In American football, unless you become champions, it's the same thing as if you lost in the first round. There is only one truth. Winning!
Sena Kobayakawa was a short, scrawny first year student at Deimon High School. He had always been the target for bullies, from which his childhood friend Anezaki Mamori would always try to protect him when she was around. One day, a group of bullies cornered him and dragged him off to the tiny club room for the school's American Football team, where he was rescued by the team's only starting lineman, and recruited to be the team secretary.In short order, Sena was discovered to be a fast and agile runner, trained by a lifetime of running from (and running errands for) bullies. In addition to his team secretary duties, he was quickly recruited to be the team's starting running back by the team's captain: demonic Youichi Hiruma. To keep him from becoming a recruitment target for every other club in the school, he was given a secret identity: Eyeshield 21, the mysterious hero from Notre Dame, who always plays wearing a helmet with a dark green eyeshield.Between its captain'sextortion, swearing and training from hell, the ultra-rookie Deimon Devil Bats is forced to round up a dedicated team without blackmailing the other sports teams' players. The goal: the high school national championships, the Christmas Bowl.On the way, they win a bunch of games, they lose a bunch of games, create fierce but friendly rivalries, learn epic manliness, and generally get ordered around by the whims of their captain.Eyeshield 21 is a less known but very well recieved sports manga. Its defining trait is its unique and individually interesting characters (including those from other teams). Each have an instantly recognizable personality and appearance and their interactions make up a large bulk of the comedy in the manga (the rest is Hiruma). Similar to Slam Dunk, it explains the rules of the sport (American Football) as the story progresses, allowing even a beginner to follow along with the games.Sentai Filmworks started releasing the series in North America, sub-only, in May 2010. Though with the quality of the anime, most would say it would be wise to stay clear from it. (This is likely due to its short-lived dub which aired on Toonami Jetstream a couple of years earlier. It wasn't well received.)The manga has now ended, after 333 chapters.
Sena's speed comes from years of evading bullies and running errands for them. Which is actually kind of depressing....
Monta first caught Sena's attention by catching an errant ball.
The Ha-Ha Brothers were initially blackmailed into playing as linebackers until they discovered their love of the game.
Karin Koizumi's talent was discovered when she tossed a stray ball back to the practicing team. She was then practically forced to join the team, while all she wants to do is to draw shoujo manga and play the piano....
Shin, unbelievably, is also one. He had no intention of playing sports in high school, and only tried out for the White Knights because Sakuraba asked him to.
Furthermore is Ikari, who joined the team after three suspensions from school in order to defend the football team's glory, what with the golden age having graduated.
Accidental Misnaming: Because of some confusion on Sena's part, the team thought Raimon Taro's name is Kaminari Montarou. Hiruma later convinces "Monta" that his nickname comes from Joe Montana, a famous wide receiver in the NFL. (Hiruma added the last part to make Monta happy; Montana was a quarterback.)
Advice Backfire: Jo Tetsuma is so literal that he takes everything WAY OVERBOARD. When told to 'keep hydrated' in preparation for a match, he went through twenty-something water-bottles in less than five minutes, resulting in the one time he ever deviated from his pass route—running off the field in the middle of a game to get to the bathroom after getting a stomach cramp.
Affably Evil: Marco. There's no two ways about it, whether he's on your team or not, Marco's a decidedly sinister guy who likes to drink soda, share it with anyone he talks with, and likes to wear Armani suits....
All There in the Manual: Some biographical info (like relative intelligence amongst the Devil Bats, the full names of the main American players) were only/first revealed in the manga compilations' "side" pages.
Ambiguously Gay: Subverted with Kisaragi, who certainly seems to have a huge crush on Gaou. Ultimately, it's stated on bonus materials (Devilbats Spy bits) that while he likes girls, it's just that he only likes girls that are... *ahem* ridiculously strong.
Arc Number: 21 of course. It's in the title and on the jersey of the hero, and becoming the real Eyeshield 21 is the ultimate personal goal of the protagonist. However, it also pops up more often than any other number. Sena's testing number in the first chapter, and Hiruma winning money to return from America with games of blackjack are obvious examples. Even Yamato's prediction of 42-0 could be interpreted as 2 * 21 = 42. Another example could be Hiruma and Agon combining for the Flying Dragon at the beginning of the final volume. Their jersey numbers are 1 and 2 respectively. Sena's birth date also falls on December 21.
Art Evolution: The style starts off rather rough and sketchy, with character designs leaning more towards cartoon-ish and perspective being more exaggerated. In general, the characters were more lanky and angular. As the series went on, the style became more conventionally shonen, with smoother, more serious looking re-designs and beefier bodies. Nearly all the characters got more attractive without losing what made them distinctive.
Hiruma's philosophy on football and everything else.
Seibu is also primarily focused on offense, to the point of packing no defensive power whatsoever. They get by on their ability to score pretty much at will, but they give up points to even the weakest teams.
Ojou and Taiyou invert this by focusing entirely on defense. Taiyou in particular uses the mighty Pyramid Line to compensate for their quarterback's moderate talent.
Hiruma can analyze his enemies and come up with 18 different strategies at same time, even under severe pressure. Yukimitsu can analyze and discover the enemy's formation's weak-point and can make the best use of it. Mamori created a sign language so she could communicate the things she observes about the opponent's formations from the bench.
Parodied by Sasuke Kanagushi of the Dokubari Scorpions; by paying attention to tiny details in their positions, he can accurately predict the movements of the opposing team. However, against Hiruma, as Takami says: "His enemy's just plain too evil." Hiruma tricks him, using blush and lipstick.
Heinrich Schultz of the German team goes the extra mile by memorizing every last little detail about a player so that the can reliably predict their actions when he goes against them.
Despite being the leaders on the opposite sides of the spectrum for their consideration on talent, Agon and Hiruma are a very effective combination. Agon who runs on pure reaction is complemented perfectly by Hiruma who works on the opposite, pure mental ability. Despite their abhorrence of each other, they work together far better than any other combination of characters on EVERY TEAM.
There's also Sena and Monta, and more literally Unsui and Agon.
And be prepared to face an enraged Tetsuma if you hurt Kid. Similarly, don't call Tetsuma an idiot in front of Kid. This enough to piss him off, and make him drop his lazy, uninterested facade for an instant.
The best way to piss off Mamori? Threaten anyone she's taking care of. Especially Sena and Suzuna.
Kurita, who is actually gigantically fat, although most linemen (especially the bigger ones) are like this.
One of the "Devil Bat Spy" bits claimed that Mamori can out-eat Kurita, but only when it comes to cream puffs. Considering Kurita once ate A HUNDRED OF THEM, that would be no small feat. Of course, it could be a fabrication, but she's rumored to be quite crazy about them...
Shin is an aversion. He has a very strict, regimented diet, and is rather picky (he won't eat junk food).
Kiminari Harao, quarterback of the Taiyo Sphinx, is androgynous-looking and wears an Egyptian-style skirt on the field, and his entire team wears eye makeup. He also gets more chocolate from girls on Valentine's Day than anyone else in the tournament. He also has the 2nd most friends out of anybody in the tournament, after Suzuna.
Kisaragi from the Hakushuu Dinosaurs, who is downright beautiful in the most feminine way possible. When the team manager, Maria, steps into the showers to talk to Marco, while the other guys hide their genitals, Kisargi hides his chest.
Blood Knight: Gaou Rikiya defines this trope; He finds the very concept of "holding back" completely alien and perplexing. At the same time, he will absolutely never break the rules while on the field. Quarterback gets rid of the ball .1 seconds before Gaoh smashes them? Gaoh doesn't smash them. Kid and Hiruma also note that this trait makes him even more dangerous than he might initially appear.
Rodchenko, the enormous, bench-press world record holder Russian football player.
Gaou as well started to be like this.
Ootawara is always seen sporting the same dopey smile in pretty much every situation. It seems like he simply doesn't know how not to have a great time. Bonus points in that every time he becomes boisterous, he'sgoddamnright.
Book Ends: The first and last chapters have similar color spreads that show the growth of the players through the series.
Boring Invincible Hero: Subverted. The Devil Bats win against teams who are genuinely worse than them, and lose against the better ones.
Brother Chuck: Actually justified in this case; Daigo Ikari hasn't been around lately because he's too old to be in the youth cup, having spent a few years in juvenile hall after one of his messier outbursts.
Bunny-Ears Lawyer: Almost everyone in this manga is a Bunny-Ears Lawyer. Hiruma's over-the-top devilish attitude; Sena's cowardice; Taki's idiocy; Mamori's overprotective tendencies, her bad art and her love for cream puffs; Monta's resemblance to a monkey; Shin's training habits and poor luck with technology; Kisaragi's obsession with strength, and so on.
Busman's Vocabulary: Action movie star Bud Walker seems to think he's constantly filming a movie, if all the jargon he spouts is any indication.
The entire last chapter was this. The chapter title parallels the first chapter, the surprise at the sudden game, and, of course, fighting the weakest team in the league for the first game.
A minor one also came sometime before the Hakushuu game. For one of the chapters, we were given a full-color two-page spread of what all the characters were up to. Agon was shown to actually be training, struggling to do push-ups while Yamabushi sat on his back. This is a call back to an earlier chapter where someone mentions Unsui trains till he bleeds (while showing Unsui doing one handed push ups with Yamabushi on his back) and Agon has never had to work for anything.
An additional one occurs just before the Japan/USA game. Back in Las Vegas, Monta and Sena killed their amazing winning streak by betting everything on Red 21, which are the Devilbat's main color and Eyeshield's number, respectively. Fast forward to Yamato confronting Mr. Don at a casino, betting on red. This time, the ball lands on Red 21.
Camp Gay: Sanzo, so much. Crossdresses, wears make up, and is called the "Queen of Shinryuuji".
Captain Ethnic: In the last Tournament Arc, many of the foreign players shaped up to be this, from the cold, ruthless Heinrich Schultz from Germany to the gigantic Olympic weightlifter Rodchenko from Russia.
"Now I remember, this is pain!" says Sena, "It hurts!"
Cast of Snowflakes: Especially considering that given the sport, characters have some of their most important moments in helmets and padded uniforms. Despite this, each character is easily distinguishable.
Catch Phrase: Almost every single character in the story has one. Notable are Himura's "Ya-ha!" and "Fucking (thing/nickname)" and Monta's "Max!" with a verb either before or after the max.
Censor Box: Hiruma's cheerful exchange with Apollo before the NASA Shuttles game is completely in English and almost completely covered with the Shounen Jump logo.
Character Development: One of the big draws of the series is the fact that almost every main character gets at least some.
Yamato Takeru's ability was implied to come like this, too
Unsui was born without natural talent, and is called the strongest average person, a title he gained through intense training.
Charlie Brown from Outta Town: Number 88 on the Japanese world cup team is bandaged like a mummy, but is stated to be a familiar character choosing to obscure their identity for some reason. It was Rui Habashira.
Taken to nearly literal extremes by the 60-Yard Magnum.
Remember all the way back in the first chapters when Hiruma says he broke his 40 yard dash record? His running a 5.1 instead of a 5.2 ends up being one of the deciding factors against Shinryuuji.
And the pop quiz that Hiruma gives Mamori and the bet he almost loses comes back more than 200 chapters later.
Subverted with the Chris Cross play first shown as a card at a rest stop during the Death March. The play was called their trump card when fighting the Teikoku Alexanders (around 200 chapters later), with Sena and Monta as the pair running in the play. They screw up and fumble the ball, with the Alexanders gaining possession. Played straight later on in the same game when Hiruma turns it into the Evil Cross, one of the most Mind Screwing plays in the entire series, second only to the Dragon Fly. Later, it's used by Hiruma and Agon in the match against America in the World Cup.
Musashi was initially introduced as the carpenter working on the club house long before he was revealed as one of the founding members of the Deimon Devil Bats, and their ex-kicker.
Marco also seemed to be of little consequence at first, appearing no more important than the other throwaway captains in the Kanto tournament. In fact, the Dinosaurs as a team are first mentioned as early as chapter 52 when they're listed with a bunch of other teams. While the other teams end up not having any significance at all, they advance to the Kanto finals.
Similarly but not to the same degree, the Poseidons were originally mentioned in chapter 89 as one of the teams in the fall tournament, but their write-up was shorter than most and jokey at that, basically implying that they're a silly team of losers on the order of the Cupids.
For that matter, the Ha-Ha Brothers, who first appeared as the nameless bullies antagonizing Sena in the first chapter before ending up (unwillingly at first) joining the team later.
Subverted by Miyake, one of the students who tried out for the team at the same time as Yukimitsu and Komusubi; Introduced with Boss Subtitles, given a motivation, close-ups... clearly this guy is going to be important, right? Nah. He washed out of the tryouts during the Hell Tower phase, and now he's just a comic background character who hangs out with Jerk Jock soccer player Muro.
Cluster F-Bomb: Hiruma calls practically everyone "fucking (something)", with "something" usually being a slightly demeaning nickname such as fatass, shrimp, baldie, or idiot. A more extreme example is when Monta nearly got himself ejected from the Tokyo tournament via yelling at a referee before Tetsuma intervened; Hiruma proceeded to unload a machine gun onto Monta while sprinkling him liberally with "fucking"s.
Crash into Hello: Sena met Suzuna this way. Played differently in that Sena deliberately threw himself in Suzuna's way to catch her when she was jumping, something she worked out the second time it happened.
Hiruma, who could unnerve an American soldier when he was just in elementary school. Talk about a Magnificent Bastard in training...
And then Gaou, who crushed a car that hit him at elementary school age.
Crippling Overspecialization: Both played straight and inverted; the only thing Monta's good at is catching. This makes him bad at baseball, his favorite sport, but he's a spectacular reciever in American football.
Despite the build-up, The substitute Japanese team trounced the Russian team with ease.
The all-stars also made quick work of Militaria and won by a decent margin against Germany. The fact that both of these victories happened in the same chapter is a testament to that.
What makes this even more awesome is that Militaria watched the Russian game, and saw the benchwarmers play, assuming they were the starters. So, when Gomery starts getting cocky, he gets to meet Agon, Gaou and Shin.
This also happened in the Tokyo Tournament. The most prominent is the match between Amino Cyborgs and Deimon Devilbats. The scientifically advanced, calculating, purported "Tournament Stormers", the Amino Cyborgs, got trounced 38-8 by the Deimon Devilbats. To be fair, the Devil Bats spent all summer on the Death March...
Also when the White Knights played the heavily built-up Sankaku Punks in the Fall tournament, having only beaten them by one point when they played them in the spring. Ojou won in a complete shut out; the Punks never stood a chance.
Gaou is pretty much a walking monster ofdestruction. But Mr. Don makes quick work of him, in one strike. Even more awesome is the fact that Gaou survives the hit thanks to Agon who had reduced Mr. Don's strength by chopping his hand; if Mr. Don managed to get him full-power, Gaou would be dead.
Cute Bruiser: Chuubou, the tiny middle schooler on the Japanese World Cup team. He may not look like much and he might act like even less, but he's got an explosive power that can stop both Yamato and Rodchenko in their tracks. Of course, this has the unexpected (and undesirable) side effect of catching the attention of Japan's #1 benchpresser and #1 (almost literal) player killer, Rikiya Gaou, who owns him completely at the first try. Later, Chuubou manages to improve and later knocks Gaou out, which promptly reignites his interest in the technique, leading to Gaou doing a variation of the technique.
Cute Sports Club Manager: Mamori Anezaki, Wakana, Juri/Julie, Maruko/Maria, and Megu, to name a few. Eyeshield 21 loves this trope.
The physically tasking, injury-risking Devilbat Dive.
The Devil Stungun will allow opponents to easily steal the ball, while increasing the chance of breaking through.
Declaration of Protection: A plantonic version occurs when Banba says to Harou, who knows he's an average player at best and is frightened by the extreme power of their next opponent the Hakushuu Dinosaurs who are known for breaking the opposing quarterbacks. While the Taiyo Sphinx ultimately lost, Banba kept his promise to make sure that Harou wouldn't be harmed at the cost of him being badly hurt by Gaou.
Delinquents: The "Ha-Ha Brothers", the Zokugaku Chameleons (every last one of them has a motorcycle) and the Dokubari Scorpions. And Ikari, from Ojou, who's so rowdy his teammates hold him in chains. He's only ever missed practice twice... because he was under house arrest.
Demoted to Extra: Ishimaru's plainness has become a running gag in the series, and is especially prevalent after the second popularity contest; He came in 9th in the first, and 21st in the second. Sure, he's second string, but Yukimitsu gets more screen time, and he doesn't even play!. Adding insult to injury, a survey posed to fans pitted Ishimaru versus Unsui, asking who was more forgettable. Ishimaru won by a fair margin, with the victory caption reading 'His presence is faint!'
Not the typical shounen manga example, but Yukimitsu has the highest determination stat out of anyone in the team. Through a sheer refusal to give up, he bests Agon and Ikkyu at the same time, sees through the Oujou White Knights' final play and thwarts it to allow the Devilbats the chance they need to win, and is ready and waiting to receive a pass from Hiruma after Hiruma's been tackled. This guy is one spider bite away from being the poster boy of this trope. One of the manga chapters focusing on Yukimitsu is titled "First in Tenacity."
Kurita Ryoukan deserves a mention here as well, as his determination actually rises the more people he has to protect. When he's protecting one quarterback, he's the premier amateur lineman of Japan. When he's protecting two, he successfully stands up to the Don and holds him off alone, a feat nobody else managed.
Shin. Oh, boy. When the White Knights go to dinner to celebrate their victory against the Punks, Shin does one handed chin-ups instead of eating. Later on he manages to reach Sena's speed of 40 yards in 4.2 seconds, just to be able to compete with him.
Many of the characters, especially for the Devilbats, get their Determinator moments. The line "I'll do it even if it kills me!" shows up a lot. Even Hiruma gets his Determinator moment when he returns to the game after having his throwing arm broken.
Hiruma, despite arguably being evil himself, has a whole bunch. The last one, Clifford was built up as one of these, with a similar level of intelligence and skill at gambling, hacking, etc; Their jerseys even sport the same number, 1. Not to mention the pronounced physical resemblance between them. There's also Agon and Marco, both of whom give Hiruma a run for his money when it comes to being seriously bad people.
Arguably, Mr. Don is intended to be an evil version of Gaoh, as well, though that's another case where it's a "lesser evil" kind of deal.
The Hakushuu Dinosaurs could be seen as this to the Devil-Bats as a whole. Both are darkhorse teams run by Manipulative Bastards and based around a few key players, and are willing to do just about anything to get to the top.
When he got tackled by Agon near the sidelines, after Hiruma's fake spike trick play, Monta yelled, "CATCH MAXXX!!", which Agon responded, "It's useless, the ball is in your hand already. Your dream is over now!" It's revealed that he had actually tried to grab the SIDELINE, forcing the clock to be set back and allowing the Devil Bats one more chance to pull ahead and win.
In the game against the White Knights in the Kantou Tournament semifinal, the White Knights, with only one minute left, send their strongest runner, Shin, to score a touchdown. Sena is benched with an injury, and as a replacement, they call in Yukimitsu. Yukimitsu clearly can't stop Shin, since he's the weakest of the Devil Bats, and really, no one can stop Shin. With three seconds left in the game, Yukimitsu, instead of trying to hold Shin back, pushes him into the endzone. Then it's revealed, Ojou's plan was to score right as time ran out, leaving Deimon no time to catch up. Yukimitsu realized this, and saved Deimon, by giving them the one second they needed to mount a comeback.And they did it. As Shin said, "Even though you're an enemy, that's... magnificent."
Ikkyu seems to be based on Vegeta, having the exact same hairdo, having a similar short stature, and being similarly prideful.
Possibly Kobanzame from the Kyoshin Poseidons. He has a slightly longer-than average nose, lies about his confidence and abilities on a regular basis, claims any good idea that comes up is his, is incredibly accurate (albeit only over short distances), secretly has absolutely no self-esteem, believes that he is holding all of his friends back but is too terrified of being alone/loves the team so much that he simply will not quit, and is good at his job precisely because he's a horrible coward. Sounds very similar to Usopp from One Piece, doesn't it?
Joe Tetsuma looks like Duke Togo, never changes his facial expression, practically never speaks and follows orders to absolute precision. Strangely enough, he catches bullets rather than shooting them.
President Arnold Oberman is literally Arnold Schwarzenegger with a different last name.
The manager for the Yuuhi Guts is a basically just a female Domon Kasshu.
Fake Difficulty : Of course, if the Devil Bats always won easily, the series would be pretty boring, but it can get pretty excessive in how there's always someone with inhuman abilities in the other team to be overcome by something only figured out in game.
The running gag of Otawara's frequently missing pants complete with frequent farts. On top of that, at one point he dons a maid's uniform (alongisde Sakuraba, who can actually pull it off). It Makes Sense in Context.
In a rare in-universe example, NASA Aliens/Shuttles players had a habit of showing their body to impress girls... except it plainly doesn't work. None of them are aware of this. Similarly, the beach football team "Sexy Queens" had a habit of showing their "beautiful" (by their own standards; they frankly look like Borat, swimsuits and all) bodies, and wearing easy-to-tear material in beach football games to do so.
Fanservice: The various cheerleading teams, most especially the Devil Bats, Wild Gunmen and Poseidons. For female readers, the fabulously fit athletes working out and sometimes removing their shirts.
At the end of the game against Shinryuuji, the clock runs out when Monta is tackled too far up the field for the Devil Bats to get set up to stop it with a spike and the game is over. Then the ref calls for the clock to be wound back because Monta was tackled out of bounds -he caught the boundary line on his way down- and 4 more seconds are put back on the clock for Deimon to win with.
Co-Dragons: Rikiya Gaou and Hiromi Kisiragi, described as Hakushuu's Right Hand and Left Hand by Marco, Hiruma, and most commentators. Gaou breaks quarterbacks, runningbacks and linemen, while Kisiragi cripples recievers.
The Brute: Subverted. Marco clearly has former team ace Tengu slotted for this role, due to his status as their best linebacker, but Tengu pissed off Gaou (which never ends well) and Marco was forced to use himself and Gaou to fill the gap in the defence.
This is Gaou's modus operandi when playing offense—the Hakyuushuu Dinosaurs run a north-south game wherein they basically follow Gaou, who runs over and through anyone who gets in his way. Until Kurita, anyway.
Sena's test number for the Deimon entrance exam? 021.
Whenever a supposedly "insignificant" off comment is made about a team, it always comes true (unless it's said by Onihei of course). For example, in chapter 19, Agon predicts Ojou can only make it to 4th at best. Ojou got 3rd in the Kanto tournament, and 4th overall. One random member of the Dinosaurs suggested "they should just aim for 3rd", which is what Hakushuu ended up getting.
When Yukimitsu explains that a Ballista is a weapon of firing spears, Sena asks, "Firing... a Spear Tackle?" Monta then jokes about Otowara picking up Shin and tossing him over the offensive line to tackle. Turns out, Sena wasn't completely wrong, but Shin is on the other side of the ball for the Ballista.
Four Is Death: Yamato's prediction for the game against Teikoku is 42-0, as 42 is pronounced as shi-ni in japanese, which is a homophone of "to die". Additionally, chapter 4 of the series is appropriately titled "Kill 'em".
Fragile Speedster: Sena starts as one. Being forced to play defense and choosing to endure the Death March toughens him up enough to take multiple full power blows from Agon and Shin, a full power blow from Gaou which can lay everyone but two players in whole the series out, and a blow from Mr. Don, the stronger one of the two players beyond Gaou, and still gets up to play. His fragility goes WAY down as he gets used to the brutal beatings.
It is hinted that Hiruma has a far from normal relationship with his father, but it doesn't explain his manipulative, borderline sadistic, nature at all.
Funny Afro: Sports writer Kumabukuro. In the anime, his daughter starts to look like him when she gets excited. It's not very funny.
Fun with Foreign Languages: The NASA Aliens' Gonzales brothers have some interesting kanji tattoos due to Watt's cluelessness regarding the language. More specifically, the older Gonzales' tattoo reads "Big Shit" (which is somewhat appropriate) and the younger one's reads "Piss."
Gecko Ending: The anime got one after the final battle between the Devil Bats and the White Knights. They skipped directly to a Distant Finale, without even pretending the tournament was over.
Many of the power players, like Shin or Banba, are implied to be this, having good grades while also being tremendously physically powerful. But the most promninent might be Hayato Akaba, ace Tight-End of the Bando Spiders, who spends most of his time as technical advisor for his team due to tournament rules, and manages to analyze the movemements of all of the opposing players and share it with his team. He still manages to throw Kurita with relative ease.
Genius Ditz: Taki's math ability ends at the six times table (his other academic abilities are about the same level), but if a question is phrased in American football terms, he will answer it correctly without fail.
Another clear example is when Kamagaruma uses the Chariot Bump at one point to try and keep Monta from catching a long pass, which is clear pass interference.
Subverted in that Hiruma seems to be fond of what would be intentional grounding at the NCAA football or NFL level. However, intentional grounding is not illegal on the high school level.
Also subverted at the end of the Seibu game. On the Devil Bats' all-or-nothing onside kick, Monta rips the ball out of Tetsuma's hands, but his shoulders had already hit the ground. All of the Devil Bats get mega pumped and start opening up paths for Monta to block, creating problems for those familiar with football rules. However, the ref calls the play down where Tetsuma was down, meaning the Gunmen retain posession. And the Devil Bats lose the game.
Leonard Apollo, during his time in the NFL, trained three times as much as anyone else, but never made it to the starting lineup and was junked in favor of a Deion Sanders-like ace.
The Yuuhi Guts, who work super hard but are still a below-average team.
Played straight with Yukimitsu, who works harder than anybody and still isn't good enough to start at the beginning of the fall tournament. Subverted during the Shinryūji game, as it works in Yukimitsu's favor against genius and hyper-talented Agon.
The Zokugaku Chameleons, who trained long and hard all summer for the fall tournament, but lost in the second round.
Subverted with the Devil Bats as a whole, though. There are numerous scenes where they're shown pushing themselves at practice, and that's not even counting the Death March. Subverted especially in case of Sena and Monta, as their hard works paid off in awesome way with Sena's amazing footwork and speed, and Monta's ability to "read" and "listen" to the ball, making him able to predict ball movement.
He Also Did: Sort of. Series artist Yusuke Murata sent Robot Master submissions that got made into Crystal Man and Dust Man when he was in grade school.
Kurita, after Gaou breaks Hiruma's arm, sending him out of the game for about one quarter and halftime. He even loses the ability to understand Komusubi, signifying that he was no longer a strong man.
Komusubi, at one point, felt that his lack of height had become too great a liabiliy, especially since the players and even the cheerleaders of the Kyoshin Poseidons were exceptionally tall. It takes some talk from Sena and the Ha-Ha Bros (very literally) "kicking" some sense to him to get him back on track.
Sakuraba (still in his Fake Ultimate Hero phase) goes through one when he realizes that no matter how hard he trains, he'll never be as good as Shin. His friend Takami reactedviolently to that, having gone through the exact same thing when he dealt with a childhood injury that kept him from keeping pace with the rest of the team.
Monta got one when he realized he's going to face Honjou Taka, the son of his lifetime idol.
Heroic Resolve: Agon's "happy game over" comment gives Sena's wrecked legs revitalized strength.
Heroic RROD: Sena's maximum speed, at first, is his own bane. Before Kantou Tournament, he can only run at his maximum speed once since it overexerts him and makes him pass out. Even after strenuous stamina tranining, during the match against Shinryuji, Sena's legs were on the verge of total collapse from trying to keep up with Agon.
Heroic Wannabe: Natsuhiko Taki thinks he's a genius in football, but he's not as great as he thinks.
Husky Russkie: Rodchenko takes it to the next level: He's the world record holder in the bench press. This is also implied to be his downfall as he's very top heavy and comparatively lacking in lower body strength.
Identical Stranger: Subverted. While the Devil Bats meet a man who looks exactly like Ishimaru in America, Ishimaru himself isn't with them and the only confusion is immediately dismissed because, well, they know Ishimaru's back home.
The Idiot from Osaka: Aki Reisuke and Hera Kureji of the Teikoku Alexanders. Kureji manages to make it intimidating, somehow. The ace players of the Alexanders are each shown to have an idiocy rating, with Aki at the top with 60%.
Imagine Spot: Very common, usually when players show off their named and themed abilities. For instance, Shin's "Spear Tackle" gets shown as a literal knight with a spear. Kamagaruma is shown riding a chariot when he uses his "Chariot Bump" attack. Sena himself occasionally sees his blockers as shields.
Important Haircut: Sakuraba gets a crewcut at the beginning of the fall season after finally quitting his contract with Jari Productions to focus on football. This move ends up cutting away at his massive fanbase until only the real fans (all three of them) are left. Ironically, he signs with Jari Productions again soon after. Yukimitsu also started doing his hair differently at the start of the Kanto tournament. Hiruma dyed his hair blond shortly before starting the team in the first place, as well. Agon shaving his head also marked his decision to go all out in the tournament, starting with Militaria. Then he removes his wig completely to call his brother out.
Improbable Aiming Skills: Almost every major quarterback is shown to have these. This is Takami's most prominent ability, beside his height. The Kid is practically an Olympic champion of sharp-shooting. Hiruma uses this for everything. Karin brings this to a new level: all her passes are supposed to be catchable, no matter where the receiver is or how he's doing... well, as long as they're in Teikoku Alexanders, anyway. Subverted with Homer, who doesn't have any accuracy and relies on power and his receiver to do anything.
Informed Flaw: Musashi's kicking is supposed to be peerlessly powerful with the drawback that he's not entirely accurate. Despite this, he never misses a single kick in the entire series (apart from one in a flashback which was directly blocked by Shin), even when his rival Kotaro, who's known for his 100% accuracy more than his power, misses a pivotal one. This even includes the 60-yard kick he scores to win the Christmas Bowl against Teikoku.
To be fair, Kotaro only missed that kick thanks to hurricane-force winds.
Instant Fan Club: Sakuraba's fangirls. The first game between Deimon and Ojou was covered extensively by the media solely because of his fame. Only three remain after he changes his look. Once they get to the Kanto tournament, they're all back.
Hiruma. Admittedly, Mamori tends to call him on it, but this guy waves his guns around in the middle of school and everything's just ducky.
Agon is a much bigger jerkass than Hiruma. Hiruma at least cares about football and his team. Agon doesn't even care about his teammates, especially in the International Youth Cup arc where his cunning plan, as Hiruma points out, amounts to "When we're losing, the great me will save everyone". Everyone hates him so much for this, they decide to foil his plan and beat their opponents with all their strength. They do so. In the end, however, he mellows a little bit.
Kakei started as one, but his experience in the USA and his meeting with Yamato Takeru changed him. He still believed in superiority of physique in American Football... until a certain shrimp forced him to reconsider his beliefs.
While Mizumachi sometimes acts like a dick toward shorter players, even pushing Komusubi to want to leave the team. He's not really a jerkass, he's just very tactless.
All the members of the American Pentagon are fairly unpleasant (with the obvious exception of Panther, Sena's Worthy Opponent) but Mr. Don takes the cake. He had Yamato, who at the time was hailed as Eyeshield 21, the strongest running back at Notre Dame High School, expelled from the team (it's implied by abusing his power as the son of the US president) just because it offended his sensibilities that someone so obviously inferior (i.e Japanese) would claim the title. And he wears an almost permanent sneer. Yamato's revenge is a moment of great joy.
The most prominent is Musashi. He says things like, "I already discarded them (Hiruma and Kurita), don't bother," read: "I'm sorry, my father is sick and nobody can take care of the company but me", "I'm tougher than you thanks to my work as carpenter, first year weaklings, so I guess I'm the one who sould be quarterback" read: "I'm a second year, I'm your senior, let me risk being crushed by that monster so you can still play next year.
Hiruma himself might not be all bad, either, as Lamp Shaded by Mamori.
Marco, as well. In spite of his sinister aura and intimidating appearance, and, indeed, his usually less-than-noble intentions, he's shaken pretty easily and is more frightened of Gaou than anyone else.
Harao's jerkish tendencies spring from his feelings of inadequacy as a player. He acts the way he does to distract people from the fact that he lacks any real talent.
Every element of this is taken to its psychopathic extreme by Kongo Agon. Hiruma would be a Heroic Comedic Sociopath version.
Agon is the most vile, arrogant person in the story. Then Mr. Don appears. In fact, both Mr. Don and Clifford manage to be such gigantic asses that they grate on Agon himself.
The replacement players for the Yuuhi Guts, stars of Yuuhi's other sports teams, are played up as villains in the anime. In the manga, they were depicted as perfectly nice guys — though selfish in that they were only playing for extra credit.
Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Several. Including Rui Habashira who secretly supports the Devilbats during their match against Teikoku by building them a snowbat and Hiruma himself. Mizumachi also is actually a pretty decent guy, if you can forgive his lack of tact.
Hiruma seems to be at first glance. But on the other hand, he does care for his teammates/friends, in his own psychotic manner, gives them support when necessary, and even at his worst, never asks anything of them that he is not prepared to go through himself. And then you have the reason he became the manager of the Devil-Bats in the first place: He promised his first friend that they would reach the top of the football circuit in Japan, and by hell, that is what they are going to do. In addition, he put himself in harm's way to try and protect Mamori and Suzuna from GAOU, of all people. Sure he taunts his opponents, but unlike Agon's insults, they tend to be more childish and absurd then genuinely cruel. The one time Hiruma might've kicked the dog (calling Tetsuma stupid and incompetent), he plainly states seconds later "I was just lying, no one thinks of Tetsuma like that!", then reveals that he's trying to get Kid to show his competitive spirit.
The Juggernaut: Gaou is the straight version; at least until he meets Kurita, who's much slower but pretty much unstoppable. Yamato Takeru is also practically unstoppable on the field; the best thing Deimon can do is slow him down. Not even Shin, widely regarded as the strongest Japanese linebacker EVER, can completely stop him. Tetsuma will go exactly where he's commanded, trampling everyone in his way. Then Mr. Don... oh, God, Mr. Don.
Gaou of the Hakushu Dinosaurs targets quarterbacks intending to break their bones in games. His only karma was that his team lost against the Devil Bats, and despite intentionally breaking Hiruma's arm, he's still invited to be a part of the Japan high school all-star team.
Kevlard: Kurita has this mildly. The average high schooler can't really hurt him, but a lot of the linemen he plays against are around his size and can do plenty of damage.
Despite his love for offense, Hiruma knows that sometimes, he should just give up. The first time is against Ojou, and he's rather an asshole about it. Then, in the match against Seibu, he realizes that none of his carefully crafted scenarios will work against the Kid. Musashi's appeareance changed that, though. Also his poker game against Clifford, although his tactical retreat really pissed Clifford off.
Monta giving up baseball, since his ability is much more suited for American Football.
Large And In Charge: Played straight and subverted. Mr. Don of team USA played this straight, as well as Rodchenko of the Russian Team. There are several subversions, though: Teams led by less-than-competent players, while his second-in command is larger and more competent, like the Kyoshin Poseidons (nominally led by Kobanzame, who defers practically every decision to the tall Kakei, including recruiting and tactical planning), the Taiyou Sphinx (led by Harao, but held together by rock-solid Center Banba), and the Hakushuu Dinosaurs (led by Marco, a talented player and a capable leader, but their biggest strength is Rikiya Gaou, without whom they wouldn't be half the team they are). Another type of subversion: Shinryuji is led by the biggest player, 3rd year senior Yamabushi, but the team is pretty much steered by Agon.
Leaning on the Fourth Wall: Sena and Monta have one when the Deimon team went to US.
Sena: What... what is going to happen to us?
Monta: This manga entering the US version?
Let's Get Dangerous: During the Bando game, Taki goes into a Heroic BSOD because he failed so often, but quickly recovers, ties his hair into a ponytail, and suddenly becomes serious. He goes on to clinch the victory.
Type 1: Ootawara, whose speed is insane for someone his size. That said, while powerful, he's actually one of the weaker opposing players to deal primarily in strength; at the beginning of the series, Shin can bench more than him.
Type 2: Yamato and Shin. Shin's just a tad slower initially than Sena but has incredible physical strength and resilience. Yamato runs at slightly below Sena's pace and while he isn't noted to be especially strong, he takes pride in being a more complete player than Sena because he can take hits and hit back. His main strength, though, is his ability to run without being taken down by tackles.
Gaou doesn't seem to be this at first, but in reality he is. Kid notes that Gaou's blitz speed keeps increasing, such that he starts getting closer to Kid with each play. Furthermore, regardless of the fact that he doesn't actually fall for feints, he was still fast enough to nail Riku with his right hand while Riku was on the left side of his body (for reference, Riku wins fights simply by using his running style).
Literal Genie: Tetsuma takes instructions very literally; If you tell him to run, he'll run... but he won't stop if you don't tell him to stop.
There's at least one (and usually more) notable player on the opposing teams.
This has the unfortunate side-effect of several Devilbats being pushed out of the narrative by the all-stars in the last arc. Komosubi and Taki in particular are last seen cheering on the sidelines during the last game of the world cup; they are conspicuously absent from the final chapter, with no explanation given.
Additionally, pretty much every minor or incidental character gets further characterization in the bonuses in the collected volumes.
Loophole Abuse: Leonard Apollo said that if they failed to beat Deimon by at least 10 points, the NASA Aliens would never go back to America. When they failed to meet that goal, Apollo revealed that he was just going to change the team's name to the NASA Shuttles; that way, it technically wouldn't be the NASA Aliens going back. On the other side, Hiruma said that if the Devil Bats didn't beat the Aliens by at least 10 points the entire team would leave Japan. However he never said they would not come back.
Love Makes You Evil: Marco. He was actually a pretty decent guy until he realized average guys couldn't defeat Teikoku. He then resolved to do anything, including (and often) crippling anyone who gets between him and showing Himuro "the morning sunshine after a victory."
Mama Bear: Just don't threaten Sena or Suzuna when Mamori's nearby. This is a woman who is brave enough to face Gaou should he endanger them.
Manly Tears: Frequently happens with Sakuraba and Yukimitsu, but it happens to practically everybody, even the jovial Panther and hard boiled Habashira. Frequently reaches Ocular Gushers level with regards to Kurita.
Mundane Utility: Sena uses his run to take back a letter from one of the Huh Huh Brothers, Hiruma uses his Improbable Aiming Skills to make fun of people, and in a recent chapter there was a "uselessly badass" pillow fight.
Muscles Are Meaningless: Subverted and played straight at the same time. Akaba, Chuubou, the Ha Ha brothers all show that muscles are not everything. Shin has quite a lot of muscle, and was even stronger than the comparatively gigantic Ootawara for a long time. Rodchenko is the world champion of weightlifting, but Chuubou easily counters him. The Amino Cyborgs, particularly Atsushi Munakata, all had impressive muscles, but the Devilbatsmake quick work of them. However, to be fair, there are players who have huge muscles and impressive power, like Gaou and Mr. Don. There's also Daisuke Atsumi, the captain of the Yuuhi Guts. Despite being so muscular that he practically lacks a freaking neck, he's a below-average player on a below-below-average team of perennial losers.
Suzuna. She has the nerve to call Hiruma "You-nii", which also happens to be "Elf-bro" when translated into English.
Also, Hiruma. He usually refers to someone by "fucking" followed by a trait of theirs, such as "fucking shrimp" for Sena.
Noblewoman's Laugh: She hasn't actually done it, but in the manga, Yukimitsu dreads the day his mother eventually lets this loose, because it suits her so well. Mamori also does this during Deimon's field day.
One of the creators said that Sena is based off of Marshall Faulk, as he is a huge St. Louis Rams fan. He also, however, bears many similarities with LaDainian Tomlinson (the eyeshield, the number 21, the position as a running back), but by all accounts these are coincidental.
Homer might be based on Brett Favre, with whom he shares both a powerful throwing arm and a tendency to misfire passes.
Mr. Don, in what appears to be a coincidence as well, resembles Tim Tebow - mostly because of his beard and gigantically muscular frame.
Morgan, the star running back who edged Leonard Apollo out of his job, resembles Deion Sanders from what little we see of him, Sanders having been perhaps the most infamous fame-loving, money-flaunting egotist in NFL history
Rui Habashira does this to Hiruma while choking back tears after the Chameleons were knocked out of the fall tournament.
After Hiruma traps Marco using his own trick, Marco asked whether, if Hiruma were in his shoes, he would use the same tactics (using Gaou to crush their enemies completely). Hiruma's answer: "Of course, fucking eyelashes!"
Old Master: Doburoku-sensei. Sumito Sendoda of Shinyuji Nagas also counts.
One-Hit Kill: What happens when Shin uses his Trident Tackle against most regular players. Subverted since several strong or strong-willed players manage to hold it off, even Sena. However, Shin isn't to be underestimated; The Trident Tackle stopped Yamato and his Caesar's Charge flat.
Opposing Sports Team: Dozens of them. Several are portrayed much more sympathetically than usual, however, and the series doesn't shy away from the fact that the Devil Bats are crushing a lot of people's dreams, either. Teikoku, however, plays it a little straight. The team's structure forces players to compete against each other to get to the first string. Consequentially, in every game, the players are working more against each other than with each other. They can get away with it because the first string is that good, but it's clear that the entire setup is wrong. And the team is mostly made up of aces stolen from other teams, as well...
Almost every character originally played as a villain or antagonist gets one of these, from arrogant ace Harao to slimy agent Miracle Itou. Mr. Don also manages to get in on this... though, true to form, he manages to strangle a woman while Petting The Dog. Even Agon manages to pull off some strange variant of this when he takes off his helmet as simultaneously a sign of challenge and encouragement to his older brother, who has always sacrificed everything to raise Agon up. Still a dick though.
In an omake, Hiruma had a literal Pet the Dog opportunity, which he completely ignored until it turned out the dog's sad little puppy face was a trap to trick a potential victim into coming close enough to become food. Hiruma and Cerberus are really made for each other.
Phenotype Stereotype: Just see the Youth World Cup. Finland: Best dental care in the world, USA: Of the players in the Pentagram, two are blond, one is black, and one is Native American. India: turbans, Russia: has the strongest guy, who loves material wealth, Germany: sharp features, analytical and good memories, France: led by a Bishounen prettyboy
Planet of Hats: The other schools are designed around themes - to the point of looking like theme parks; Ojou High School looks like Notre Dame university, while Taiyo's architecture is ridiculously Egyptian-themed. Taiyo students even look Egyptian because their other hat, surfing and going to the beach, gets them really tan. The Occults actually try to curse their opponents, Zokugaku students mostly get jobs involving motorcycles, etc.
Plucky Girl: Katsuko Konjo, manager of the Yuuhi Guts, needlessly follows an intense workout regimen so brutal that it would make most other teams' actual players plead for mercy.
Polar Opposite Twins: Unsui and Agon, with Unsui being a reasonable, generally respectful young man, while Agon... well, let's just say that Sena described him as evil.
Poor, Predictable Rock: Most of the opposing teams have one or two defining strengths or gimmicks, like the Seibu Wild Gunmen's quick-draw passing, the Taiyo Sphinx and their "Pyramid Line", or the Bando Spiders' kicks. In that vein, the Devil Bats themselves fit the trope early in the series, by always relying on Sena's speed or Monta's catches. Later, their reliance on the Devil Bat Ghost also came back to bite them. Basically lampshaded in the match against the Wild Gunmen, after Musashi returns to play. Kid makes the observation that without a good kicker, Hiruma's tactics were basically analogous to a person playing rock, paper, scissors - but only using rock and scissors.
While most of the Devil Bats showed obvious signs of fatigue and exhaustion during the Death March, Hiruma chased after his receivers while screaming passing patterns and strafing them with machine gun fire with no indication that the endless running (while hauling around a machine gun) had any effect on him. Even when they reached Las Vegas, he continued to harass them and shoot at them in the hotel...until he got to his room, where he collapsed, face-first and unconscious on the bed, with his shoes still on his feet and his gun still in his hand.
After exhausting himself to defeat the Bando Spiders' Spider Web, Sena makes it almost to the locker room but collapses in Suzuna's arms before he gets there.
Ego: Maria (desires victory, but not at the expense of others). Alternately, one could argue that Kisiragi is the Ego: he's Marco's Left Hand in contrast to Gaou's Right, worships strength every bit as much as Gaou does, but relies on brainpower to use his strength effectively, putting him right between the two of them.
Superego: Marco (goes for the most straight forward path to victory regardless of those he hurts)
Reality Is Unrealistic: In a reverse of the above examples of Gretzky Has the Ball, the attention to detail is somewhat staggering, to the point where people not intimately familiar with high-school level Football might assume that a mistake was made. For instance:
During the Bando game, Kotarou lands the kickoff just out of bounds right by Deimon's endzone. In college and professional football, this results a penalty that results in the ball being started at the 40 yard line. However, at the high school level, this is allowed due to the quality of most high school kickers.
Many people are unaware that American football games can end in ties and were thus perplexed by the America vs Japan match ending in a tie. However, even in the NFL, if the score is still tied at the end of the sudden death overtime period whole in the regular season, the match ends as a tie. Obviously, this cannot occur during the playoffs, so the game continues until someone scores. In regards to the World Cup, an explanation is given: Morgan was so confident that the Americans would crush all their opposition that he didn't bother to write an overtime rule into the tournament guidelines.
The Real Remington Steele: Hayato Akaba of the Bando Spiders claims to be the actual Eyeshield 21. After Sena beat him, he gave up the title, which Sena had ironically abandoned before the game. Then it turns out that Yamato Takeru of the Teikoku Alexanders was the real Eyeshield 21 (due to it being a title passed down from player to player in Notre Dame), and was the one Shun Kakei played against. Eventually, however, the lie of Sena being Eyeshield 21 is made true when he goes to play at Notre Dame high school for a short while.
Akaba and Kotaro of the Bando Spiders, who also have a ¡Three Amigos! thing going on with team manager Juri. They're very similar, liking many of the same things for tellingly different reasons. The blue oni, Akaba, feels that technical ability is the most important thing in football, while the red oni likes things that are "smart", and likes passion.
Kakei and Mizumachi of the Kyoshin Poseidons are a pretty exaggerated example- Kakei takes being unemotional to new levels, while Mizumachi is the biggest spazz in the series.
There's also Agon and Unsui. Agon is driven by spite and hedonism while Unsui has the self-discipline of a monk. Agon has a perpetual sneer while Unsui rarely ever emotes at all.
Seijuro Shin, the stone-faced star linebacker of the White Knights, is Sena's rival. Agon is arguably Hiruma's, Ikkyu Hosakawa is Monta's and Gaou is Kurita's. Additionally, Sena also faces opposition from Riku of the Seibu Wild Gunmen, the person who taught him to run in the first place, and the real Eyeshield 21, Yamato Takeru.
Hiruma also has notable rivals in the other 'control tower' players, Marco and Takami. More than one occasion of detected tactical malice from any of these three has given others the willies.
By contrast, this trope is subverted a bit by the LACK of malice, animosity, or negativity between Sena and Shin. The two simply have a great deal of respect for each other, and each recognizes the other as the best possible rival based on their skills.
Monta also has Sakuraba and Tetsuma as rivals, and Komusubi is a rival to all three of the Ha-ha bros.
And of course, Sena and Panther.
Rollerblade Good: Suzuna is an expert when it comes to rollerblading and ice-skating. She wears her rollerblades pretty much all the time.
Running Gag: Several. Shin's cluenessness with technology, Monta's inability to throw, Mamori's inability to draw, Ishimaru's plainness...
Also passing birds cheeping "Ahou!" (which translates to 'Stupid!') when someone does something particularly idiotic. Commonly occurs with Taki.
Ruritania: The Republic of Militaria seems to be like this, except, naturally, with a strong focus on its military.
Samus Is a Girl: And so is Karin Koizumi, the quarterback of the Teikoku Alexanders and probably the best QB in the country. The guy Kotaro thought was their ace quarterback is actually on the fourth string because he can't compete with her.
Scary Black Man: A bizarre example being Banba, who looks and acts the part despite being ethnically Japanese. The series tries to justify his appearance by explaining that he's just really tan from frequent surfing and likes Egyptian culture, but it doesn't explain why he's drawn with the facial features of a Black Egyptian.
Ironically enough, the only actual black guy of any significance, Panther, is extremely friendly and humble, often letting people push him around.
Scary Shiny Glasses: Takami gets these in the final game between Ojou and Deimon. His teammates find it a little unnerving, especially because he's usually so benign.
Second Place Is for Losers: Played with. At the beginning some characters, like the Kantou commissioner, said that "there is only one winner, everyone else is a loser." It never gets more emphasized than that, other than all teams always try their best.
Selective Obliviousness: Mamori as a running gag in regards to Sena's identity as Eyeshield 21. He's practically Clark Kenting it and yet she keeps missing the signs. She's knows Sena is the same build as Eyeshield. She knows he's joined the Football club and she's never seen Eyeshield 21 without his mask. When she figures out that Sena leaves before Eyeshield 21 shows up, here is her thought: "Everytime Eyeshield 21 shows up... Sena never seems to be around. Maybe they... don't get along well?" The justicification is that she sees Sena as such a wimp, she simply cannot think of him as someone who could be a successful football player. It's even lampshaded by Hiruma: "Preconceptions are harsh..."
Okay, yeah, it's not that unreasonable for people to get a little crazy in high school sports... but did you know that beach football is Serious Business? No, seriously, it's the only thing keeping the Houston youth from dealing drugs. It is true, though, that placing your energy into something like sports to get away from bad habits is perfectly viable. Doburoku took a group of drug abusers and gave them an outlet to put their energy and time into. Kinda funny since he is an alchoholic with a massive gambling addiction.
There was a considerable amount of Ship Teasing for both Sena/Suzuna and Hiruma/Mamori throughout the series... though ultimately, nothing was confirmed. But you mustn't forget, this isa Shounen manga.
Also, the scene with Marco and Maria after the Dinosaurs lose. We don't know what exactly was said, but given that Marco is the poster boy for Love Makes You Evil, and she's in the middle of saying he didn't have to go as far as he did to impress her, right before it fades out... something must have happened.
Rui and Megumi also get teased a bit in the side chapters.
For Hiruma and Mamori, the fact that she chose to stay as Hiruma's manager in the Distant Finale when every member of their team is now split up is quite telling.
For Sena and Suzuna, after the game against the Dinosaurs, at the celebratory party, Sena sees Suzuna in a dress and comments, "Wow! So adult like!" Suzuna is dissapointed he didn't look flustered or embarrassed.
Unbelievably, the manga has a little shout out to Marvel Comics' infamous NFL Superpro. Seriously.
In addition to many shouts out to other Shonen Jump manga; Toganou is almost always seen reading Shonen Jump, as well, and created a manga that combines elements of many manga serialized in Jump... including Eyeshield 21. Other Jump shout-outs show up throughout the series. A filler episode in the anime has every member of the team dress up as Eyeshield and do an homage to Naruto's shadow clone technique.
Ken Kamaguruma of the Taiyo Sphinx is an Expy of Jean-Pierre Polnareff from Jo Jos Bizarre Adventure, from his hair to his "Chariot" techniques.
In the episode where the Devil Bats go on a one-night cruise before a big game, someone eats their dinners, and Suzuna turns the episode into a mix between Detective Conan and Phoenix Wright. A blantant shout out to Detective Conan starts with a set of doors opening and closing between breaks.
Many players in this manga are Expy of certain players in the NFL, or other famous people. Shin, for example, is both a KenshiroExpy and a Bruce Lee Clone.
The Bando Spiders' uniform is basically a football version of Spiderman's iconic costume.
Sorting Algorithm of Evil: Regional Tournament to National Tournament to Christmas Bowl to World Cup. Expert analysts predict Sena will soon be the first running back in space. Subverted in the National Tournament when Deimon face super-hyped, 10-time undefeated champions Shinryuuji first, then their ultimate rivals Ojou second, and finally fellow darkhorse team Hakushuu in the grand finale.
Spirited Competitor: Most of The Rival characters, like Seijuro Shin, Patrick Spencer, Kengo Mizumachi, Riku Kaitani, Ichiro Takami, Haruto Sakuraba, Jo Tetsuma (at last), Shun Kakei (at last), Rikiya Gaou,.... The list goes on and on.
The Bando Spiders rely on their kicks; They're all legs.
The nickname "Panther" is one in Japanese, since it can be formed from a phoenetic shortening of his real name, "Patrick Spencer." (Pansaa = Patorikku Supensaa)
Stock Footage: Used to an almost obscene level during matches in the anime. Combined with the frequent appearance of characters drawn Off Model, it's not far from torture for anyone who has read the wonderfully detailed and dynamic manga.
The Stoic: Shin, Banba, and Kakei are all rather unemotional. Akaba might also count. Tetsuma is also notable in this regard. Subverted with Hiruma; he can be trigger-happy, laughing mad, cursing and threatening all the time, but when his plans fail completely, he takes it with stoic silence.
Stout Strength: Kurita, Komusubi, Kasamatsu and Omosadake are all powerful linemen of pronounced girth; Komusubi and Omosadake are sumo wrestlers, even.
Subordinate Excuse: At the start of the series, Mamori became manager of the Devil Bats solely to relieve Sena's workload and protect him from Hiruma's 'bullying'. Then, in an interesting turn of events, the epilogue has her as the manager of the Saikyoudai Wizards, whose captain is Hiruma. Considering the two have had varying amounts of Ship Tease throughout the series, and that they're sharing a car...
Take a Third Option: Subverted with Hiruma and his in-game pop-quiz; he makes you guess A, B, or C, while the answer is...12.5.
Talking Is a Free Action: The players manage to fit astonishingly long stretches of dialogue and thought into actions which probably take place in the blink of an eye - while running, throwing, blocking, catching. It's amazing they have enough breath to play.
Team Dad: Hiruma, in his own warped, violent, abrasive way.
Team Mom: Mamori for the Devil Bats. She even (sort of) managed to mother Hiruma. Some of the managers from the other teams are Team Moms too.
Team Pet: Cerberus, but he's not, like, cute, or anything. Hell, he's a wild dog, people shouldn't even be around him, a fact that Hiruma owns up to completely. There's also Butaberus the pig.
Tearjerker: Several over the series, an early flashback showing one for Kurita. After buying 100 cream puffs expecting a huge turnout for club tryouts, he sits alone in the dark, eating them in tears. Someone saying how tasty pastries are has never been sadder.
The most prominent example is Onihei. Everything he predicted will be inverted, or at least, subverted.
Terrible Artist: We're frequently reminded why Art is Mamori's weakest subject in school.
Testosterone Poisoning: A funny in-universe example where every member of the Devil Bats basically 'mans up' by getting Big Ol' Eyebrows and very intense eyes during the Hakushuu game. Even the Team Pets got in on the act, and Mamori and Suzuna had to resist it with every last bit of their female instinct.
There are also Mamori and Suzuna's friends. The latter gets some screentime but no dialogue.
Two idiots from the soccer team, Muro Satoshi and Miyake (Mitaku in the fan scanlations, for some reason), whose schtick is insulting people, which often backfires on them.
This Cannot Be!: What happens to almost every one of Sena's opponents, and, to an extent, all the teams to face the Devil Bats, given that they're considered to be mediocre by every other team up until the middle of the series.
¡Three Amigos!: Sena, Monta, and Suzuna. Kotaro, Akaba, and Julie as well.
True Companions: Although they're not always friendly to each other, the Devil Bats have many moments, probably the best being an unplanned, unspoken onside kick to the second half of the Devil Bats/Nagas game. The entire team knew it was coming despite Hiruma's words to the contrary.
Ugly Guy, Hot Wife: Hatsujo and his girlfriend. Every time the Cupids lose (which is often, they're a bottom of the barrel team with the only moderate talent being Hatsujo himself), you can't help but feel like Hatsujo's the real winner, you know?
Both inverted and later played straight with Kotaro and Musashi. Kotaro initially considered himself to be Musashi's rival without having a clue of exactly who Musashi was, and later became a more normal kind of unknown rival himself.
Up to Eleven: Mr. Don is by far the most ridiculous character in the manga. Here is a small list of his crazy attributes: He's the son of the president, who he looks OLDER than despite being 18. He can swat away both Gaou and Yamato AT THE SAME TIME with minimal effort, and he knocked Kurita out of a large chunk of the game with one hit. He rides around in limos drinking with women (again, he's 18). He knows like, every language. He runs around a 4.4 40-yard dash despite his inhuman strength. The one time his offense falters, he calls a time-out to make a crazy speech to the crowd about how they came to see "the men chosen by God as they effortlessly hunt down a tiger!" Mr. Don is NEVER anything less than completely over the top in any aspect.
Verbal Tic: "...MAX!", "Ahaha!", Ikkyuu sticks "oni" into his sentences a lot. Mr. Don can't seem to express any kind of opinion without repeatedly remarking that "it makes me sad."
Osamu Kobanzame, the weak, indecisive quarterback of Poseidons, who is overshadowed by his junior teammates, but has amazing accuracy in short passes, and foot speed (triggered by fear), which results in 0 interceptions in the tournament. He also went through Mizumachi-style training without complaining.
Hiromi Kisaragi's athletic skill is below average, but his Ptera-Claw is formidable against a receiver like Monta.
What the Hell, Hero?: Musashi punches Hiruma hard enough to draw blood when Hiruma orders Sena to continue marking Agon, even at the risk of permanently crippling his legs. Subverted because it's actually staged as part of a trick play.
"Where Are They Now?" Epilogue: The final chapter. Most of the members of the team are now at university (different ones), and now play football against each other and go to the Rice Bowl, thus ending the series the same way it started.
Who Needs Overtime: Hiruma always chooses to go for the "surprising win" instead of overtime, although it's kinda justified since the team only has 14 players (4 borrowed from other sport clubs), so continuing with a really exhausted team is a poor option.
Whoa, Bundy!: Many of the Devil Bats' huddles during football games in the manga break with a cry of "Kick their asses!" Many of their opponents have similar Whoa Bundy cries.
Onihei's team was built up as a powerhouse and an overall favorite in the tournament, so that when they got their asses handed to them by the Kyoshin Poseidons, we'd know who the real power was. Similarly, Taiyo and Seibu both bit it against Hakushuu to illustrate how brutal the Dinosaurs were.
Subverted in the Ojo versus Sado game, where Otawara gets bowled over twice - but he was faking weakness so Shin could test out his Trident Tackle on opponents, and when he gets to let loose his Lightning Bruiser properties soundly trounce Sado.
For Seibu's introduction, Deimon is late to their game against Ojo, and they see the score is 20-7. While everyone is impressed that Seibu scored against Ojo's defense, Hiruma points out that Seibu has 20 points, and are handing the White Knights their asses.
Dinosaurs manager Maruko Himuro is implied to be one.
Karin Koizumi might be one, subverted since she's a quarterback.
You Shall Not Pass: Played straight by Banba. His quarterback is the first (and only) quarterback that survived the onslaught from the beastly Rikiya Gaou.
Younger than They Look: Most of the football players from other teams look like they'd fit in better in real NFL matches than in high school, most notably Musashi and "The Kid." There was even a metatextual "Old Man's Face" contest between them. Musashi won.