Challenging Ryoma! The Prince of Tennis to the Unexpected. Decisions, Decisions….

9 Jul

Shout! Factory and Eleven Arts
Released July 5, 2022

Prince of Tennis’ new movie is all song and dance. Titled, Ryoma! The Prince of Tennis <Decide>, I wasn’t too sure about what to expect but when I’m a fan of musicals and West Side Story, it’s worth the watch. The drama examines the relationship between father and son, and dispenses with any sci-fi style elements to get to the chase.

To be honest, not many cinematic musicals about aiming for the top in some sport exist. While there’s many anime musicals set in different genres, to have an animated franchise annually releasing a work in this subgenre is much rarer. This 23-year-old franchise had regular stage shows, and this latest follows in that tradition.

This film continues the story of tennis prodigy Ryoma Echizen. He’s determined to take his game to the next level, but to do so means learning from the best. After he saves classmate Sakuno from some thugs (where two tennis balls collide like two atoms in a hadron collider), he’s magically transported to the past and meets his much younger parent. He knows that reveal himself is a bad idea, otherwise the timeline would unravel.

The mystery as to why he’s sent back in time gets weirder because he doesn’t even try to figure out a way back to the future. Instead, he shadows pop, pick up a point or two from him and continue to sing his feelings away. If it wasn’t for the touchy-feely tracks, I’d be confused about why Ryo was acting this way. Honestly, it’d be bad to break into song during a serious match, but I believe half of the presentation is from this young man imagining it all, and we’re seeing him daydreaming. Whatever drug he’s taking, I want some!

At least the 3D CGI renders make this modern update look respectable. It’s like following the North American adaptation of Astro-Boy.

Although the elder doesn’t recognise his own son is all grown up, that’s a good thing, since other ‘Time Travel’ stories often have some other family member notice the connection. The big reason this film works for me is that it brings part of the Broadway experience home. However, not all the songs work. I’m not a huge fan of rap, and the mixing up of English and Japanese within this genre is jarring. It should’ve stuck to one cultural representation.

The home video release includes music videos after the end credits, and the glory edition is an alternate edit. Hyotei Team Captain Keigo Atobe and Shitenhoji Team Captain Kuranosuke Shiraishi alternate roles, and it’s a cute selling point. Long time fans will enjoy this work, and newcomers are better off to get caught up before giving this release a view. There are a few nuances people should know about Ryoma before this film can be considered a score.

Ryoma! The Prince of Tennis <Decide> Trailer

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