I'd like to preface this review by saying, I am not a sports fan. I occasionally watch baseball and used to play it in High School, but aside from that that's as far as I go into the sport world. Maybe it was because of that but for some reason I never got into Sports Mangas or Anime. They always seemed far too real and when I read manga I want escapism, I want something that is out there and extraordinary. And I know there are many other anime fans out there who feel the same way, and to them I have to say, check out Eyeshield 21, it is not like any other Sports Series out there.
Dinosaurs fighting the Sphinx? Let's see the NFL beat that.
Eyeshield 21 realizes that it is an anime and manga, yet they know that they're supposed to be set in a real world setting, so it is able to wonderfully blend the insane out there action style of shonen series along with showing real human growth and having some very emotional moments. The way that they do this is they use the magic of metaphors. In Eyeshield each football team is based on one theme or another, and each specialize in a certain field. And luckily artist Yusuke Murata
is able to take these themes and draw them coming to life in a way that really does wash over you and make you feel the tension that even the best action series cannot do. For example, the main team, the Deimon Devil Bats
, are themed around ghost, goblins, and all sorts of other demonic symbols (which is meant to represent their defiance against other teams which are said to have godly levels of talent and abilities), so when the hero Sena does an evasive spin you see clouds of mist and ghostly winds kicking up around him. Or when the Shinryuji Nagas
perform their Golden Dragon technique, you see Dragons ripping through the field, when the Kyoshin Poseidon's, who specialize in being the tallest team in the league, use their height to block passes you see waves reaching up off the ground. There are dozens of teams and each of them have these effects wonderfully executed and makes you wish real football was like this.
Sena's growth throughout the series is one of the most believable in any anime/manga
But I don't want anyone getting the wrong idea. This series might have lots of out there and crazy moments, but it manages to stay very real. The main character Sena
starts off just like many other anime heroes, as just a scared frail kid who has no friends except for his next door neighbor who is more like a big sister to him. However through playing Football he learns to be brave and strong, he learns what he is capable of, and he develops close bonds with his new friends. Now this may sound like the similar path that many heroes in anime have, and you're right. However, don't go assuming things right away, because unlike those other series, this transformation is actually believable. You really do see Sena growing more mature and it is hands down the most realistic change in a protagonist I've seen in any series.
This can be said for many characters in the show. Eyeshield 21 has one of the most colorful cast of any series, rivaling many of its Shonen siblings (Heck, a handful of characters make this series worth reading just for them
along), and yet each of them have motivations, backstories, and lives that make them feel more realistic than you would have expected. At one moment you will think this character is just a one dimensional caricature, but then they will have a very human moment that will actually move you.
Hiruma will teach you how to play Football in just 333 easy chapters
But it's not just the characters who feel real, the world they set this in does too. When I went into this series I knew nothing about football other than how many points a touchdown is worth. But this series walks you through the rules, the positions, the plays, and by the end of reading this manga I was actually impressing some sports fanatic buddies of mine with my knowledge. And even though they make these characters seem like they are super human in power, they keep it within the bounds of reality. Sena might be fast, but they don't have him going faster than the limits of human speed (even though they call his dash "Light Speed," they constantly point out what his speed really is and how its simply close to breaking record speed but never does).
The only real shame about this series is that the anime ended before the manga was over (which is a real shame since they literally only had three more games to play till they got to the end of the manga). Because of this you never get to see if they achieve their dream of reaching the Christmas Bowl (the big tournament for Japan). Also the anime doesn't quite hit the level of intensity with the effects that the manga does, but this is simply due to Murata's art working better on paper than on screen. So if you really don't mind which one you check out, I'd recommend the manga. However that isn't without its flaws either, as the very final arc of the series seems to me to be a tad tacked on (its still good, it just seems kind of rushed, like he was trying to create one more storyline for the road before the series was over) and also you can't avoid that there is some vague racism in the manga that isn't in the anime. They are constantly saying that the character Panther
will always be better than Sena because he has speed "only a black man could possess" (their exact words) and whenever I saw that I always wanted to go "Um... yeah that's racist right? It's not just me right?" But aside from that the manga is pretty superior in my mind. However, I do have to give lots of respect to the voice cast in the anime, they each range in quality, but none of them go below a B or B- in my opinion. And they did a wonderful job casting comedian Atsushi Tamaru
as Hiruma, he really brought that character to life.
So there you have it, Eyeshield 21 is the perfect series for anyone who has never tried a sports series because they feel more comfortable with more action packed series, yet at the same time it still knows how to tug on the heart strings. Whether you read the manga or watch the anime, there is no way you won't walk away from this show screaming out "YA-HA!" Final Scores: Anime - 8.5 out of 10 Manga - 9.5 out of 10