Eyeshield 21 31

May 5, 2010

Riichiro Inagaki / Yusuke Murata – Viz – 2010 – 37 volumes

While this is still very, very epic, for some reason I didn’t get caught up in it the same way I did in the ends of some of the other longer games.  Surprising, since this is the very game that will admit Deimon into the Christmas Bowl.  Hiruma is the one that makes the final touchdown, and I was expecting a moment from him identical to the one we got from Sena a few volumes back.  Apparently Hiruma isn’t so sentimental, and little was made of the fact that he was the one that finished it off.

There were some amazing, hard-to-believe plays at the very end.  It comes down to a two-point conversion, and incredibly, Hiruma and Sena are able to communicate with each other and figure out that the play they need to perform isn’t going to work, so things change in a split second and it comes down to Kurita having to take down Gao once and for all.  We knew that was coming, and I was expecting it a little sooner.

I am still very, very amused by all of Hiruma’s tricks.  I absolutely love that their entire strategy is based on the number of things Hiruma may or may not do to fool the opponent.  He tricks so hard that there’s a question about whether he will do a trick or won’t, because you wouldn’t expect the latter, and then what kind of trick he will pull also comes into play.  It’s better when the other team has a character like Marco, a strategist who can go toe-to-toe with Hiruma and thwart him in at least some of his schemes.

I also like the ends of these games because the series does an excellent job of emphasizing that, with every one of Deimon’s victories, the other team is defeated and sits out the rest of the season, and they wanted to go to the Christmas Bowl just as much as Deimon.  A lot of these students are seniors with only one shot left, too, and while it’s not quite the same as the main characters losing, we do get a lot of backstory for all the opponents, and it can still be heartbreaking.

Sigh.  We get to hear yet another team talked up.  One of the things that Eyeshield 21 is bad at is constantly coming up with a “new strongest.”  Each opponent is the strongest possible team they can face.  Ojo has a huge system in place and is the absolute elite.  The Nagas are scary good.  The Poseidons are great, too.  Now the Alexanders have a system in place in their high school that puts even the Big 10 to shame.  I’m… not as excited about the Christmas Bowl, but I’m sure reading it will convince me otherwise.  I suspect more story takes place after that, too, which is a shame because I really hope that Eyeshield 21 doesn’t die a slow Shounen Jump death.

But for now, this is still some fantastic manga.  Play on, Deimon.

Eyeshield 21 30

May 5, 2010

Riichiro Inagaki / Yusuke Murata – Viz – 2010 – 37 volumes

Aside from the big guns like One Piece, Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure, Death Note, and Dragon Ball, were you to ask me for the best of what Shonen Jump has to offer, I would point you in the direction of Hikaru no Go and Eyeshield 21.  Both are series that take a topic with limited interest (more in the case of HnG, but I’ll stick by the stereotype and say that a lot of manga readers probably aren’t big football fans) and use the absolute best characters to make a series that are infectiously upbeat and impossible to put down.  Of the four I mentioned as exceptions, Jojo and Death Note are strange kiws in the Jump apple tree, and One Piece and Dragon Ball… they’re also different, but more because… well, in One Piece’s case, it is more heavily plot-driven than any other Jump series I’ve seen.  Dragon Ball is too, for the first 18 or so volumes.  There are a lot of good Shonen Jump series, but generally we see the very best they have to offer in 7-10 volumes, and then they get more serious and very repetitive.

But I can’t get enough of either Hikaru no Go or Eyeshield 21.  They keep their sense of humor, explain the subject matter to you bit by bit, and make you hang on every glorious victory and painful defeat the characters experience.  And the characters are very, very good.

We are getting closer and closer to the Christmas Bowl, but before that, Hiruma’s arm is broken and the characters don’t know what to do without a quarterback or Hiruma’s devious tricks against Gao and the rest of the Dinosaurs.  Sena does a good job filling in for Hiruma initially, but after the quarterback for the Dinosaurs figures out Sena’s strategy, the Devil Bats are dead in the water.  So… then there’s Hiruma.

The highlight of this volume is that, despite his exploitative and demonic nature, Hiruma is willing to back up getting what he wants with huge amounts of personal sacrifice.  He doesn’t let on that he’s doing it, of course, but he is anyway.  Even in his state, he’s such a wildcard that neither the reader nor the Dinosaurs quite knows what to make of him, and much is made of his presence on the field being like that of a gargoyle (or something), just there to bring bad luck and doubt.

Hiruma is, by far, the gift that Eyeshield 21 will give us long after we’ve read the last volume.

I also would like to mention the catcher’s duel between Monta and that strange, effeminate boy.  I love that so much was made of that boy’s ability, then so little came of it when their duel actually took place.  Good for Deimon.

I’m tempted to hoard the last volumes and read them all at once, but I’ve got 31 sitting here and little to stop me from starting it right now.

Eyeshield 21 29

December 13, 2009

Riichiro Inagaki / Yusuke Murata – Viz – 2009 – 37 volumes

The sinister feeling I got from Gao last volume pretty much carries through all the way here.  Things look a little up as of, like, the last page, but Gao is a pretty horrible threat.  He’s fair, in that he plays by the rules and everyone recognizes that getting injured is part of playing football, but serious bodily injury is a terrible thing to threaten in situations like this.

This game will probably last at least three volumes, so this chunk of story was spent with both teams just matching preliminary strategies.  Touchdowns are had, and plans are developed and foiled on both sides.  Surprisingly, Gao isn’t really much of a threat save for two instances, but terrible things do happen right at the end.

I’m a big fan of the correct use of solid black pages, and we get a good use of them here.  My heart broke, which says a lot considering who the character was it happened to.

There’s still touches of humor, but with the beginning of the game, we get down to some pretty serious business right away.  It’s mostly football, but it’s always fun to see the wacky strategies and fake-outs all the characters pull on one another.  So yeah, still a great volume.

The character popularity polls in this series are always fascinating.  It’s true that Hiruma steals the show, but it’s almost unheard of for the main character of a Shounen Jump series to not come out first in these things.  Not only that, after Sena came in second, most of the other members of the Devil Bats don’t even rank in the top ten, it’s mostly side characters.  That just goes to show you the power of goofy gimmick characters, I suppose.

Eyeshield 21 28

December 12, 2009

Riichiro Inagaki / Yusuke Murata – Viz – 2009 – 37 volumes

YES.  This volume has a long flashback about Hiruma and how he and Kurita met.  It’s been my favorite part of the series so far.  I wasn’t really expecting it.  I hadn’t thought about how the two met, since I assumed they were just classmates at their old school, and I wasn’t really expecting… an origin story for Hiruma, since he is just a high school student.  I was rewarded hansomely for my non-curiousity.

We learn about how Hiruma and Kurita met, and also about how both developed an interest in football, and how the Devil Bats got started, and also how Hiruma’s gambling and coercing habits built on themselves over the years.  It’s awesome.  It also involves the line “Die, you jovial tub of lard,” which may make Hiruma the greatest character in all of manga. I’m not sure.

It’s awesome.  It’s funny, and on topic, and builds up Hiruma and Kurita, and is just everything I love about Eyeshield 21.  As I’ve said before, I’m still not tired of reading this series, even 28 volumes in, and it’s because of things like this.  This may be one of the single most consistently entertaining series I’ve read, aside from all-time favorites like One Piece and Jojo and the like.

Other parts of the volume look at Gao and the Hakushu Dinosaurs.  We’ve learned that Gao causes people serious bodily harm, but we see it first hand in the game with Seibu.  The game begins and ends in this volume, which I wasn’t expecting.  When a team is built up as much as Hakushu, I expect Deimon to play them, but in this case, I couldn’t imagine the rematch with Seibu would fail to happen.  It was a tossup, and I was expecting it to draw out a little bit more.  I was quite happy it didn’t, though, because I get tired of games with Deimon sometimes, and I couldn’t imagine how a game with side characters could last and still be entertaining.  So… yeah, it’s good that that didn’t happen.

For anyone still reading and marvelling at my amazing writing skills, the one thing that makes me uncomfortable about these parts with Gao is that he’s such a brutal guy.  They stress that he plays by the rules, but he is ruthless, and does seriously injure people in ways that football players get injured (broken bones, incapacitated, stuff like that).  While Deimon has had plenty of opponents, all of them difficult/eccentric in their own ways, none of them have been truly malicious, which is part of the goofy charm of the series.  A dark character like this just doesn’t fit.

Eyeshield 21 27

October 22, 2009

Riichiro Inagaki / Yusuke Murata – Viz – 2009 – 37 volumes

This and Hikaru no Go are just great.  Nearly perfect at what they do.  Much like the newest volume of Hikaru no Go, reading this reminded me of what I like about manga, Shounen Jump series in particular.  As much as I like One Piece, it’s been a long time since a volume has given me as much pleasure as thosee did.  Of course, the story is currently on the boring Alabasta arc, so I guess I should keep that in mind.

Eyeshield 21’s spectacular in every way.  The games are interesting, and seeing the characters switch through a variety of plays with variying degrees of determintion, heroic-ness, and humor, keeps the plot moving even when the games last two or three volumes.  Even the chapter which was just characters thinking to themselves over the course of a few seconds, with no dialogue, was great.  I was very impressed when even Hiruma was getting discouraged, and then wound up pulling off another crafty miracle.  The volume ends with the end of the game, which literally comes down to the last second.

There were two things that struck me as unlikely, though, even for a sports manga.  One was that Monta’s baseball hero shows up.  Now, he showed up last volume, and I forgot to mention it, but it was… just a little too convenient that he seemed to have abandoned his baseball career to become an administrator for the Football Association.  Even more unlikely was the fact that, in this volume, he mentions that he remembers Monta as “that kid I threw my glove to in the crowd all those years ago.”

The second thing is a bit of a spoiler.  Admittedly, not much of a spoiler, because there are ten more volumes and you know how this game will end.  But all the same, let me mark it out here for you.

Spoiler.

Spoiler.

In the last second, Deimon returns a kickoff and scores a touchdown.  The clock has one second on it when the play started, and they literally returned a wonky kickoff for a touchdown, and it was the only time Sena ever got past Shin.  I mean, that didn’t even really happen in, like, Appalachian State vs. Michigan.  You can return a kickoff for a touchdown, but not with one second left on the clock, and not to win the game, and not against a favored opponent like Ojo was.  I’m sorry, Eyeshield 21.

Suspending disbelief, it was still pretty amazing in the context of the series.  The scene wasn’t really drawn out and beautiful like it was at the end of the last game, but the winning victory is always sweet, and the characters really earned it this time.

I also really liked that Ojo’s defeat was shown registering with their players.  Otawara, the big, goofy, often naked defender took it hardest, but even their cool quarterback took it really hard.   It’s things like that, showing that the game was just as important to the other team, that make me like Eyeshield 21 a lot more than any other sports manga except maybe Hikaru no Go, which isn’t really a sport.  I like that the Ojo boys got the cover, and are wearing their Ojo school uniforms.  They sometimes do things aside from playing football..

The art helps immensely, too.  I can’t get over how dynamic everything about it is.  The angles, the way the player’s bodies bend and take hits, everything that’s going on is amazingly clear and easy to read, and all the character designs are unique and really goofy.  It’s just the best at what it’s doing, and it wouldn’t be nearly as good a series without the art.

Some sports manga are an acquired taste, but Eyeshield 21 isn’t.  It’s just really good, and it’s hard to imagine anyone picking it up and not enjoying it unless they were dead-set against it.

Eyeshield 21 26

October 10, 2009

Riichiro Inagaki / Yusuke Murata – Viz – 2009 – 37 volumes

Forget About Love reminded me of Hiruma’s threat book, which reminded me I’ve still got two volumes of this series to read.  Hiruma’s threat book hasn’t been seen in a long, long time, but I’ll forgive it that since this game with Ojo is pretty epic.

The game volumes are always a little slower and less enjoyable, somehow, but they still rock since Eyeshield 21 is still good at making the games very exciting.  The main points in this volume are that Monta has a new, nearly unstoppable catching technique, and Sena has devised a way to delay Shin’s tackles.  And… yeah, they play football.

I read for the jokes, mostly, which are few and far between during the games, but still there.  At one point, during a particular sappy scene, Hiruma mimicks everyone’s faces and lines to make fun of them, which was pretty amazing.  There was one chapter where Hiruma and Ojo’s quarterback make fun of each other during a play by continuously acting angry, and then following it with the line “Is that what you thought I’d say?” as they recover from whatever trick the other has pulled.  Hiruma comes out on top, of course.

The cute skits between chapters that are mostly reader questions are still very funny, too.  Most of the volume compares characters from Deimon and Ojo on various points.  For instance, Sena and Shin are compared on things like social skills (Sena has a little, so he wins over Shin’s zero) and “Neither fight, but if they did, who would win?” (Shin beat Sena by quite a bit here).  In Hiruma vs. Takami, Ojo’s quarterback, the stats are things like “number of books owned,” “room tidiness,” “Japanese chess,” “honesty” (neither is at all honest), and “neither goes to karaoke, but if they did, who would sing better?”

I think the game will be over next volume?  They have three minutes left, but that rarely means anything in shounen manga.  I’m pretty sure Deimon will win, but stranger things have happened, and I’m sure there’ll be some technicality that will allow them to advance to the Christmas Bowl if they do end up losing.

Eyeshield 21 25

September 23, 2009

Riichiro Inagaki / Yusuke Murata – Viz – 2009 – 37 volumes

I haven’t picked up this series in a long time, which is a shame because it is quite good.  But reading several volumes together isn’t a bad thing, especially since all three will probably cover the big game between Deimon and Ojo.  I’m sure it will even continue past volume 27.  After all, aside from getting to the Christmas Bowl, the only long-term goal the series has had has been the face-off between Sena and Shin.

There weren’t very many surprises here.  Deimon is, of course, the underdog, so of course they have to be pulverized before they can come from behind.  Or maybe they won’t come from behind and win, I don’t remember if a loss excludes them from the tournament or not.  Shin is unstoppable, and pretty much everyone admits he is a perfect player.  Even Agon is in shock in the stands.  Both teams are portrayed very sympathetically, which isn’t unusual for the series, but lots and lots of backstory about the players and training for Ojo are shown in this volume.

Most of what happens here is football, but there are still little snatches of humor, helped out by the fact that the Ojo players were introduced at the beginning of the series and have had running gags since then.  Hiruma is sadly not in top form in this volume, and not even his famous strategies and trickery come through at any point.

Speaking of the running gags, in the very back of the book, on the very last page before the next volume preview, down in the bottom corner, was the first fart joke I’ve laughed at in 20 years.  I don’t know how that happened, but that’s the power of Eyeshield 21.

Yeah.  Basically this was kind of a depressing read, but it was the type of necessary evil that just had to happen before the triumphant stuff in the second half of the game.  Let’s see what comes during the next two volumes.

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