Monday, July 20, 2009

First Impressions: Taishou Yakyuu Musume Episodes 1-3

Taishou Yakyuu Musume ("Taishou Baseball Girls") is an unremarkable but decent sports series. One certainly could do a lot worse this season. Nevertheless, my #1 competition-themed yuri subtext series (a niche within a niche within a niche, lol) right now is Saki! ^^ The characters in Saki are more entertaining to watch competing, and Saki has significantly more yuri. But back to Taishou Yakyuu Musume...

Based on an ongoing light novel series written by Atsushi Kagurasaka and illustrated by Sadaji Koike, Taishou Yakyuu Musume is about Koume Suzukawa, a 14 year old girl living in the 14th year of the Taishou era (1925) who attends an all-girls' school and helps her friend and classmate Akiko Ogasawara begin a girls' baseball team.

They have an awful time finding (and keeping) recruits in the beginning, but after Akiko explains her chief reason for wanting to form a baseball team (her fiancée, who plays baseball on his school team, told her that all women should stay in the cave while their husbands hunt and gather home and be good house wives, so she wants to prove that she's equal by forming a baseball team), more girls join the team. By the end of episode 1, they have two more players:

Noe Kawashima (voiced by Kana Ueda), who likes to focus on the technical/tactical aspects of the game,

and Yuki Souya, the proper, soft-spoken Noto Mamiko-voiced character who donates equipment to the team,

In episode 2 they find a coach, their outgoing American teacher Anna Curtland-sensei, who has the standard "Caucasian gaijin" look of anime.

The faint glimmer of yuri potential grows slightly when Yuki recruits Tamaki Ishigaki,

her tsundere childhood friend, to the team. I think they would make a cute potential pair- partly because Yuki has Noto Mamiko's voice and Tamaki makes me think of an irate, withdrawn Noriko from Marimite (I guess it's her hairstyle and relative lack of formality lol ^^;), although I'm not really fangirling over them.

Plus, two twins join the team, tomboyish Tomoe (Yuuko Kaida, a.k.a. Amane in Strawberry Panic and Minako in Marimite; she's on the right in the pic below) and literary-minded Shizuka Tsukubae.

Tomoe joins because she really wants to play, despite Shizuka's insistence otherwise, and Shizuka joins because she has a sister complex. -_-;; To help the team get the last players it needs, Tomoe recruits her #1 fangirl, Kyouko Sakurami (voiced by Yui Makino, of Aria fame),

and a girl who owes her money. lol (I'm sure that she won't stick around for long, since she isn't in the promo art.)

In episode 3, the girls get their team approved by their school, under the guise of forming a club to promote the westernization of Japanese society. (I know that the Taishou era was a period in which Japan was intentionally "westernizing", but the characters' "We need to be more like the West!!" attitude still made me uncomfortable.)

Akiko's team plays against an all-boys' baseball team- the team on which Akiko's fiancée plays. The girls lose by a landslide but, imo, they do pretty decently considering that none of them played any baseball before forming their team. I didn't like their reaction to losing, however. One girl loudly cries while still on the field- not the way to be taken seriously as a competitor. (I may be nit-picking, but it does bug me.) And, based on the next episode preview, it looks like Akiko is going to hide away in shame from losing. Blah... this isn't what I want from my "competition"-themed shows. The reaction I would much rather see from Akiko and her team is: "Well, none of us have played any baseball until a short time ago. We did pretty decently for our first game, but now we have to step up practice. When we improve our skills and play Asaka [the boys' team] again, we'll beat them!!" Plus, I would have preferred to see Akiko start her baseball team because she's interested in baseball, not simply to prove herself to her fiancée.

So ultimately, this show has entertainment value, but it isn't what I want from a series about a group of girls in the 1920's defying gender conventions and starting a sports team. (Me and my expectations... -_-;;) One thing I like is that, while the girls almost all suck at playing baseball in the beginning, none of them have inherent talent that allows them to become the best in their field in zero time flat because of Sheer Guts and Willpower (TM). They work for the progress they make. Plus, there's almost no fan service which is, sadly, noteworthy considering the moe-ish character designs in this series.

I plan on watching more of Taishou Yakyuu Musume, but only because it's kind of cute and I like the Taishou setting. And for anybody who liked Koume's musical number at the beginning of episode 1 (which was a clever way to establish the tone and setting of the show), here's "Tokyo Bushi", the popular Taishou-era song that it plays homage to,

and here's Koume's musical number for a direct comparison.

Story: C+
Art: B
Overall: C+ with potential for improvement.

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