|The Prince of Tennis character|
|Created by||Takeshi Konomi|
|Voiced by||Junko Minagawa (Japanese)
David Neil Black (English)
|Nickname(s)||Prince of Tennis
|Relatives||Nanjiro Echizen (father)
Rinko Echizen (mother)
Ryoga Echizen (adopted brother)
Nanako Meino (cousin)
Ryoma Echizen (越前 リョーマ Echizen Ryōma?) is a fictional character and the protagonist of the manga and anime series The Prince of Tennis created by Takeshi Konomi. In the series, Ryoma is portrayed as a twelve-year-old tennis prodigy who won four consecutive Junior Tennis Tournaments in America. His father is Nanjiro Echizen, a former tennis pro nicknamed "Samurai Nanjiro". At his father's request, Ryoma returns to Japan in order to attend Seishun Academy ("Seigaku"), a private middle school famous for its tennis team. Due to his cocky attitude, he constantly butts heads with some of his upperclassmen as well as anger most of his opponents in tennis matches. Still, he, along with his team, evolve as tennis players in order to win the National Tennis Tournament. Throughout the story, Ryoma continues to find his own style of tennis by creating original techniques instead of merely being a copy of his father. Ryoma also appears in other media adaptations of the series including musicals, video games, soundtracks, and movies.
Ryoma has been fairly popular among readers, having always stayed in the top four most popular characters, even placing first in two of the polls. Also, Ryoma's character has been featured in more soundtracks than any other character in the series. His likeness has appeared in numerous types of other merchandise as well, including key chains and clothing. However, in publicized reviews for the anime and manga, his character has received mixed reviews, with his personality being heavily criticized. Reviewers from Anime News Network and DVDTalk both finding Ryoma's cocky and "arrogant" attitude difficult to like. Though they both find his tennis skills undeniable, they comment on how that makes it "difficult for the reader to latch on and share in his experiences," eliminating the tension that comes with underdog appeal. The ANN reviewer, however, believes that some of the highlights of the series are the numerous ways that Ryoma defeats his opponents. On the other hand, Mania comments that Ryoma does not come off as too "over the top or too serious, but just the right level to be intimidating." And Jeffrey of IGN cites that though Ryoma starts off as "stiff and cold," he slowly starts to break out of his shell.
||This article's plot summary may be too long or excessively detailed. (November 2008)|
Ryoma is a first year student at Seishun Academy ('Seigaku'), which he attends immediately after his arrival in Japan after formerly residing in the United States. Although only a first year in middle school, Ryoma had already earned notoriety through winning four consecutive titles in the American Junior Tennis tournaments – all in a little over a year. Due to his nearly invincible tennis play, Ryoma has earned the label 'prodigy' by the age of twelve. His looks and confidence make him highly popular with ladies, although he seems not to notice, having his focus exclusively on tennis.
He is an all-court tennis player with many special shots and abilities. One of Ryoma's greatest talents is his ability to learn new techniques after only seeing them performed a few times. He also has an amazing amount of stamina and does not sweat as much as the other players. Along with fellow Seigaku regular Eiji Kikumaru, Ryoma is known to have an exceptional talent for seeing moving objects. He does not go easy on himself and pushes himself more, rather than letting himself rest. He is specifically a singles player, though he did try doubles once with teammate Takeshi Momoshiro. After seeing how bad he was at doubles, Coach Ryuzaki usually placed him in the S3 (Singles 3) or S2 (Singles 2) position. When captain Kunimitsu Tezuka goes away for rehabilitation for his arm, Ryoma and teammate Shusuke Fuji take turns for the S1 (Singles 1) position. In the Nationals, Ryoma often found himself placed in the S1 position nearly every match.
Although he is left-handed, his famous Twist Serve is only effective when delivered from the dominant hand of his opponents (i.e. he uses his right hand when serving against right-handed players). He occasionally plays tennis with his right hand as either a handicap for weaker opponents or a way to test his opponent's abilities. When the need for returning at a difficult angle or distance arises, Ryoma also incorporates the use of "nitōryū", or ambidexterity.
In the anime, when all the tennis teams of Japan competed for a spot in the roster to play America in the Goodwill games, everyone was sure Echizen would get a spot. However, Tezuka (who acted as coach when Ryuzaki was hospitalized) saw that Echizen's attitude had become more arrogant since he defeated Sanada of Rikkaidai in the regional championship. Therefore, Tezuka chose to have Echizen as the reserve player, but kept in secret to see if he would change. When Echizen sees America's Kevin Smith – who had been wanting to challenge him – defeat Yamabuki's Jin Akutsu using his destructive tennis form, Echizen had a change of heart and begged Tezuka to be on the team; Tezuka revealed Echizen's spot, making him the third member of Seigaku to compete (along with Fuji and Kikumaru). Although Rikkaidai's Akaya Kirihara played Smith in the final match, Kirihara injured himself, and the "special rule" was invoked to have Echizen finish the match, which resulted in his victory and a newfound friendship with Smith.
In the manga, Ryoma goes with his team to the Nationals. In the anime, he is chosen as a wildcard for the U.S. Open and goes to it, eventually beating Lleyton Hewitt in the finals. He comes back in the OVA, and although he says he wouldn't participate with Seigaku, vice captain Shuichiro Oishi goads him into a match to take over his spot as a regular, which Ryoma does (Oishi did this because his arm was still injured and felt it would be a burden to still be on the team). Re-earning his spot, Ryoma leads the team to their first national victory. He returns to America afterwards, thus his future with Seigaku is unknown. In Takeshi Konomi's sequel Ryoma is shown in America but returns to Japan for another tennis tournament with Seigaku.
Ryoma also demonstrates prowess in other sports, such as bowling, table tennis, and billiards. His abilities in beach volleyball, however, may be questioned. When the Seigaku students go to the beach during the anime series, Ryoma plays well when paired with Kaidoh. However, he plays quite poorly in the OVA when paired with Tezuka. In the same event in the manga, Ryoma, paired with Rokkaku's Kentaro Aoi, plays decently only after activating Muga no Kyōchi. It is possible however, that the second time, they were using a beach ball, which was too light for any tennis related moves.
His catchphrase in the Japanese anime is "mada mada dane," literally meaning "no, not yet" or "not good enough." During matches against the American Team, he used the phrase in English in which he said "You still have lots more to work on". In the English-dubbed version, it is translated as "You still have a ways to go."
His favorite subject is Science, but having been brought up in the United States, Ryoma is fluent in English, which his classmates admire him for. He is also the object of admiration of his own fan club in school, which is led by Tomoka Osakada. However, he does not care about girls at this point in his life, due to solely focusing on tennis. His favorite color is silver although he is always seen wearing a red shirt and a red racket. His favorite racket is Bridgestone Dynabeam Grandea. In the manga, he is shown wearing Fila shoes, cap, wristband and shirt; in the anime, his hat has a "R" symbol on it. Ryoma is frequently seen drinking Fanta (Ponta in the anime).
Ryoma can be quite arrogant at times, but is usually able to back up his statements with his tennis skills. He is usually distrustful of other tennis players, and often provokes his opponent before a match. In the beginning of the series, Ryoma is not taken seriously by the other students at his school, especially at the Seishun Tennis Club. It is only after he beats two of Seishun's regulars (Kaidoh and Inui) that he gains respect from fellow club members.
Ryoma is arrogant by nature, yet he can be very childish at times. He is also unafraid almost to the point of recklessness, but rarely gets angry or out of control. In the TeniPuri family chibi episodes, Ryoma is the eldest son of the family and always creates all sorts of troubles. In other chibi episodes, he is mostly shown very skilled.
At the beginning of the series, all of Ryoma's tennis skills are a copy of his father's. With the help of his team captain, Kunimitsu Tezuka, Ryoma realizes his need to develop his own style of tennis if he intends to reach his goal and defeat his father.
With each match, it becomes apparent that Ryoma not only brings his potential to the front, but that he is constantly reaching a new point in the state of self-actualization – especially so during crucial points in a match. Although he views each opponent as a stepping stone of advancement, Tezuka soon becomes the wall that Ryoma has set up for himself in order to achieve actual greatness.
Although Ryoma has a rather tunneled vision as to whom he considers a rival (his father, Tezuka, and Fuji), there are many that view the first year as just that. One of the more notable examples of this in the anime is Kevin Smith, the son of the tennis coach George Smith, who was defeated by Nanjiro Echizen fifteen years ago in defense of George's pupil Rinko Takeuchi, who becomes Ryoma's mother. Kevin appears later in the series in the "friendly" match between the U.S. and Japan. Kevin became obsessed with Ryoma because of their pasts, whereas in the beginning Ryoma regarded Kevin's threats with a rather unconcerned attitude until he saw him play against Yamabuki's Jin Akutsu in the streets. Tezuka was unimpressed with Ryoma's attitude toward the matches, and as a result, Ryoma is forced to earn his place as a reserve player.
Ryoma also cares much about his family cat Karupin (romanized as Kalpin in the English version of the manga). In episode 27, Karupin follows Ryoma to school after he accidentally packs its toy into his bag. After he discovers this fact, he frantically searches for his cat around the district. Also, Karupin had followed Ryoma to the US Open tournament by sneaking into Ryoma's bag.
He currently doesn't show any interest in girls because of his dedication toward tennis. Occasionally, he has been seen dismissing them. Although he has an apathetic nature, he does show Sakuno his genuine concern. In the anime, he has saved her from time to time. In the manga (Chapter 306), he threw a tennis ball at a thief for making the prepared food she made drop onto the floor.
After returning to Japan and entering Seigaku, Ryoma's tennis skills garner the attention of his upperclassmen, most notably Kunimitsu Tezuka, the team's captain who gives Ryoma a chance to be a regular on the team by entering him in a tournament that will decide the team's roster. After defeating all his opponents, Ryoma becomes a team regular despite being a first year student. In his first official tournament as a Seigaku member, Ryoma faces off against Shinji Ibu of Fudomine Middle School. Though Ryoma injures his left eye when he loses control of his racket, he is able to defeat Shinji within the next ten minutes. Following the tournament, Tezuka secretly challenges and defeats Ryoma, after which the latter realizes that he needs to be more than just a carbon copy of his father.
As of current events in the second manga series, Ryoma and the defeated participants of the matches in the U-17 Japan ranking are training in the mountains. Later, Ryoma is seen coming back from training in the mountains with the defeated participants of the matches in the U-17 ranking to the main camp, and are about to find out which 20 players from the camp will play against the Foreign Campaign Group.
- In the anime series, Ryoma's voice actor is Junko Minagawa in the Japanese version; in the U.S. version, his voice actor is David Neil Black.
- For the live-action adaptation film of The Prince of Tennis, actor Kanata Hongo portrays Ryoma. Although Ryoma plays with his left hand in several scenes of the movie, he is mostly seen playing right-handed. This may have been due to Hongo being a dominant right-hander.
- In The Prince of Tennis Musicals, Ryoma has been portrayed by actors Kotaro Yanagi (2003, 2005–2006, 2010); Kimeru, who stood in for Remarkable 1st Match Fudomine due to a cast change; Yuya Endo (2004–2005); Dori Sakurada (2006–2007); Shōgo Sakamoto (2007–2009); Ryuuki Takahashi (2008–2010); and Yuuki Ogoe [2011–????].
- In the Chinese live action drama adaptation of The Prince of Tennis (Also known as Wang Qiu Wang Zi). Ryoma (Aka Long Ma) is portrayed by Qin Jun Jie. This series ran for two seasons.
According to every Shonen Jump character popularity poll of series, Ryoma has been fairly popular among readers; he won both the first and third popularity polls; he ranked second in the second poll; and third in the fourth popularity poll. Also, since Ryoma is the main character of the series, he has been featured on more soundtracks than any other character, with some featuring only himself. Numerous types of other merchandise have been released in his likeness, including key chains, clothing, and mugs. NTT customers voted him as their 15th favorite black haired male anime character.
In publications focused on manga and anime reviews, Ryoma's character has received both positive and negative remarks, though his personality is largely criticized. In Anime News Network's review of the series' first manga volume, they comment on how his skills doesn't "leave much room for improvement,...making it difficult for the reader to latch on and share in his experiences," and that his character "comes across as dull, cold and untouchable." However, they remark that the highlights of the volume are the "numerous methods Ryoma takes to make his opponents eat their words on the tennis court." When a reviewer from the same site reviewed the first DVD volume, he had a similar response in regards to Ryoma's skills, in that it eliminates underdog appeal, and describes Ryoma as "terse, reserved, and arrogant, which makes him difficult to like." John Sinott of DVD Talk echoes the same sentiments in regards to Ryoma's personality, seeing him as cocky and unlikeable despite having the talent to back up his attitude. His review of the next two DVD volumes went on to describe how Ryoma's impossible tennis moves hindered his ability to enjoy the show, and Park Cooper of MangaLife was similarly surprised at the character's unnatural abilities. Chris Beveridge of Mania, however, sees Ryoma as one who does not come off as "over the top or too serious," yet still cites the character's "serious level of confidence," and also comments on how "Ryoma's nature as someone who has seen a good bit of the world comes into play nicely at times." Though Jeffrey Harris of IGN also sees Ryoma as a "fairly stiff and cold character," he believes that the character begins to warm up to his teammates and is "slowly breaking out of his shell."
- Konomi, Takeshi (2001). "Genius 83". Prince of Tennis Vol. 10. Shueisha. p. 184. ISBN 4-08-873162-X.
- Konomi, Takeshi (2006). "Genius 276". Prince of Tennis Vol. 33. Shueisha. ISBN 4-08-874048-3.
- "テニスの王子様（週刊少年ジャンプ） 商品一覧 (Prince of Tennis merchandise)" (in Japanese). Shueisha. Retrieved 2009-05-23.
- John Sinnott (2007-04-24). "The Prince of Tennis Box Set, Vol. 1". DVDTalk. Retrieved 2009-05-24. "As the series starts he's cocky and arrogant, and though he has the talent to back it up that still doesn't make him likeable."
- Carl Kimlinger (2007-06-26). "The Prince of Tennis DVD – DVD Box Set 1". Anime News Network. Retrieved 2009-05-24.
- Chris Beveridge (2007-04-04). "Prince of Tennis Box Set 01". Mania Beyond Entertainment. Retrieved 2009-05-25. "Ryoma's something of a quiet type but with a serious level of confidence. Not the type that comes off as over the top or too serious, but just the right level to be intimidating to those who goes against."
- Jeffrey Harris (2007-11-27). "The Prince of Tennis: Box Set Volume 3". IGN. Retrieved 2009-05-25.
- Konomi, Takeshi (2003). "Genius 158". Prince of Tennis Vol. 18. Shueisha. ISBN 4-08-873407-6.
- Konomi, Takeshi (2007). "Genius 333". Prince of Tennis Vol. 38. Shueisha. ISBN 978-4-08-874353-0.
- "約束/SEIGAKU NINE PLAYERS We Love SEIGAKU ありがとうを込めて (Single) (Limited Edition) (Maxi)". Amazon.com. Retrieved 2009-05-23.
- "フライングチェリー (Single) (Limited Edition) (Maxi)". Amazon.com. Retrieved 2009-05-23.
- Dong, Bamboo (May 5, 2014). "Japanese Fans Rank Their Favorite Black-Haired Anime Characters". Anime News Network. Retrieved May 5, 2014.
- "Prince of Tennis Manga Volume 1". Anime News Network. 2004-10-01. Retrieved 2009-05-24.
- John Sinnott (2007-10-23). "Prince of Tennis – Set 3". DVDTalk. Retrieved 2009-05-24. "The real reason I can't enjoy this show though is because it doesn't capture the sport of tennis. They make up idiotic shots that defy the laws of physics. It's not just Ryoma that has this magical ability, but every player has a signature shot that just wouldn't be possible in the real world."
- Park Cooper. "Prince of Tennis 26-31: A MangaLife Spotlight". Manga Life. Silver Bullet Comics. Archived from the original on 2009-04-21. Retrieved 2009-05-24.
- Chris Beveridge (2008-01-21). "Prince of Tennis Box Set 04". Mania Beyond Entertainment. Retrieved 2009-05-25.