Hmm, Eyeshield deserves some more attention, so it gets to be next.
Name: Eyeshield 21
Genres: Shonen, Sports
Author: Inagaki Riichiro
Artist: Murata Yuusuke
Publication: Weekly Shonen Jump
Start Date: August 2002
End Date: On-going
Number of chapters at review: 264
Number of chapters read by reviewer: 264
General Overveiw: Kobayakawa Sena is your typical shonen loser; weak, no good in school, bullied. He somehow manages to get into high school and thinks his life is about to settle down, when he is spotted by the members of the American football club. Short on members, they blackmail him into joining, where they discover his secret; Sena is an amazing runner! Armed with their secret weapon, they aim for their goal - Japan's National Championship, the Christmas Bowl!
Category Ratings: (1-10 scale)
Basically the best art in shonen right now, in my opinion. The attention to detail is amazing, the character designs are memorable and unique, and the backgrounds are very well done.
ES21 is a sports manga, so that constrains the author somewhat, however, within those constraints, Inagaki creates an incredible story. The twists are many and unexpected, and a larger story lurks underneath the obvious one. The tone shifts between humor, action, and drama effortlessly.
The cast is easily the best thing about this work. Inagaki is extremely adept at building sympathetic and believable characters, and he spends the time to make even the supporting cast three-dimensional. Even the opposing teams undergo character growth, and become real characters in their own right.
Along with the normal sports manga themes, there are a few other, more original themes present as well. One of the focuses is on the existential idea of "presented appearance vs. inner self" and how actions influence thoughts and behavior. Another theme presented in a rather intriguing way is the typical "inborn ability vs. training". While this is a common theme in all shonen series, the way it's handled in ES21 is rather interesting.
It's a sport's manga, after all. The basic plot and characters aren't really all that original. However, as I said before, the author does very well at rising above that limitation.
Truly an example of a manga that transcends it's genre. Anybody that enjoys shonen with an excellent cast and interesting plot should really do themselves a favor and check this out. Regardless if you are a fan of American football (certainly, I am not), Eyeshield has a great deal to offer.
Spoiler: Manga's images taken from earlier chapters to avoid spoiler, generally the art improves show
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