Prince of Tennis (テニスの王子様, Tenisu no Ōjisama) is an anime and manga series following a middle school tennis team. This fangirl fodder was somehow once marketed to boys.
As with any series, Prince of Tennis has a large cast of characters, each with enough basic information and screentime for the audience to decide whether they love them or hate them. Unlike most anime, TeniPuri feels the need to have over one hundred such characters, that way everyone has to like at least one, right?
The Good Guys - Seishun Gakuen
The titular Prince of Tennis. A snarky 12 year old who happily insults anyone and everyone he comes across until they defeat him in a tennis match. He's not a jerk though, as shown by his love for his precious cat, Karupin. (there was an entire episode devoted to the thing) And of course, you can't be a jerk if you love cats.
Kunimitsu Tezuka: The 14-going-on-40 mentor figure to our protagonist, supposedly one of the best players in the Junior High circuit, but his convenient shoulder injury kept him from being awesome until Ryoma had his turn. In the movie it was revealed that Tezuka killed the dinosaurs.
Syuusuke Fuji: Always smiles and had a mass of fangirls before he made his official debut in the series. Spends his time habouring a massive big-brother complex, kicking ass and partaking in late-series fanservice with Tezuka.
The Golden Pair: Syuichiro Oishi and Eiji Kikumaru. An overly devoted doubles pair who win the award for Most Slash Fancomics.
The rest of the team: Get their fair share of screen time too, but nobody really cares about them.
The Bad Guys
That said, nobody stays 'bad' for very long. Every time a rival team is defeated they suddenly gain morals and become Seishun's best friends.
Fudomine: The first rival team to be introduced in the series, Fudomine are all second years, bar one. They pop up from time to time and have a couple of running jokes between them, but none of them actually matter.
Saint Rudolph: Home to Fuji's younger brother, Yuuta, who left Seishun due to inferiority issues. Also home to the first olive branch extended to the fangirls, the giggling, hair twirling, purple sweater toting Hajime Mizuki. Mizuki is despised by Fuji, probably because he's
molesting mistreating Fuji's brother.
Yamabuki: Only three members of this team do very much. The womaniser Sengoku (his first appearance shows him watching the Seishun girl's team), angsty, violent Jin Akutsu (a smoker in the original Japanese, translations change all cigarettes to toothpicks) and I'm-so-cute Akutsu fanboy, Taichi Dan.
Hyoutei: The most popular team in Prince of Tennis, even more so than Seishun. Led by the ever flamboyant Keigo Atobe and his limitless wealth, Hyoutei mark the beginning of the fangirl era. For example, a scene later in the series where the camera pans lovingly up Atobe's 14 year old body as he showers, conveniently censored by steam in all the right places.
Rikkai: Rikkai don't mess around. With strict rules in place and the threat of a slap around the face from the vice captain should a toe be set out of line, Takeshi Konomi gave them garish yellow uniforms to give them a little humour.
A million other generic tennis teams: Go here if you're really interested. There's too many. The anime also stars an American team to give Western fans names they can actually spell.
And yes, there are girls too, but the oestrogen brigade serve only to pursue the main characters as love interests. All such pursuits have so fair been unsuccessful.
Teenage boys play tennis.
Teenage boys play some more tennis.
Teenage boys play a little more tennis, squint here for fanservice.
Teenage boys win tennis, all is right with the world.
The original series of Prince of Tennis ended in early 2008, but to the delight of the fans a sequel is already being printed in Shonen Jump. Its name?
The New Prince of Tennis.
One can only assume Konomi is taking a Nintendo-turn here.
There are two types of Prince of Tennis game. There are the tennis games, released in both Japan and the West, and the Japan-exclusive dating simulators. Yes, you too can stand in the shoes of a generic middle school girl and blush and stammer your way through several cutscenes with your favourite Prince of Tennis characters!
Ahh yes...the musicals.
The musicals (known as 'Tenimyu') are proof that the series has gone to the fangirls. To be a Tenimyu actor, there are several requirements:
Are you male?
Are you between the ages of 18 and 30? (if you are applying for Ryoma or other short characters, 13 and 21?)
Are you attractive?
Can you sing? (optional)
Can you dance? (optional)
Can you act? (very optional)
Are you either a model, dancer, or low profile celebrity looking for the support of teenage girls to boost your career?
Does the idea of fanservice with your fellow actors sound a-ok?
Are you willing to shave under your arms/wax your legs for the duration of the season?
If the answer to all of the above questions, especially the last one, is yes, congratulations! You're a Tenimyu actor. The musicals are faithful enough to the plot of the manga, cutting all but the most necessary characters (including every female) and using musical numbers and dance battles in favour of tennis matches. There is a degree of accuracy in the characters, though - any left handed character has to perform dance routines backwards. This makes rehearsal videos entertaining to watch when the actor is a righty but the character is a lefty.
Most actors use their role in the musicals to make themselves known in the Japanese entertainment industry, releasing photobooks and mini albums or taking on roles in dramas. It's not uncommon to see several ex-myu actors in the same show. An alarming number of them take their fanservice expertise into Boys Love movies.
It's not all bad news, though:
You hear that, little Timmy? You wanna be a power ranger when you grow up? Well, rally some friends together, wax your legs and learn how to play imaginary tennis, and you're already halfway there!
...and now, to regain my masculinity, I'm gonna go watch My Little Pony. There's more testosterone in Pinkie Pie's front hoof than in this entire article.