, kinetic Asian cinema at their most, er, kinetic.

The minimal plot is lifted directly from Wikipedia because I am lazy.

Twelve year old Ryoma Echizen (Kanata Hongo) is the tennis prodigy from America who has the personal history of winning 4 successive victories at the American Junior Tennis tournaments. His father, Nanjiroh Echizen, a tennis player of legendary status, recalls Ryoma back to Japan to attend the distinguished school of Seishun Academy Middle School. Ryoma, a first year, has his eyes set on being on the regulars team of the tennis club, which the school is famous for.

The members of the Seigaku regulars team include Kunimitsu Tezuka (Yuu Shirota), the captain of the tennis club, whose ranking is that on the National's level. The vice-captain, Syuichirou Oishi (Hiroki Suzuki), who has a calm and rational sense of playing sense, compliments the acrobatic plays of his double's partner, Eiji Kikumaru (Osamu Adachi); making them the Golden Pair. Third year, Shusuke Fuji (Hiroki Aiba), a formidable player, is known for his tactical skill on the tennis courts. Then there's Sadaharu Inui (Hirofumi Araki), whose tennis style relies on what he calls, "data tennis" and Takashi Kawamura (Yoshikazu Kotani) whose personality instantly changes when he grabs his tennis racket. While second years Takeshi Momoshiro (Masaki Kaji), known for his power plays and Kaoru Kaido (Kousuke Kujirai), whose perseverance is daunting, round off the Seigaku regulars team.

Ryoma arrives in time for the monthly campus ranking tournament, but at first, due to his young age and his cool attitude, some club members do not take him seriously; however, during the ranking tournament, Ryoma is quick to prove his skill and become the only first year on the regulars team, just in time for the regional preliminary rounds.

Then, there's the lone girl who watches Ryoma from the audience. Her name is Shioin Higaki (Sayuri Iwata), whose parents had died in accident. She is mute due to traumatic shock of her past. She first meets Ryoma when he helps her on the train from loud group of High School boys.

While in a crucial match against Fudomine Middle School during the regionals, Ryoma injures his eye by accident, but his determination to finish the match helps bring victory to Seigaku as they can advance to the Kanto conference as regional champions.

The actress who plays Shioin Higaki, Sayuri Iwata is a cutie...

Sayuri Iwata plays Shioin Higaki in the Prince of Tennis movie

And I would've shifted the focus of this review onto her, until I found out via Wikipedia that she's even younger than my little sister. Therefore, instead of trying to pull a Craig, I shall remain silent.

Film is recommended to those who are into watching sweaty Japanese pretty boys playing CGI-heavy tennis. Though regular Western viewers might lose their sanity watching this.

Prince of Tennis trailer

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