Fanart Friday returns, finding absolutely nothing offensive about the Kate Upton/Mercedes-Benz Super Bowl commercial, other than it being kind of dumb. Last week, in celebration of the release of Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch, we took a look back at the works of Studio Ghibli and its founder Hayao Miyazaki, but this week we're not dealing in the whimsical, we're dealing in war!
That's right, ladies and gentlemen--as some of you know, the Crunchyroll office is based in San Francisco, and the City by the Bay's very own 49ers are taking part in the epic final fight of the 2012 American football season, Super Bowl XLVII! Now, I may like football from having grown up with it, but there are a lot of other people who didn't get into the sport at all... until Eyeshield 21 came around.
Eyeshield 21 is plenty realistic, ragdoll physics and all
While it's far from the only American football-centric manga, Eyeshield 21 is far and away the most popular, mixing the winning JUMP formula of "friendship, effort, and victory" (check out this Gintama episode if you don't know what I'm talking about... or this blog) with Yusuke Murata's ultra-dynamic artwork and Riichiro Inagaki's mastery of serial cliffhangers. A friend of mine who doesn't like football very much summed it up: "An exciting manga can make anything interesting." True dat, bro. Now, let's kick this pig!
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I saw this picture, and my jaw dropped--it's hard to believe that Eyeshield 21 has been around for over a decade! The manga ended back in 2009, but it's one I look back on fondly for never really losing momentum over its entire 37-volume run.
Having a great rival character had a lot to do with the story working so well--Seijuro Shin is not only a goal that the hero must surpass, but an ideal to look up to. The fact that he's basically a gridiron version of Fist of the North Star's Kenshiro only makes him cooler.
As for these three... well, what more can I say? Our very own John Zabate covered how Hiruma's sheer force of awesome sucks away all interest in the main character, but even Hiruma is kind of lost without his roly-poly-ridiculously-strong pal Kurita and the down-to-Earth Musashi.
Although to be honest, these three goobs were my favorites. Watching Jumonji--the leader of this ragtag trio--having to grow from a bully to the kind of strong man he always pretended to be was pretty awesome.
Coulda done with less of this dork, though. Do we actually have any Natsuhiko Taki fans here? I mean, when you need a good, well-rounded utility player, you really should go with...
...this guy, even if he's the biggest douchebag who ever bagged a douche. The game against Shinryuji and their star player Agon was pretty intense, and full of what would otherwise be considered dirty play. Strangely enough, one of my first-ever articles for Crunchyroll was a Pulse feature comparing real football to Eyeshield 21!
You want a straight-up battle of wits, will, and skill, though? Look no further than Deimon's tournament game against the Seibu Wild Gunmen. Our heroes actually lost this game, which showed you that the main characters weren't necessarily going to win every time. It added all sorts of tension to the rest of the series!
Heck, they even lost the game against the visiting American team, the NASA Aliens! Then again, the Aliens' running back is a black guy named (sigh) Panther. Yes, he's from the projects. His racial stereotype is too strong! We cannot resist his Afro-American flexibility! Once you go black, he'll never oh the hell with it, I can't keep it up.
Early on in the series, we were introduced to delinquent-overrun Zokugaku High, their football team the Chameleons, and freakishly long-armed LB/occasional QB Rui Habashira. It's impressive how much fanart there is on Pixiv of this otherwise minor character... even if most of it pairs him up with Hiruma.
For those of you who don't know football very well, the quarterback (QB) is basically the field commander, changing tactics as necessary to advance his troops. Every QB has a different playstyle, whether it's Tom Brady's crazy habit of teleporting the ball into receivers' hands or Colin Kaepernick channelling the spirit of Joe Montana and booking it down the field himself. For a nerdier explanation, here's Penny Arcade putting an RPG spin on American football.
Of course Deimon High's one cheerleader is super popular! While I don't care much for her dork of a brother, Suzuna Taki was a fun, lighthearted addition to the team... even if it meant we had to deal with Natsuhiko.
Honestly, though... this is the real reason I think they introduced Suzuna into the series. It's never explicitly stated, but at the end of the manga, Mamori heads off to the same college as Hiruma, "to keep him in line." Suuuuure.
Speaking of Mamori, I just feel bad for her most of the time, y'know? She's constantly worried about Sena (and rightfully so at the start of the series), she's kept in the dark about everything, and she has to watch this group of guys she's grown to care about get the crap kicked out of them in almost every game.
Hell, half of her worries came exclusively from this guy! I don't remember if Gaou showed up at all in the anime, but this gargantuan bruiser was one of the final stops for Deimon on the road to the Christmas Bowl. I keep hoping for a final OAV mini-series for Eyeshield 21 to cover the last handful of matches, just so I can see Kurita take on this monster!
Although I'm sure many more of you would appreciate Karin, the only female player in the entire series--you might have caught a glimpse of her earlier on the group shot with all the QBs. The strongest team in all of Japan has a girl playing quarterback, and she's awesome at it!
And of course, backing her up is none other than the real Eyeshield 21 himself. Yep, the one Hiruma "borrowed" the name from, just so he could give Sena a secret identity. Who is he? Does he live up to the name? I GUESS YOU'LL JUST HAVE TO READ THE MANGA! Or hope for that OAV.
If there's one thing I'll always love about sports manga and anime, it's the occasional "gimmick" team. The Kyoshin Poseidon's gimmick was that they had a super-tall defensive line, so you couldn't pass over them and they were always able to catch runners. Breaking down basic sports strategy into a video game like "x beats y" system always makes for fun storytelling.
If any of you have ever been a mascot for your school's sports program, I sympathize. Those suits are uncomfortable as hell. That's probably why I like Deimon's mascot so much--he's just a hungry, territorial demon hound. No goofy suit needed!
Remember how I was cracking wise about Panther, the only black guy on the visiting American team? (There were also two Mexican brothers, both named Gonzalez.) The US All-Star Team is even worse! Aside from Panther, you have a redneck named Bud Walker and a seven-foot-tall Native American named Tatanka. adsflkasdf8ghwksd82tl23,sdfgh
HE EVEN WEARS WAR PAINT ON THE FIELD! SERIOUSLY, WHAT ON EARTH IS NEXT?! Makes me almost sad that this was the final game of the series. On this same note, have any of you heard of a series called Ring ni Kakero, by Saint Seiya author Masami Kurumada?
All in all, though, Sena's a pretty cool hero, and is "everyman" enough to make us cheer for him. His "superpower" is basically just running at top speed, so there's plenty of dramatic weight if he gets blindsided by anybody bigger than he is (read: most characters, even most of the girls).
Riku was a pretty cool character, but I wonder what the writer was going for when he was introduced. Sena already had a rival in Shin (overall ability), so why did he need a rival specifically for his specialty? The Wild Gunmen only really showed up once in the series, so Riku's importance stayed as a support character for his childhood friend, Sena.
As much as I love Musashi (voiced by Rikiya Koyama!), he's another character who doesn't get to do very much. Football is a game of specializations (as opposed to, say, baseball or soccer, where you have to be well-rounded), and in an exciting shounen sports series, you can't have the heroes constantly win by scoring field goals from sixty yards downfield.
There's a really important trope called Talking is a Free Action, where characters can talk as much as they want without having to worry about getting interrupted by anything. This is especially true in the Shinryuji game, where Deimon's simian-handed freak of a wide receiver Monta has a mid-air struggle with Shinryuji's WR, Ikkyu, and both of them, several other team members on the field, the audience, and the announcers are all able to give plenty of analysis and commentary before they hit the ground... all in the span of what should take only a few seconds. GOD I LOVE ANIME
Even the biggest badasses had to come from somewhere! Hiruma (dark hair) and Agon (blonde hair) were both punks when they were younger, but maybe it's a good thing they never ran into each other until high school!
OH GOD THAT'S NICE TO SEE. Agon's twin Unsui puts up with so much crap from his ruthless and arrogant brother, so it's nice to see him have the upper hand for once. One change I didn't like from the manga to the anime--after his team's defeat in the manga, Agon took the loss like a champ, and decided that his belief that "a perfect team is eleven of me" was wrong, while in the anime he's a sore loser and tries to deck Hiruma. Not cool, dude!
Let's end with one last look at everybody! All the good guys, all the bad guys, a handful of the poor schmucks who didn't deserve any screen time, and the random animal sidekicks!
Oh, what the hell, one more!
by 春さん (日)西あ61a
And that's all for this week! Now, before we have any "American football isn't real football" flame wars, I think soccer's a brilliant and intelligent game... but it's just so much more fun to watch a clueless wide receiver get decapitated by some free safety. When someone has to be carried off the field in football, they really have to be carried off the field.
Sound off, Eyeshield 21 fans--do you like the manga or anime better? Do you want to see the anime finish the story? Who are your favorite characters, or matches?
As I mention every week, your work is always welcome here on Fanart Friday, regardless of your skill or experience. Just PM me a link to your work, and I'll make sure to include it in a future installment! For those of you wanting to get a head start for next week, we'll be bro-fisting it up with a BEST FRIENDS theme!
Thanks again for checking out Fanart Friday! Have a great weekend, enjoy the Super Bowl, and we hope to see you next week!