Eyeshield 21, Shonen Jump’s premiere football manga, carved out a unique niche for itself. A blend of shonen action, flashy moves and sports excitement make it a cult hit worth a read, among other things. And, though their battleground may be a bit unconventional for the genre, Eyeshield 21’s Deimon Devil Bats are shonen superheroes in their own right.
At the start of the series, the Devil Bats’ goal of winning the legendary Christmas Bowl seems a long-shot at best, considering the team consists of only 2 players. But, as the story progresses, the Devil Bats integrate a wide array of talent and, by series end the team possesses some of the best players in all of Japanese high school football. Here are some of the Deimon Devil Bat’s power players.
The man after whom the series is named, Sena Kobayakawa is the star running back of the Deimon Devil Bats. Sena’s greatest attributes are undoubtedly his great speed and agility. Sena’s speed is the result of a bullied kid needing to outpace his oppressors to survive, though it’s the exact reason he thrives as a Devil Bat. Sena can run 40 yards in 4.2 seconds, a speed that few real-world NFL athletes are able to achieve. Rushing through hallways while avoiding other students has also given Sena astute vision and foresight, allowing him to instinctively pinpoint and navigate defensive gaps and anticipate angles that defenders will take when tackling him. At the start of the series, Sena can only maintain his top speed in short bursts before tiring, but after strengthening his body he’s able to maintain it for extended periods.
When the series began, Sena was a football novice, which meant that elite defenders were able to contain him despite his inhuman speed. But, Sena eventually develops an arsenal of moves that diversify his style of running, making him near impossible to defend. Sena’s signature move is the Devil Bat Ghost; a move that sees him make a sharp cut around a defenders without losing speed. The move is so fast that, when using it, Sena leaves an afterimage, and later on even appears to produce clones akin to the Naruto special. Defenders that face the Devil Bat Ghost misjudge Sena’s speed and end up tackling this afterimage long after he’s already zipped by. The Devil Bat Ghost also bolsters the effectiveness of his other techniques, including his stiff arm Devil Stungun, spin move Devil Bat Tornado and goal line dive Devil Bat Dive.
The heart and soul of the Devil Bats is their captain and quarterback, Yōichi Hiruma. Hiruma is not exceptionally gifted physically, but what he lacks in that department is more than made up for by his mental strength and fortitude. Highly astute, Hiruma’s mind works at 1000 miles a minute, and his ability to focus even in the most dire of straits allows him to come up with an appropriate strategy for any scenario. Pair this with the wide variety of offensive and defensive formations that Hiruma has committed to memory, and it is easy to see why the Devil Bats are so unpredictable. Hiruma is also a master of psychological warfare, and owns real estate in all of his opponents’ heads. He can predict an opponent’s plan and state of mind with shocking accuracy, and successfully unnerve them through insults or risky play-calls. Hiruma’s reputation as a demonic tactician is so pronounced that his presence alone is a game changer, instilling fear in the opposition by simply standing around.
As quarterback, Hiruma has great arm strength, accuracy and technique. Lacking an offensive line most of his career, Hiruma is very elusive and can escape sacks and accurately pass while on the run. His Devil Bat Laser is a deadly accurate line-drive pass with insane speed and rotation.
The ultimate lineman, Kurita is an absolute powerhouse and has the most physical strength in all of Eyeshield 21. His strength and low center of gravity allow him to overpower and block opposing linemen regardless of their stature, often flipping them on their backs and forcing them to view a “blue sky.” After training with Banba, Kurita develops the Boxing Guard, a technique that allows him to better finesse larger opponents by negating their reach advantage. On defense, Kurita has a great nose for the ball, often deflecting passes or recovering fumbles as a result of being in the right place at the right time.
There’s no doubt that Kurita’s strength is the product of immense effort and training, but the extra gear that pushes Kurita further than other linemen is his kind heart and willingness to go the extra mile for the sake of his teammates and the sport of football.
Mr. “CATCH MAX!” aka Monta is the Devil Bats’ star wide receiver. Monta’s boundless catching ability is the result of his years spent training to be a baseball outfielder. This time spent scrambling for loose balls and catching pop flies helped him develop an innate ability to predict trajectories. If an object is in mid-air, whether it be the result of a throw or bouncing off the ground, if Monta at least glances at it he can predict its flight path with sharp accuracy. Monta’s signature move, the Devil Backfire, is a nearly unstoppable technique that puts Monta’s acute sense of trajectory to full use, allowing him to catch or deflect a pass without actually looking at it.
On top of his well-honed senses, Monta has large hands and great body control, allowing him to reel in passes and wrestle balls out of defenders’ hands while still in mid-air. This is further complimented by his insane leaping ability. Monta is the King of Mid-Air Battles, and if you throw the ball in his direction he’s sure to make a huge play.
Sena, Hiruma, Monta, and Kurita are great individual players, but even they would tell you that football is a team sport. Gen “The 60-Yard Magnum” Takekura, the Ha-Ha Brothers, Komusubi, Yukimitsu and even their manager and cheerleader are just as important to the success of the Deimon Devil Bats. Each Devil Bat possesses unique skills and personality traits that bring something to the table.
Eyeshield 21's Deimon Devil Bats are a powerhouse football team; let's look at some of the key contributors to the group's success.