Sunday, March 13, 2011
Taisho Baseball Girls is another surprise hit for me. I reviewed its first few episodes when it was airing in a now cringe-inducing post, but after giving it another shot with Sentai's DVD release, I really enjoyed it.
The story takes place in 1925. First year middle schooler Suzukawa Koume is the daughter of the surprisingly old-fashioned owner of a Western-style restaurant. One day her classmate Ogasawara Akiko approaches her wanting to form a girls' baseball team. Akiko's baseball-playing fiancee Sousuke told her that women belong in the home, so she wants to challenge him at his own game.
Koume and Akiko soon recruit seven other people- sweet Yuki, who contributes equipment; Noe, whose strategic thinking helps her teammates improve by leaps and bounds; butchy Tomoe, who's rather thickheaded, but has a lot of athletic ability and wants to strike a home run more than anything- she also has a crush on Koume; Tomoe's more academically-inclined twin sister Shizuka, who joined because Tomoe did; Kyouko, one of Tomoe's fan girls who has a big fat crush on her; and Tamaki (nicknamed "Tama-chan"), Yuki's best friend since childhood who played baseball with her when they were kids. Tomoe drafts Noriko, a girl from the newspaper club who owes her money, but her membership obviously doesn't last long. Kyouko's roommate, a track runner named Kouchou, replaces Noriko and blossoms on the baseball field more than she ever did on the track. Their coach is their English teacher from the U.S., Anna Curtland-sensei.
As in any good underdog sports story, the girls start out at the bottom and sweat and work their way to being able to compete on their desired level. Shortly after they begin practice, they issue a game challenge to Sousuke's school and get wiped out. Even though this loss almost breaks the team (especially Akiko), they bounce back and practice with even more passion than before.
Even as someone who has never particularly cared about baseball (like the saying, "好きの反対は、無関心."), I still became invested in the characters' practices and games. Eventually, the team issues a second challenge to Sousuke's school, culminating in one of the best endings I have seen in any anime. (Although more heart-pounding games by these characters would be incredibly welcome. The light novel that this series is based on is still running in Tokuma Novels Edge.)
Along with its "Guts! Ganbarimasu!" appeal and its strong feminist bent, this series is funny- even the resolution of the crisis in the penultimate episode elicited laughs. TBG also belong to the small handful of seinen titles featuring a mostly female cast without any service. (Zero. Zip. Nada. Muahaha. Even when the girls visit an onsen while on training camp in the country.)
Sentai's release is satisfactoy. The extras are nil, but most anime DVD releases don't have any noteworthy extras anyway. The subs tinker with the meaning a little (e.g. "Nattou, nattou, nattou..." -> "Nattou, nattou, get your nattou..."), but not too much. Honorifics are sometimes left intact, sometimes not. Some helpful translation/cultural reference notes appear unobtrusively on the screen in a few moments.
So- highly likeable, strong group of characters + great story = do watch.
Story: Starts at B+, ends at A