Eyeshield 21 is a big Shonen Jump staple that is soon coming to a close in America. Although the anime and manga are finished in Japan, the English translation isn’t quite finished in America. Nearing the release of the final issue of the series, Volume 37, I decided this is a great series that everyone should know about.
What You Need To Know
Eyeshield 21 is a collaboration between writer Riichiro Inagaki, who won Weekly Shonen Jump’s 7 “Story King”, and illustrator Yusuke Murata, who recently worked on Donten Solar Prism Car. It began serialization in Weekly Shonen Jump in 2002 and ended in 2009 with 37 volumes, a 145 episode anime, 2 video games, and a novel under its belt. Several characters also have cameo appearances in Jump Super Stars and Jump Ultimate Stars.
Sena Kobayakawa, a timid and bullied freshman entering Deimon High, has the ability to run very fast (40 yard dash in 4.2 seconds). Hiruma Yoichi, captain of the Deimon Devil Bats Football Team, forces Sena into playing for them. Other clubs might want to use his speed, so Hiruma hide Sena’s true identity by giving him the moniker Eyeshield 21. Together with Ryokan Kurita, Mamori Anezaki, and Yoichi Hiruma, they begin recruiting and building an unstoppable team that cannot be beaten with the ultimate goal; playing in the Christmas Bowl.
What to Expect
American Football. This is ALL about football. While this might be off-putting for several people, the rules are actually explained throughout the series in a way most people will understand. Even if you don’t like football, you can still read this and enjoy it. The story revolves around football, but is actually about everyone in the story growing up and how they become a team. Sena himself grows more confident and even loves the game of football.
Friendships are made, rivalries begin, and dreams are broken. Introduced throughout the story is a staggering number of characters, some more memorable than others, but each different in their own way, creating an ensemble cast that plays off of each other in very interesting, and comedic, ways.
|Sena Kobayakawa is a timid and shy, leading him to be bullied for most of his life. By helping run errands for bullies, he develops the ability to run faster than most people. With his ability, he is recruited to be the Running Back for the Deimon Devil Bats. To protect his identity, he is given the moniker Eyeshield 21; ace football player from the famous Notre Dame University.|
|Mamori Anezaki is a motherly childhood friend of Sena who thinks she’s protecting him. After hearing Sena planned to join the Football Club as an “assistant”, she decides to join also to protect Sena from Hiruma. Her ability to retain knowledge and quick thinking allows her to play a pivotal role on the team.|
|Yoichi Hiruma, with his evil looks and multiple firearms he carries, is the evil Quarterback for the Deimon Devil Bats. Ever since he was young, he has a knack for calculating and gambling based solely on the odds, never taking chances. Together with Kurita, he plays football in hopes of going to the Christmas Bowl before graduating.|
|Ryokan Kurita plays Center and is a big person with a heart of gold. He is also very strong and loves football. He is in the same grade as Yoichi and is the reason he plays football. While Yoichi instills fear when recruiting players, Kurita takes a kinder approach to getting players to join.|
|Tetsuo Ishimaru is the track team captain who plays for the Deimon Devil Bats in hopes of recruiting Eyeshield 21 for the track team. He is a second Running back and has played in every Devil Bat’s game, making him an honorary member. He is a nice person whose kindness is abused by everyone else. The running joke is that he is barely noticeable and ignored.|
|Taro Raimon, AKA Monta, is an all-star catcher who aims to be the World’s #1. Originally, he planned to follow in the footsteps of his hero by playing baseball. But due to his inability to do anything but catching, he doesn’t make the team. He later joins the Devil Bats and is invaluable to the team as a Wide Receiver.|
|Three guys (Kazuki Jumonji, Koji Kuroki, and Shozo Togano) are blackmailed by Yoichi into playing Linemen for the Devil Bats. Originally, they used to pick on Sena, making him run errands for them, but little do they know he is actually Eyeshield 21.|
|Seijuro Shin is Sena’s main rival. He is a Fullback for the Ojou White Knights. He trains hard and in extreme ways to become the best player there is. With “Eyeshield 21” as his rival, he strives even harder to become better. He is not very good with technology, tending to break everything and sticking to rudimentary equipment.|
|Cerberus is Yoichi’s dog that is even more vicious than Yoichi himself. It is used to train other team members through fear.|
Should You Watch or Read?
Due to the stylistic illustrations and incredible 2-page spreads, the manga is the recommended experience. While the anime is very good, the animation doesn’t hold up as well as the manga, which is disappointing and even though it’s 145 episodes, it ended before the actual manga. The anime only went up to the Quarter-Finals of the Christmas bowl, ending with a non-canonical game that never happened in the manga.
The manga is 37 volumes, which seems like a daunting read, but actually goes by faster due to the fast paced nature of football games. It also has several interesting tidbits about the characters littered throughout the volumes.
It is an interesting take on American Football and the illustrations of Yusuke Murata are amazing. The numerous characters introduced form an interesting bunch that can play off each other in humorous ways and is very enjoyable to read their interactions. If you go with either Manga or Anime, you’ll have a good time watching/reading and enjoy your time.