Who is the real Eyeshield 21?

Eyeshield 21 v13-18

Eyeshield 21 v13 cover

Story by Riichiro Inagaki
Art by Yusuke Murata
Translation by Craig Kingsley, Hime Kingsley (#13-18) & John Werry (#13)
Lettering and retouch by James Gaubatz
Edited by Yuki Takagaki (#13-15) & Urian Brown (#14-18)

The third year of Eyeshield 21 continues the Tokyo Fall football tournament. The Devil Bats are confronted by some outstanding teams — the ultra-tall Kyoshin Poseidons, the kick-happy Bando Spiders, and the unstoppable Seibu Wild Gunmen! Can they defeat these powerful foes and make their way to the Kanto tournament and the Christmas Bowl?

In these six volumes, the pace of Eyeshield 21 finally starts to slow — there are only 2.5 games. The resulting games are definitely a lot more intense and there's little padding — we're just seeing more of the key plays. An overall pattern starts to emerge for the tournament — a volume or so of comedy intrigue between games that last about a volume and a half. Not everything here is successful (a field day sequence notably fails to pay off in any meaningful way), but there's a nice subplot where Sena is informed that there's a real Eyeshield 21 — and that he may be playing in the tournament.

Unfortunately, it's also in these volumes that the series starts to succumb to the power inflation common in shonen manga. It's not enough for the Kyoshin Poseidon to have a tall line — everyone on the line has to be some sort of circus freak. It's not enough for Seibu to have a fast running back — he has to be better than Sena in every way. Bando can't just have a great kicker — he has to be able to kick a soda can into a trash can from 20 yards. Even in a cartoony series like this, this level of escalation starts to get ludicrous. It was amusing in earlier volumes when Sena made the cut for an NFL team, but when everyone else in Japan starts getting in on the act it it's a bit much.

Yusuke Murata becomes a bit more comfortable with the style he was developing in the last few volumes, and the characters start to develop a genuine solidity and dimensionality that adds some extra oomph to the football scenes. Even Komusubi, who's always felt like a squiggle, starts to achieve a level of solidity and plausibility that's impressive. Unfortunately, after reading eighteen volumes in a row, there's very little that starts to stand out. So here's a really nice two-page spread of Komusubi flattening a Poseidons linebacker.

Eyeshield 21 v14 p. 74-5

Eyeshield 21 v14, p. 74-5

That's a nice, off-center composition with a defined foreground, middle ground, and background. The dark patches are spotted in a rough line that leads you to arc across the page from Mizumachi to Komusubi, and the speed lines only reinforce the rushing action. And you've got to love the wild foreshortening that makes you feel like you're in the middle of the action. When was the last time you saw something this dynamic in an American superhero comic?

To sum up, the series is slipping a bit in these volumes, but it's still an enjoyable read. Though it may be one you'd rather read in the bookstore than take home.

Oh, and congrats to !(New England Patriots) for defeating the New England Patriots, 17-14. We were rooting for you the whole time, !Patriots.

  1. For anyone who cares, volume 17 finally catches up with the issue of Shonen Jump I purchased in Japan. Which puts us only about 12 volumes behind, I guess.

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