Author: Ame [darknightrain]
Fandom: Tenisu No Oujisama (Prince Of Tennis)
Pairing: Yanagi Renji/Inui Sadaharu
Spoilers: Ahoy! Up to the Senbatsu arc in the anime and up to the latest chapters for manga.
Notes: I focused mainly on the manga events, but anime gets its mention too. Mad love for dshae who is guilty for almost everything here. Having been my beta will hopefully help her atone for her sins.
Prince of Tennis/Tenisu No Oujisama by Konomi Takeshi is the story of Echizen Ryoma, a 12-year-old tennis prodigy who, along with his fellow teammates, will strive their best to make it to the Nationals (and obviously, win).
So far, TeniPuri (for short) seems like your typical shounen/sports manga; a story full of pretty boys who will do whatever it takes to achieve their goal. However, Konomi Takeshi has put extra effort on each and every single one of the characters so that they have unique personalities and, mostly, he has emphasized the relationships they share between them. No wonder the fanbase is composed mainly by females.
The other slashy thing about TeniPuri is that there are no more than 6 relevant girls/women in the series. In a series where you have more than 30 hot tennis players running around (and not particularly paying attention to the femmes in question), slash is something unavoidable and wonderful. Let alone the fact that Konomi and his 'minions' only seem to encourage the slashing with every new TeniPuri-related release (from a manga installment to a character single).
Aside from all that, TeniPuri's got a super special ingredient a lot of sports manga lack.
From silly episodes of chibified characters to hilarious songs sung by the seiyuu (voice actors). It's come to a point where tennis is a sport in which you can not only defy physical laws but summon creatures and explosions as well. This is a series that pretty much anyone can enjoy, even if they're not into tennis at all.
THE SUBJECTS IN QUESTION
Inui Sadaharu, 15-year-old senior at Seishun Gakuen (Seigaku for short), the main school in the series. The best word to describe him would be 'nerd', given his fascination with Math, Physics and any exact science. When we first meet him we see him as a singles player but, later on, after he regains his spot as a regular, he'll be majorly playing doubles.
One of his two principal hobbies consists of collecting data on anything, but mostly on people (and, more especifically, on other tennis players). Inui massively accumulates random facts by scribbling in green notebooks which allow him to calculate and elaborate statistics and percentages that will be certainly put to good use in the future. His play style is appropiately called 'Data Tennis', for it consists in applying all of his gathered information to the match he's playing. Teammates and rivals may be skeptic about his technique, but in the end they can't deny it proves to be a rather useful (and sometimes deadly) strategy.
Inui's second hobby is juice. Inui enjoys preparing random horrendous drinks to inflict upon his friends (friends?) as a training aid. We first see this side of Inui when he loses his place as a team regular and decides to support Seigaku by becoming their manager. With his ever helpful data skills he creates menus and training sessions for the team, and wisely uses his Penal-Tea (and all of its improved versions) as an incentive for them to work harder.
There is no information on where he picked this liking for mixing disgusting stuff in a blender, but Inui's juices will always turn out to be funky-colored, bad tasting and close to mortal, causing his teammates to do even the impossible in order to save themselves from them. Why, yes, Inui is a sadist.
Yanagi Renji, 15-years-old and 3rd year as well. He is part of Rikkai Dai Fuuzoku's (Rikkai) tennis club and is known, along with Yukimura Seiichi (Captain) and Sanada Genichirou (Vice-captain), as one of the three 'Giants'. At this moment, it would be wise to point out that Rikkai is the strongest school in Japan, having won the Kantou tournament for 16 consecutive years, and the Nationals 2 consecutive times.
Yanagi, like Inui is mostly a singles player, but he'll play doubles if necessary. He is also known as the "Data Master" because his play style and method of planning strategies is the same as Inui. In fact, it was Yanagi the one who created and later on instructed Inui in the art of 'Data Tennis'.
As opposed to Inui, Yanagi's best subjects are Japanese, History and he also enjoys Literature. He's the silent type of character and generally, when he speaks, it is to provide some kind of useful information. However, during his match with Inui, we were also able to meet Yanagi's pride. Like his fellow Rikkai students, he savours victory and, sometimes, he'll even go as far as to taunt his opponent. Actually, Yanagi does have a healthy sense of humour, although it's rare to see him showing that side of his persona.
It is also known that he prefers 'light flavored' food and his type of date is someone who is good at calculating. Interesting, eh?
4 years, 2 months and 15 days ago...
During elementary school Yanagi Renji and Inui Sadaharu used to attend the same tennis school and were an invincible doubles team, considered to be one of the best in the junior tennis division. Yanagi and Inui were more than double partners, they were best friends who shared more than just a liking for sport. Back then, Yanagi used to call Inui 'hakase' (博士) and the latter would call Yanagi 'kyoujyu' (教授) in return. (Both words mean 'professor', but in different context. Hakase is for science and kyoujyu for literature.)
Well aware of their skills, both of them would oftenly say they could take over the world with their tennis if they wanted to. Everything was perfect until the day Yanagi's family had to move away.
Right before that happened, Yanagi challenged Inui to a one-on-one match, pointing out how they had never played against each other before. It was a game in which they both gave their best, until their coach interrupted, telling them to leave because club activities were already over.
On their way home, Inui promised they would continue their match after their next tournament was over; Yanagi knew he would not be able to keep the promise, but only apologized without saying anything else.
Yanagi didn't show up for said tournament and it was then that Inui learned his best friend had left without saying a word.
They lost contact with each other after that.
During the Kantou finals, Seigaku's butt was being mercilessly kicked by Rikkai. With the two doubles teams down, all they had to do was win one more game to obtain their victory.
That match was Inui and Yanagi's.
The data battle started since they first set foot on the court, with Yanagi predicting and voicing out Inui's words. Amazed at how well they seem to know each other, it was then than the rest of the players learned about them being ex doubles partners.
The game is, in my opinion, one of the most intense matches TeniPuri's ever had. Inui is leading at first, but that doesn't stop Yanagi from making displeasing data remarks every now and then. And even though the bespectacled boy is making use of all of his data knowledge, Yanagi promptly states that he (Yanagi) is the Master who taught him all he knows and that Inui will not be able to defeat him.
The tables turn and Yanagi catches up; it is then that Inui decides to forsake his data and go all out on his childhood friend. For the first time in the series, we see Inui lose his cool (it's also the first time his eyes are shown in the manga) and Yanagi does nothing but keep on reading Inui's thoughts, concluding that even though he's doing his best, the probability of Yanagi winning is 100%.
The game is 5-4, and Rikkai's victory seems imminent. Suddenly, an exchange of words identical to one they had during that last game occurs and Yanagi realizes that the score and the game they have been playing is exactly the same as the one four years ago.
Inui had not abandoned his data, he replicated the past events just to allow them to finish off from where they had left. There's no more data from that point on. Everything's up to them.
6-6 is quickly reached and they have to go into a tie-breaker. Inui's not only playing to keep his team going but also for himself. Yanagi won't admit defeat that easily either (Rikkai only wants to win quickly so that they can make it in time for their Captain's surgery). The score is 30-29 with Inui leading and we get another glimpse of the past. Yanagi telling Inui that he is indeed a singles player, which makes Inui wonder if that's the reason why Yanagi left without a word. But more importantly, Inui remembers and realizes he just wants to play all out against Yanagi until he feels satisfied, he doesn't care which one of them is stronger; however, he won't let himself not lose this match.
Game set. Won by Inui 7-6.
Yanagi can barely believe he lost, but when they shake hands Inui explains that he won merely by chance, because it was a 50/50 probability situation. He says Yanagi might win the next time they play and that this game just provided them with more data on each other.
In the current manga arc, both Seigaku and Rikkai are already competing in the Nationals. Maybe we'll get another data match, who knows.
Things are not very different in the anime version. The most notorious differences would be that Yanagi isn't such an asshole during the match and we get less "I know you know that I know what you're thinking"-ness from the boys.
A couple of remarkable things, though. One would be that, in the childhood flashback, Renji does not act as if nothing was wrong. When Inui talks about finishing their game later we can see his uneasiness and he just whispers "I'm sorry" before he runs away, leaving Inui all confused.
The other one would be that we get free Inui angst when his coach informs him that since Yanagi moved he'll be getting a new doubles partner. His expression says it all.
Aside from their background and relationship, there are more little details that support this pairing.
- The Photograph: It's a photo of Yanagi and Inui smiling, holding hands and with gold medals hanging from their necks. It sits on Inui's desk and it's the only picture we ever get to see in Inui's room. As a fun fact, the photoholder reads "Hawaii - Aloha" but the photo doesn't seem to have been taken in the island, so we really don't know if it's just a souvenir someone else got him or if they were indeed in Hawaii once.
- The Nicknames: They met when they were only kids, so it wouldn't be that strange for them to treat each other on a first name basis. But it's nice to see them keep the treatment up to date. And on top of that, you've got the doctor-professor thing. Since in the anime there was never any mention of their personal nicks for each other, they kind of made up for it (that's my theory, anyway) during the Senbatsu arc (an anime only arc). Im brief, the arc was about selected players from various schools attending a gathering in which they would be selected to be part of the 'Dream Team' that would play against the guest American team. There's one episode in which Inui and Yanagi are paired up to play doubles and we get to see them commenting on how it's been a while since they played but they haven't lost their touch. At one point, Yanagi calls Inui 'hakase', which makes him lose his concentration. Yanagi laughs, but is equally startled when Inui counterattacks with a 'kyoujyu'. Half of players are confused, while the other half are simply amused.
- The Notebook: In both anime and manga, we are presented with Inui's "Top Secret Volume On Yanagi Renji". It's one of those green notebooks of his, labeled with said title and rather shabby looking. Inui also mentions that he spent his past four years watching and compiling data on Yanagi (stalker much?). As big a data geek as Inui might be, up until now we've never been shown any other "top secret" or "dedicated" volume of his about another person. I'm not saying there aren't more of them, I'm just pointing out they haven't been shown (and, knowing them, it would be safe to assume that Yanagi does have a volume on Inui as well).
- Not Opposites Nor Likes: Inui and Yanagi have just what it takes to achieve a perfect combination. For instance, both of them are very talented in data gathering and tennis, but at the same time they're also very different. The clearest example would be Inui and his love for numbers while Yanagi prefers letters. They complement each other very well without having to be complete opposites (which means there won't be any discussions about things they can't tolerate from each other). Like Inui himself said, "together, they can take over the world".
- The Birthdays: It's a random fact that doesn't have much to do with anything, but it's worthy of a remark. Inui's birthday is on June 3rd, while Renji's on June 4th. How many birthdays didn't they get to spend together?
- The Eyes: Both Yanagi and Inui hide their eyes. Yanagi keeps them closed 90% of the time, while Inui's thick glasses do the job for him. This wouldn't be so peculiar if the anime/manga didn't make such a fuzz about Inui's eyes; there are uncountable scenes in which we think we might get to see his eyes but it never really happens until his match with Yanagi (in the manga, anyway). Accordingly, the first time we see Yanagi's eyes open is during their game. And let's remember how it's said that the eyes are "the window of the soul" and people who hide them are generally keeping a secret or masking a part of themselves. Eyes which are kept closed are also a sign of wisdom (though this would only apply to Yanagi).
It might seem farfetched, but I wanted to include this because I think it holds at least a little significance.
- The Farewell: Yanagi left without saying goodbye for a reason. It is never explained in the anime or the manga, but there are two major theories running in the fandom about this. The first one is that Yanagi didn't want to say goodbye. He was not ready to leave his best friend behind, and, like many people, he refused to. The second and the one that is hinted in the manga is that he wanted Inui to realize that, even though they were invincible as doubles, Inui was really destined to be a singles player. And he clearly succeeded in this because while watching their match, Kaidoh acknowledges that the only reason Inui played doubles with him was to let him perfection his Boomerang Snake shot.
Personally, I believe Yanagi's decision to leave like that was caused by a mix of the two mentioned above. But that's up to the reader.
- The Duet: Like I've already mentioned, TeniPuri is one of those series that has their characters sing for singles and albums. This past June, Inui got a cracky birthday album all for himself, and one of the songs is a beautiful duet with Yanagi.
Now, in case you're not familiar with TeniPuri music and its mechanics, duets generally imply OTP (unless we're talking about crack, which not all of them are). I'm saying imply because nothing's canon here, but the producers are not very subtle at all in the way constantly feed the fangirls what they want. This song is not the exception, the lyrics speak for themselves (and there's even a reference to Yanagi's eternally shut eyes).
I won't go analyzing every single word because they're pretty obvious, but I'd like to emphasize how this song is all about them missing each other yet walking their own paths (and growing up in the way) to finally meet each other again. It's really touching, it speaks about a lot of things, like friendship, longing to be with each other, wanting to take the world together... but, mostly, it is about them finally being able to walk the same path again, the comfort of being reunited, and knowing they'll be heading towards their future together.
Do I still need to explain? It's funny because I used to be a big InuKai shipper, but a year and a couple of months ago a private roleplay with a friend of mine required me to play Yanagi for her Inui.
It all went downhill from there.
I discovered what a wonderful team they made and how smoothly their relationship could work. I got hooked up with the pairing and suffered much because of the terrible lack of fanworks and the little love Yanagi gets (in the american fandom, at least).
Being honest, I do perceive the chemistry between Inui and Kaidoh the same way I rabidly slash Yanagi and Kirihara (another personal fave); yet, in the end, I can't help but firmly believe this two geeks were made for each other.
Best friends, soulmates, lovers... however you want to see it. Their relationship is so strong because it started that way; time and the circumstances only helped strenghten it. In fact, I think that if they hadn't been separated the bond that ties them together wouldn't be half as powerful as it is now. Being apart gave them time to hurt, to hate -probably- (in Inui's case), to think, and to heal. They matured a lot during those four years and I'm pretty sure it's going to be damn hard to break them apart again. Really, I could go on and on forever, ranting on how beautiful this pairing is, but I'd rather let people discover it for themselves.
Data And Senses
YanInu lacks fiction love, sadness.
Unions And Rings
- Fruity Explosive Translation, aka FET, is your one stop for manga information
- Anime-Otakus and Shinsen-Subs for anime episodes.