I am a huge sports fan and an avid manga reader. One day I found out that there was a manga that revolved around American Football which is my favorite sport. There are quite a few manga series out there that are based on sports, but for they seem to have kind of niche audience for the most part. Luckily, I am part of this niche audience and once I got started, I was very impressed with how accurate the manga reflects actual football.
Our story revolves around Kobayakawa Sena who has always been bullied and forced to run errands for others. Running around has made Sena naturally fast and this speed caught the eye of the two people who run the Deimon football team. Hiruma and Kurita demand that Sena join the football team which has literally two active members. Sena, being the person he is, gets forced into it and shows up to the first game of the season. On a team filled with substitutes goes out and watches Sena run straight past the enemy team. Hiruma has found the man who will bring him the Christmas Bowl, the high school american football championship in Japan, but he must be kept secret. Thus, Sena was given a dark eye shield and Eyeshield 21 was born. The three members have discussed the fact that their goals were to win the Christmas Bowl and they decided to go out and get some actual members for the cause. Throughout the series we see the evolution of a team and its players as they adjust to their roles and face teams that actually have established programs. Although the football moves are heavily dramatized, the techniques used are real and we get an interested window into the world of football. The journey of the Deimon Devilbats is definitely an interesting one.
Our main Character is Kobayakawa Sena who is the running back for Deimon. Sena is weak-willed and has been bullied his entire life, but he has the God-given talent of a speed that results in a 4.2 second 40 yard dash. Hiruma Yoichi is the quarterback for Deimon and is, by definition, an evil genius. Hiruma gets things done for the team through extortion and is a master of play calling on the football field. Kurita Ryokan is the kind-hearted giant that plays is the center of Deimon’s offensive line. Kurita is too passive to force inspire the team the way that Hiruma does, but he lets his high level of play do the real talking. Raimon Tarou is the undersized wide receiver of the Devilbats. Monta, as he is called by his teammates, is a former baseball player with great catching ability and a bit of an ego. Monta easily becomes Sena’s best friend and the two work hard to try to be the aces of the team. Mamori is Sena’s childhood friend who would always try to protect Sena growing up. Although she does not know Sena is the mysterious Eyeshield 21, Mamori still becomes the manager of the team and is quite the strategic compliment to Hiruma. Shin Seijuro is the star linebacker for the Oujouu White Knights. Shin, with his mix of speed and power, is Sena’s rival on the field and his team, the White Knights, is the new-found rival of the Deimon Devilbats. Shin only has football on his mind which can result in a lack of awareness in non-football situations. There is a multitude of recurring characters both on and off the Deimon team. We see a lot of star players from other teams and you get a nice sense of rivalry from the teams that play Deimon.
The series talks about how Notre Dame in America is the holy land of football. Luckily, Notre Dame is going to the national title game here in the 2012-2013 college football season so this has some relevance. I was very impressed with the football that is played in this series and I found it to be very entertaining. We get a lot of great character development and the story does not always follow the classic plot armor method that I find annoying. Football fans may find the dramatization to be bad, while manga fans may not enjoy the heavy focus on football. The manga is only 333 chapters long which sounds long if you don’t read Shounen Jump, but that is manageable and packs a very well-written story.
Even though I enjoyed Eyeshield 21, it is a hard series to recommend to others. I have friends that love football that hate it because of the way it portrays the sport. I have friends that like manga that just don’t like sports manga. If you are willing to give sports manga a chance, then I would love for you to read Eyeshield 21 because it is well-written and has great football action. Even though Slam Dunk is the most popular sports manga, Eyeshield 21 is my favorite and I want to say that my love of football doesn’t make too big of a bias for me. The series was completed a few years ago so unless you can track down the manga in a store, the chapters are online. I do suggest that people support series by buying them, especially if they are still being stocked the way that Eyeshield 21 is.