Author: Penguin (pengiesama)
E-Mail: pengiesama (at) go [dot] com
Pairing: Sanada Genichirou x Yukimura Seiichi
Fandom: Prince of Tennis (Tenipuri)
Spoilers: For the manga and anime.
Notes: Thank you to all of my betas!
I. The Series (OR, "Mommy, what's that boy's tongue doing?")
--Sanada, exercising his right to a catch phrase
Prince of Tennis/Tennis no Oujisama (Tenipuri for short) is a manga and anime series created by Konomi Takeshi. Echizen Ryoma stars as a seventh-grade tennis prodigy who strives to win the national junior-high tennis tournament with the rest of his wacky teammates.
Echizen Ryoma is a tool and will be thus brushed aside for the remainder of this manifesto.
What sets Tenipuri aside from all of the other sports anime with the same premise? Three things: 1. Crack, 2. Slash, 3. CRACK.
Silly chibi episodes. Radio dramas which cast doubt on the involved seiyuu's sanity. Solid proof that tennis was, in fact, the reason for the dinosaurs' extinction.
If you like sports anime that throws sport out the window to make room for crotch shots and sentai parodies, Tenipuri's your bag, baby.
Narrowing down the scope of the series, we come across Rikkai Dai Fuzoku's tennis team. They are famously talented, famously strict, and famously undefeated--prior to their match with Seigaku (the protagonist school of the series) in the Kantou Finals, they had previously won said tournament for fifteen years in a row. Currently, they are on a quest for their third straight National title.
II. Yukimura Seiichi
"Even though it was just the first match...everyone, your movements were terrible!"
--Yukimura Seiichi, benevolent captain (Genius 269)
Looking at Yukimura, one wouldn't expect him to be the ringleader of one of the most vicious teams in the Prince of Tennis universe. His first appearance in the series occurred when Sanada visited him in the hospital, where he awaited surgery for a rare nervous system disease.
Even while infirmed, Yukimura still had the presence to remain as an omnipotent figurehead for his team; spurring them on in his absence to blaze a path to the Nationals--no matter what they had to do to get there.
Outside the hospital? Yukimura is known across the junior-high tennis circuit as one of the best players in the nation, if not the best. Even as the manga progresses in the National games and he is granted more page time, he remains a looming and mysterious figure to face. Time will tell just how terrifying an opponent the true captain of Rikkai is.
Aside from tennis, Yukimura enjoys drawing and gardening--rather delicate and soothing hobbies. These hobbies require a great deal of patience and precision, and so reveal the same traits within Yukimura's personality.
Such a commanding presence, combined with such serene hobbies--one cannot help but be reminded of the mob bosses of movies old enjoying painting and the opera between violent gang wars. Instead of this, perhaps we are to be reminded of the gods of Japanese mythology; enigmatically controlling their subjects from afar while enjoying the luxuries and intrigue of Heavenly society.
Now fresh from his operation and in full recovery, Yukimura seems eager to make up for lost time...and eager to avenge Rikkai's loss to Seigaku in the Kantou Finals.
III. Sanada Genichirou
"That's right! It's exactly as Yukimura said. At the nationals, even one loss will not be permitted! We will win our third straight title undefeated!"
--Sanada Genichirou, dutiful sidekick (Genius 269)
Dictionary.com has this to say:
dork (dôrk) (n.)
1. Slang. A stupid, inept, or foolish person.
2. Vulgar Slang. The penis.
Sanada is the vice-captain of the Rikkai tennis team, and took up Yukimura's duties as captain while he was awaiting surgery. One looks at Sanada, and one sees a real hard-ass. One also sees that he looks rather strict. (Pa-dum chi!)
--and they would be correct in that assumption. Sanada is quite the Spartan. Why, the 20.5 character information book specifically graphed his "Spartan-ness" as off the charts. (No smart-ass comment is really needed for that.) Jackal Kuwahara, a teammate, once told of a punishment Sanada heaped on him for being ten minutes late to practice: five hours of laps, three hundred swings, and cleaning duty for three months. Perhaps one of the most well-known examples of Sanada's strictness is seen after Kirihara's loss to Ryoma in an unofficial match. Without speaking a single word, or even waiting for an explanation from the boy, Sanada smacked Kirihara across the face hard enough to knock him to the courts. Anger issues? Quite possible.
Why the crazy strictness? Well, Sanada values hard work above all else. He is no easier on himself when it comes to training: he has a daily regimen of exercise for the body and mind, practicing such traditional arts as calligraphy and kendo along with his grueling tennis duties.
This training has paid off a thousand-fold. Sanada is known across the junior tennis circuit as the "emperor;" an unbeatable force of nature. However, he has yet to surpass his captain in terms of skill.
Other reasons for the crazy strictness? We come to the promise he made with Yukimura to rise to the top with the other boy...but this shall be further explored later.
Sanada is a mess of contradictions, however. Despite his "scary" attitude and features, Sanada is extremely close to all of his teammates--playing video games with Kirihara, teaching Yanagi calligraphy, and most famously, visiting his ill captain anytime he can. He also kept in contact with Yukimura by sending him letters that are...ah, well, they were well-meaning, at least.
With Yukimura now out of the hospital and back in the captain's seat, Sanada seems to have eased the stick marginally from his ass. He has not, however, lost the passion and devotion that makes him the lovable Spartan dork he is.
IV. Wacky Historical Facts!
"You must not lose..."
"...even if it's not an official match, that is the law of Rikkai Dai Fuzoku!"
--Flashback-Yukimura and Sanada (Genius 193)
The more historically astute among you may have noticed something by now.
"Why, 'Sanada'? 'Yukimura'?" you ask. Paraphrased, of course. "Isn't 'Sanada Yukimura' a samurai warrior from Japanese legends?"
You're very right! Have a cigar. Konomi Takeshi has a fetish with naming his characters after famous samurai; and wouldn't you know it, Sanada and Yukimura share the name of one of the most famous.
Sanada Yukimura, born Sanada Nobushige, took on the name of "Yukimura" after his family was brutally killed. On a quest to restore his family's fortune and good name, he successfully led dozens of military battles in the early seventeenth century both under
Tokugawa Ieyasu and as a ronin hired under the Toyotomi clan.
Sanada Yukimura was in the service of the Toyotomi clan during Tokugawa's summer siege of Osaka Castle, and had Tokugawa on the ropes on several occasions.
However, the emperor's troops proved to eventually be too great for one ronin to vanquish. The great samurai, exhausted, saw as a warrior from the Echizen army rode toward him.
"I am Sanada Yukimura, an adversary no doubt quite worthy of you, but I am too exhausted to fight any more." Such were his last words before he allowed himself to be killed on the field of battle.
This proves that Echizen Ryoma was a tool even in the seventeenth century.
The image of Sanada as a ronin is rather fitting. A "ronin," for those not in the know, is a samurai whose master is dead. Yukimura is not dead, thankfully, but was MIA during Rikkai's match against Seigaku in the Kantou Tournaments. Echizen Ryoma triumphed over the unbeatable Sanada only through the fact that Sanada was unable to properly fight back.
Now that the other half of the samurai is back on the team, it is time for the honor of Rikkai Dai to be avenged.
V. A Promise is a Promise
--Yukimura, regarding his devotion to the sport (episode 127)
Sanada and Yukimura are closer than one would think normal, care about each other deeply, and trust each other unconditionally. That's all we crazy fangirls need to know, really. But that doesn't make for a very interesting essay, now does it?
Sanada and Yukimura met each other in their first year at Rikkai Dai Fuzoku. Together with Yanagi Renji, they became an unstoppable, dominating force that led the school's tennis team to victory in every tournament they entered. Even without the official captain title, Yukimura commanded loyalty and respect from all of his teammates--particularly Sanada.
After two years of straight wins, the mighty trio was set to lead the team into a third victory at Nationals. However, when winter rolled in, Yukimura suddenly collapsed at school. He was rushed to the hospital, with the rest of his teammates following until Yukimura was wheeled into the E.R.
Sanada seemed the most affected by this turn of events: his captain and friend, the boy who had led the team with his strength and charisma, now weak and helpless from an invisible killer. As Yukimura disappeared behind the E.R. doors, Sanada shouted after him:
"Yukimura! We will wait for your return undefeated!"
Now, Sanada is certainly not prone to such raw, dramatic outbursts. He is normally a very reserved person; which is very fitting for his traditional Japanese upbringing. However, Yukimura was able to rip this shout out of him--and, not only that, to make Sanada work to stick to this promise. Without Yukimura, Rikkai is greatly weakened--thus, the team would have to work all the harder to make up for his absence. Sanada certainly made that happen.
Yukimura was diagnosed with the rare neurological disease called "Guillain-Barré Syndrome." Without hospitalization and surgery, the disease could have permanently paralyzed--or even killed--him.
In the anime, there is a scene where Sanada and Yukimura speak about the upcoming surgery, which turns into a discussion on why they each play tennis, which turns into a renewal of their promise to take Rikkai Dai to a third Nationals victory. Which then turns into a very, very long handshake. Perhaps this is meant to be considered a euphemism.
The surgery was set to happen on the day Rikkai Dai was to face Seigaku in the Kantou Finals, thus excluding Yukimura from the lineup...but to make up for this, Sanada promised Yukimura to finish the game in record time in order to bring him the gold medal before his surgery even starts. Sanada kept Yukimura dutifully posted via cellphone during the match, and pushed his teammates to finish off their opponents quickly and by any means necessary. In the anime, time ran out right before Sanada's match against Ryoma...so he sent the rest of his team the hospital to see Yukimura off to the surgery--and sent his team jacket along for Yukimura to wear--while he faced the final match without the support of his teammates.
Manga or anime, the tournament did not end in a victory for Rikkai Dai. Sanada was too distracted from the match to give it his full strength, and thus Seigaku won the Kantou gold medal. The anime showed Sanada accept the silver solemnly; staring into the distance. The manga showed all of Rikkai Dai in a huddle, discussing their plans on winning Nationals.
The series never showed--or, perhaps, has not yet shown--Yukimura's reaction to the news of the loss. However, the manga showed Yukimura at Nationals--back in the captain's seat and fully recovered from his surgery, and barking strict reprimands at his teammates' "sloppy" wins. Sanada is shown back in the vice-captain's seat, and dutifully echoing all of Yukimura's statements. One can only speculate on the amount of laps that Sanada had to run for this loss--perhaps even self-inflicted, due to his guilt of breaking his promise.
The relationship between Sanada and Yukimura is one of support and trust. As the two most skilled players, they are the backbone of the Rikkai Dai tennis team; the ones that the rest of the team turn to for guidance. This burden is especially weighty on Yukimura, and is increased to bruising strength after his collapse and subsequent hospitalization. Yet Sanada takes the whole of it off of his shoulders without comment or complaint. The two are far closer than what one would deem usual from a pair of junior high students, and so comes the slash.
Sanada thinks of Yukimura as Rikkai Dai's greatest strength. He admires his leadership abilities nearly as much as his abilities in tennis--this much is shown when Sanada takes up Yukimura's position. His strictness and violence toward his teammates shows that he is at a loss of any other way to discipline them.
It is doubtful that Yukimura resorted to physical violence in his regime--after all, none of the other team members would have put up with Sanada's violence had it not been for Yukimura's dire situation; which shows just how loyal they are to their captain. Sanada was certainly under a lot of stress during his stint as captain, and tempers were running high. Strict punishments and backhands were his way of dealing with things--it wasn't a very good way, but a way nonetheless.
Yukimura's return soothed Sanada's temper--yang needs its sobering yin to function, and so go Sanada and Yukimura. Sanada is not shown to be a particularly gentle person; the slaps and punches are testament enough. On the other hand, around Yukimura, he's gentle as a lamb. Some might attribute this to restraint on Sanada's part, as he is with a superior--however, his behavior doesn't seem at all restrained or forced. In fact, Sanada seems considerably more relaxed while speaking to Yukimura, or even just while in his presence.
Lest one think that the relationship is one-sided, Yukimura is also greatly comforted by Sanada's presence. In Genius 208, Yukimura is heartened enough to proceed with his surgery after his telephone conversation with Sanada--he trusts Sanada fully, and knows that the team will stay strong under his command until his own recovery. Yukimura enjoys and appreciates Sanada's visits to his hospital bed; particularly because of the nature of his illness. Guillain-Barré Syndrome paralyzes the body, and it is not outside the realm of possibility that Yukimura could literally not gather the strength to speak during some of Sanada's visits. And yet Sanada still visits without comment or complaint, bearing the news of Rikkai's advancements in tournaments that Sanada knows Yukimura desperately needs. Sanada and Yukimura keep each other stable with their devotion to each other.
Though Sanada and Yukimura compliment each other in true yin-yang fashion, the relationship is more aptly shown through the relationship between a samurai and his lord. Sanada idolizes Yukimura as an unreachable goal, and will fiercely defend him until he is well enough to lead Rikkai Dai into battle once more.
In the anime episode 127, Sanada's idolization of Yukimura is clearly shown. The scene on the bridge is shown entirely through Sanada's memory, and Yukimura is nearly beatified: he glows; is nearly obscured by the light shining around him. Though Sanada expressed his doubts about Yukimura being able to return to tennis after the surgery, Yukimura fiercely assured him otherwise; leaving Sanada stunned before he stammers out a promise to take care of everything until his return.
Sanada's feelings for Yukimura are much more subtly expressed in the manga. Little things such as visiting him privately during his hospitalization and giving him play-by-play phone calls during matches add up alongside larger tasks (such as controlling the tsunami that is Rikkai Dai's tennis team) to make a full picture of the quiet devotion of a samurai to his master.
Yukimura plays the part of master well, and respects Sanada's devotion to him. Indeed, it is clear in Genius 269 that he expects no less. Yet let it not be said that Yukimura does not appreciate the loyalty: during his stay in the hospital, Yukimura apologizes with a sincere smile for any trouble that he has caused Sanada. Being substitute captain is not a thankless job, after all.
The Prince of Tennis anime is known for its bizarre humor, and one of its many offerings in this respect are its episodes where the entire cast of characters is rendered in "chibi" form. The Christmas Chibi Special (episode 165) was a rather, well, "special" episode involving the Tenipuri Family. These types of episodes involve cast members changing gender, age, and sometimes species in order to be involved in a sort of sit-com. Characters are married to each other, characters are the children of the former unions, characters are pets or random victims of physical comedy.
In this episode, Sanada and Yukimura are shown as the parents of Kirihara Akaya, the second-year ace of Rikkai Dai turned into the chibi neighborhood bully of crack-land. Yukimura is caricatured as a consumptive, half-dead mother and, erm, reindeer. Sanada is caricatured as a dorky, over-dramatic father and Santa Claus (...wait, he was caricatured?). The image of Sanada and Yukimura as the "parents" of Rikkai Dai is eerily suitable. Though chibi episodes are hardly unimpeachable sources of fact, it was a rather nice bit of fanservice from the writers worth mentioning.
An interesting issue was brought up by a colleague of mine in the SanaYuki fan forces. Close though they are, Sanada and Yukimura do not refer to each other by their given names; "Genichirou" and "Seiichi," respectively. However, Yanagi--a close friend and fellow teammate of both, and the team's resident mad scientist--refers to both of them by their given names. The kanji for Yanagi's given name, "Renji," can be read as "connecting two." That is, Yanagi is the bridge that brings (or, perhaps, brought) Sanada and Yukimura together. Though Yanagi is not exactly the matchmaking type, perhaps he would be interested in it as an opportunity to watch the mating rituals of the rare Genichirou-us Dorkicus species. This name connection was probably not intended by the creator, but it is an interesting point nonetheless.
They are devoted master and samurai, yin and yang, and close friends above all. Sanada and Yukimura are two halves of one legendary warrior, and only together can they lead Rikkai Dai Fuzoku--and that's canon.
VI. Why Ship SanaYuki?
"I like meat...oh. You were asking a horse question."
--Sanada, slightly confused (20.5 character book interview)
What, my deep analysis of the significance of Yukimura the Red-Nosed Reindeer wasn't good enough?
I cannot say when I first began to ship them...when Rikkai first appeared in the manga, I was in a Tenipuri slump. I'd already been in the fandom for about a year, and the story was beginning to drag; the fandom I'd joined just because of the pretty boys and overtly sexual grunting was losing its sparkle. I was lost; so lost, chiiiiiiiildren.
I remember hearing on my Livejournal friends list that the newest introduced captain was very pretty.
"Ooo! Pretty things are pretty!" thought I. Thusly I downloaded Genius 192. And the rest, as they say, is history.
I have my reasons why I ship SanaYuki...I just can't express them in so many words without making gross misuse of the phrase "OTP4EVAAAA." I'm very fond of both characters and their shared loyalty and affection, and their relationship dynamics make them no end of fun to write about.
And they do look very pretty together. Ain't that the shallow truth?
YukiSana is not a completely different pairing, naturally--many fans believe Yukimura could top Sanada, he just prefers not to. YukiSana fics tend to bring out Yukimura's dominating, forceful side in a more active way than its incestuous sister pairing; where Yukimura dominates in a more passive way. This arrangement of the pairing is not as popular as SanaYuki; yet it does still have quite a few fans.
SanaYuki is an implicit pairing in Tenipuridom. A great deal of the fic and art involving one or both of the characters has it in the background, at the very least. Why do fans like it so much? It's elementary, dear Watson: strong, stoic, dorky seme + pretty, witty, gay uke = yaoitastic funtime. Both character variables are fan favorites in Tenipuri fandom, and fans will thus swarm on such a ripe opportunity.
VII. Links & Recommendations
--The mating call of the wild Sanada (episode 165)
The Tenipuri fandom is beautiful and terrible.
Fiction for the pairing tends to take one of three routes: Silly Fluff, Great and Terrible Angst, or the aforementioned Yaoitastic Funtime. Combinations of the three abound. (The third doesn't abound enough for my tastes, sadly.)
Since I'm so kind, I have hunted down a few choice specimens of SanaYuki fanwork from the jungles of Tenipuri fandom just for you readers. Onward, ho!
A very good general recs site for fanfic and fanart is Fleeting Fancies. It's high-quality and has an absolutely huge selection from many series, including recs for Tenipuri and SanaYuki.
- "Flower Craves a Hailstorm," by Hwei (tongari). Sanada visits Yukimura in his garden. Sexual tension ensues.
- "Rubix Cube," by PostingWhore (postingwhore). An entry in the undercover "Subrosa Tennis" challenge with Sanada, Yukimura, winter, and our old friend Mr. Sexual Tension.
- "A Little Bit of Faith," by PostingWhore (postingwhore). A piece expounding on Sanada's guilt about losing to Ryoma. Alright, you know what; just read everything PostingWhore's done.
- "Life as Haiku," by Anonymous U5er (anonymous_u5er).
1, 2, 3, Epilogue. Yukimura's frigid. Sanada refuses to let a little thing like that stop him.
- "Sex, Lies, and Ninja Noises," by Anonymous U5er (anonymous_u5er). It's got ninjas in the title. THAT'S ALL YOU NEED.
- "Unfair," by MorphailEffect (morphaileffect). Yukimura isn't as perfect as people believe. Though written before it was revealed what Yukimura's illness was, it stands the test of time.
- "How Rikkai Lost Their Rather Spiffy Red Jackets and Got the Vomit Yellow Ones," by Katharos (antique_land). Answers a question which many a Rikkai fan has pondered.
- "Strength," by Hwei (tongari). One of the first SanaYuki fics ever written, the first one I ever read, and still one of the best of the batch.
- "breathless wonder, just a little more," by PostingWhore (postingwhore). And now, what you've all come here to see: hardcore nudity! (Explicit. Have fun!)
To toot my own horn, I suggest "Mansex, Interrupted" and "Why 'Do It Yourself' Isn't"; both of which are my additions to the ongoing 30_kisses fanwork challenge.
Also by yours truly is the admittedly bizarre "Rikkai Detective Saga (1, 2, 3)", a cracky AU about...detectives. Fancy that.
Art is more plentiful, thankfully. It's mainly on Japanese sites, but there are a handful of English sites to complement.
Somnia: The art site of my good friend Chaco, a fellow SanaYuki fangirl and Rikkai enthusiast.
Maybism: One of the largest collections of Yukimura, SanaYuki, and general Rikkai art on the web.
Sora King: Tricky to navigate, but worth it.
Nekotenshi: A collection of very cute art that shares my passion of torturing Sanada.
The SanaYuki English fandom is concentrated on Livejournal; though personal journals are currently more active than the pairing's community, sanayu.
There's also a fanlisting: Glory Days.
VIII. References & Thanks
"I think we're running out of fluffy quotes."
"I'll show you a fluffy quote. Rowr."
--Sanada and Yukimura (insert fanfic here)
Wikipedia.org, "Sanada Yukimura" article.
Rikkaization, general Rikkai info site run by Kyoh Kyoh.
All Stars, Character Summit translation site run by Kyoh Kyoh.
FET, general Tenipuri site for information and scanlations.
Anime Otakus, fansubbers.
Special hugs to Miko (beforeimdead), SilverMuse (silvermuse89), and Chaco (lechaco) for all of their help!
Thanks to Takeshi Konomi for letting me play with his characters. Thanks a bunch, you greedy, crazy bastard.