RYOMA! THE PRINCE OF TENNIS <DECIDE> brings the series into a new dimension and definitely has some unexpected moves.

Prince of Tennis is a masterpiece Japanese sports manga created by Takeshi Konomi, with more than 60 million copies sold over 22 years. RYOMA! THE PRINCE OF TENNIS <DECIDE> is a new feature film continuing the story of tennis prodigy Ryoma Echizen. Ryoma is inspired by his tennis champion father and is determined to take his game to the next level and train in the US. But while in an intense tennis battle to save his classmate, Sakuno, from dangerous villains, they somehow find themselves transported to the past, right before Ryoma’s father is about to undertake his final championship match at the US Open – before he was mysteriously forced to retire.

RYOMA! THE PRINCE OF TENNIS <DECIDE>

While training in the United States, Ryoma and Sakuno are transported to the past when the power of his serve connects with a previously hit ball. He and Sakuno are now trapped in what seems like the 1990’s a few days before Ryoma’s father competes in his last tournament. With no idea how they got there, or how to get back, and a mysterious gang always trying to kidnap them, Ryoma and Sakuno sing their way to tennis matches.

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RYOMA! THE PRINCE OF TENNIS <DECIDE> is not what I was expecting from a Prince of Tennis film. I don’t know why, but I was expecting a lot more tennis and a focus on Ryoma and his father, especially since his father is still an active competitor and on top of his game. Instead, the film seems a lot more like a confusing mashup of an action thriller and romantic comedy with splatterings of Ryoma’s tennis prowess to combat stereotypical suited bad guys and an abundance of love songs sung by Ryoma and Sakuno that fill in the spaces between.

I am not sure if it is a cultural thing, or if I misread the synopsis, but the musical aspect of the movie was jarring for me. First off, because I do not remember Ryoma ever breaking out into song in any of the episodes I have watched back when it was on Toonami, and second because the songs are in the original Japanese and subtitled. The songs, aside from feeling out of place, also do not seem to have the quality you’d expect from a musical film. Unlike Belle where the music is astounding in the subbed and dubbed versions, RYOMA! THE PRINCE OF TENNIS <DECIDE> music seemed like a weird mix of subbed and dubbed music.

However, visually the film is spectacular. Watching Ryoma display his skills on and off the court in 3D CGI was a delight. While I do miss the 2D animation of the anime, the 3D was a nice change of pace and did help with the settings a lot. There is a subtle but impactful contrast between the past and present that keep the audience entranced in the situation. It isn’t necessarily ground-breaking or revolutionary in any noticeable way, but its style and animation were perfectly selected and used for RYOMA! THE PRINCE OF TENNIS <DECIDE>‘s story.

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While the music is a bit of a jarring and unexpected element, the relationship between Ryoma and Sakuno is the heart of the film. It is wonderful that their relationship is finally getting more focus and exploration, as the original series hinted heavily at it, but never really followed it through. While the film does follow it further, it works more as a precursor and setup, which I’m hoping means the story will continue in potentially other series and films.

Outside of the music and wild concept of time travel in an otherwise very grounded series, the thing that truly disappoints is the lack of focus on Ryoma and his father’s relationship. Time travel presents a perfect opportunity for Ryoma to meet, interact, and learn from his dad as an active and world-class competitor. While the mystery of his father’s retirement is a focus, it gets far too little time and feels and makes the eventual resolution feel undeserved. The years of build-up and anticipation are completely unsatisfied by RYOMA! THE PRINCE OF TENNIS <DECIDE>‘s story.

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RYOMA! THE PRINCE OF TENNIS <DECIDE> is an unexpected matchup of genres and storytelling vehicles. While the film does explore some stories fans of Prince of Tennis fans have wondered about for years, it chooses some confusing mediums to tell it through. Visually, the film brings new life to the classic anime series and excites fans with the possibility of seeing Ryoma in a new design and animation style. However, having him break out into song is not what most people were looking for. The weird genre mashups and scattered focus take away from the potential the film had to satisfyingly continue the story of the series.

For its bold, but unsatisfying, storytelling, and general unsatisfying resolution to major plotlines of the original series, I give RYOMA! THE PRINCE OF TENNIS <DECIDE> a 2/5.

RYOMA! THE PRINCE OF TENNIS <DECIDE> releases Thursday, May 12, 2022, in theaters across the U.S. as part of AX Cinema Nights hosted by Eleven Arts. I would recommend watching it subbed, as the musical numbers are all subbed.

Ryoma! The Prince of Tennis

ABOUT RYOMA! THE PRINCE OF TENNIS <DECIDE>

Premiere Date: May 12, 2022 (North America).

Director: Hiroshi Kojina.

Cast: Ry Mckeand, David Wald, Xanthe Huynh, Jonah Scott, Tiana Camacho, Edward Bosco, William Ofoegbu, and Chris Okawa.

Synopsis: Inspired by his tennis champion father, Ryoma is determined to take his game to the next level and train in the U.S. But in the middle of an intense tennis battle to save his classmate Sakuno from dangerous villains, they somehow find themselves transported to the past, just as Ryoma’s father is about to face his final championship match at the U.S. Open – when he was mysteriously forced to retire. The innovative 3D digital animation brings the magnificent and colorful world of The Prince of Tennis to life on the big screen in this captivating film.

Are you planning to take part in AX Cinema Nights? How excited are you for RYOMA! THE PRINCE OF TENNIS <DECIDE>? Were you a fan of Prince of Tennis? Let us know what you think in the comments below and be sure to share your reactions at AX Cinema Nights and the film with us on Twitter!

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