The Prince of Tennis
"The Prince of Tennis" is an award-winning 1956 epic novel by Niccolo Machiavelli
The novel is divided into two volumes, each spanning over 2,000 pages. No human being has been able to read the entire thing, though it can be read by getting 4,000 people, and telling all of them to read one page. The story deals with students at Seishun Academy, in Japan. It takes place before World War 2, and a major theme is the takeover of Japan by fascism. By the second half, most of the characters have been drafted or forced to support the war effort.
The first volume has a fairly light tone, compared to the dark, gritty feel of war in the second volume. The plot deals with the various players of the Seigaku team trying to figure out who the Prince of Tennis is. They hope to do this by winning the National Tennis Championship of the glorious Greater East Asian empire. The Prince of Tennis is a shadowy figure, who manipulates the various Japanese tennis teams to secure power for himself over the Japanese Empire, he is the king of fascists. In a twist of fate, the Seigaku members victory at the nationals causes an attack on Pearl Harbor, and the Prince of Tennis has used this as a springboard to world domination. The team is now just a pawn in the game of international politics.
This volume deals with the struggles that the team faces, as it must be disbanded to support the war effort. The Imperial Authorities almost ban the sport, due to it being "too western". The Prince of Tennis is still unknown to the public, but he appears to be escalating the war for his own personal gain, and comes close many times to bring Japan to civil war. The tennis players of Japan are eventuallly convinced by patriotism or drafted into fighting to liberate the people of Asia from imperialism. The novel then focuses on the fate of the various Seigaku players, with some dying, others being crippled or mentally scarred. The novel ends with the nuclear attack on Tokyo that destroys their original school(and the tennis courts) forever.
- Ryoma Echizen: Considered the protaganist, at least for Volume 1. He is the first freshman to play on the Seigaku Team. Originally believed to be the Prince of Tennis, but late proven false when the team meets with a spokesman from the actual Prince. Ryoma is the only member of the Seigaku team who isn't mobilized to fight the war(though he gets a draft notice several days before the end). He had a special job at Mitsubishi that could only be done by him(Kitten Huffing).
- Nanjiro Echizen: A minor character, father of Ryoma. He was also suspected of being a Prince of Tennis, due to his stalking of this son. He participated in the 1936 Berlin Olympics, and shook hands with Hitler. Despite this, Imperial Authorities suspect he is disloyal and may be a Soviet spy. He is executed for spreading "socialist propaganda".
- Tezuka Kunimitsu: Captain of the Team. He disappears at the end of Volume 1, as he goes to Nazi Germany for diplomatic work.
- Shuichiro Oishi: Second in Command. Is injured in the Nationals due to a stray ball, and so isn't drafted until 1943. He is killed during the Battle of Leyte Gulf, when the destroyer he serves on is torpedoed. He was able to survive that, but he had to swim to a different ship, which then got torpedoed. The entire combined fleet was torpedoed in successsion, Oishi dying when there were no ships left to swim to.
- Shusuke Fuji: A member of the Kamikaze Squadron. Died in a mission but was buried a year later because the doctors couldn't determine his gender. His diary was found and is now a widely known book in Japanese Literature. The book is entitled, "To my Beloved Kunimitsu" since it was how all the entries started.
- Lo Pan: Substitute player. Fate unknown during WW2.
- Eiji Kikumaru: Tennis player who is good at doubles with Oishi. Fiercly patriotic for his homeland, and joins a dive boming squadron on the Akagi. Is directly responsible for the sinking of Arizona. Meets his death in the skies over Midway, due to Gamera.
- Takashi Kawamura: Power hitter. His family owns a sushi restaurant, but the government closes it down for taking away resources from the food effort. Is stationed in China in 1942, but survives the war.
- Sadaharu Inui: Uses Data Tennis or some crap. The first of the Seigaku team to enter the war. He enlists into the Kwangtung army in Manchuria, and spends his time preparing for a Soviet Invasion. When the Soviets attack, his plan fails miserably. During to retreat to Korea, it is revaled that his old friend Renji Yanagi is an ethnic Korean who had his family forced into servitude in Japan. Instead of returning to Japan, Inui deserts the army with Yanagi and starts a shrimp business in Korea, which fails until all of the other shrimp companies in Korea are destroyed in the Korean War.
- Takeshi Momoshiro: Rival of Kaidoh. Joins the Imperial Army, and is wounded during the Imphal Offensive, survives the war.
- Kaoru Kaidoh: Rival of Momoshiro. Joins the Imperial Army Air Force as a fighter pilot. Stationed in Thailand, and sees little action until he is redeployed to the home islands. When it's revaled that Japan will surrender, he decides to go against orders to stay at the airfield, and flies off to destroy enemy bombers. He fails to find any, and so fails to protect his emperor.
- The freshmen: N00bs. Machiavelli hints that their fate is to be militiamen for the Prince of Tennis.
- The other players: Players from rival schools. Most of them aren't addressed in the second volume. Although Akaya Kirihara was a convicted war criminal in Unit 731. It is presumed that most of them lost their lives in the war effort like the Seigaku Players
- The Prince of Tennis: The man behind every event in the novel. In a twist ending, it turns out that the author made himself a character, and so Machiavelli represents his role as an author with control over the novel, by making a character that's himself, who also controls the novel. This makes no sense.
Niccolo Machiavelli's novel came at an unusual time, and so many criticized him for writing a book covering taboo topics only 11 years after the World War 2. It was not until 1977, that the book was rediscovered, and it is now required reading in many college courses.
It is said to be the favorite book of Jimmy Carter, and it was believed that he made it popular when his administration started. However, Carter has never directly stated that any of that is true.