|Great Characters Make For Great Series||1 out of 1 user found this review helpful.|
Usually I don't go for sports manga but this one got my attention and I actually liked it a lot. However, I believe it is the cast of characters who make this series one of my favorites as they’re eccentric, unique, and interesting enough to keep me laughing at their comedic antics. I think it just goes to prove that it’s not so much the subject matter that creates truly inspiring and great stories but the characters themselves. And the writer Riichiro Inagaki and artist Yusuke Murata have an eclectic cast of them in this series.
The main character Sena Kobayakawa is not the typical hot blooded sports hero type with a diehard spirit. Rather, he’s a weak-willed target for bullies who was made into an errand boy ever since elementary school. In high school however, he falls under the attention of an even bigger predator, Yoichi Hiruma who is the Captain and Co-Founder of the Devil Bats Football Team.
The outrageous Hiruma (who bears a startling resemblance to a devil) immediately realizes that Sena is a world class sprinter and recruits him by force as his team's star running back. In order to protect Sena's identity (and prevent the other school clubs from trying to co-opt his star player), Hiruma dubs him "Eyeshield 21". The rest of the series is mainly about the Devil Bats trying to recruit sufficient members to play and a stable of strange characters who often make up the football teams leading up to their climatic showdown against various rival football teams to be crowned as the champions.
Whereas Sena is the likeable, appealing, all-around nice guy, Hiruma is violent and manipulative to the extreme who is absolutely ruthless in his desire to win at football. He’ll playing mind games, bluff his opponents, and resort to all sorts of dirty trick plays on the field … yet he refuses to cheat. While at first, he resorts to all sorts of outrageous behavior to blackmail and force his reluctant minions to play football, over the course of the series; it becomes apparent that he is driven to such tactics because he has a great love of the game and of his friends as well. The absolute outrageousness of his character always amuses me and it’s hard not to laugh at his outrageous behavior.
The devilish and manipulative Hiruma aside, Sena quickly falls in love with playing football and begins to grow into his role at first hiding behind his identity of Eyeshield, he finally unmasks himself to step onto the field as a hero in his own right.
I am sure that some people have found football games a bit boring with the two teams lining up on the field and then throwing the ball back and forth and then lining up and doing it over and over again, but it certainly doesn’t read that way in the book. The football games are exciting and brilliantly crafted, keeping the reader on the edge of their seat as the Devil Bats struggle against opponent after opponent for come from behind victories using unexpected and unanticipated plays. Such tactics probably wouldn’t work in real life, but it would make the game a whole lot cooler and much more interesting to watch if it did.
The art is excellent and first class with a number of excellent character designs, exaggerated perspectives, dramatic freeze framing, and the like to emphasis plays and movement in the panels. I also like how the artist often throws in some nice icons in the backgrounds that represents the different teams or “techniques” that the different players employ. You’d think it would be overly cutesy or childish, but it surprisingly works. The artist is a great master of background scenery and there are often lots of comedic antics in the background if you’re sharp eyed enough to study them.
If you're not a football fan when you first start reading this series ... I guarantee that you will be one after you're finished.
RATING: 4 and 1/2 STARS!!!!