Taisho Baseball Girls
Set in the 1920s, where Japan is slowly undergoing liberation, girls are still expected to do the "girl's activities" like staying home, doing housework, get married (by way of arranged marriage) and care for the children eventually. The story revolves around 9 high school girls who aspire to do the "guy's activities" - playing baseball. They soon found out that the learning and playing the game is really not as easy as it looks. Could they have bitten off more than they could chew?
I generally make it a point to stay away from sports-themed anime. I have had very bad experience with Slam Dunk. Granted that was a rather dated anime but everyone still raves on and on about it. I simply do not have the patience for animes where the time taken for the ball to reach the basketball hoop after it leaves a player's hand is 2 - 3 episodes long. During the distance that the ball travels, Einstein's rules of relativity is broken as time is warped to flashback to the what, why and how they join the basketball team and the what-not of basketball that saved their pathetic and usually not very sympathetic lives.
Thankfully, Taishō Yakyū Musume has kept to the theories of relativity. For a short series, it covers most bases (pun not intended) well and does not try to be over-ambitious. The two main protaganists that drives the show are the unassuming Suzukawa Koume who comes from a traditional family background and the ultra-rich Ogasawara Akiko. The story kick starts with Akiko who wanted to prove, after a tiff with her fiancee, that what males do, females can do it equally well. And Koume is unwittingly pulled, though a series of misunderstandings, into helping Akiko start a female baseball team. The rest of the team comprise of their resident strategist Kawashima Noe, the martial-arts praticing Tsukubae Tomoe and her rather unwilling twin Shizuka, childhood friends Soya Yuki and Ishigaki Tamaki, former sprinter Kikusaka Kochou and the rather ditzy Sakurami Kyouko. And not to mention their very interesting mentor cum coach Anna Curtland. I'd think that with such a monumental cast, the episodes would need to be stretched somewhat.
I was, in fact, very pleasantly surprise that the anime manage to strike a perfect balance between story and character development as well as playing baseball. The story is very well paced with no fillers right from the start where the team is being formed and members have to be recruited and at times coerced to the end where training gets more intensive for the final match with the boys team. At the same time, Taishō Yakyū Musume also tries to address the issue of females breaking out of their stereotypical mould. All in all, not letting baseball eclipse the whole show.
Taishō Yakyū Musume also does not try to over-exaggerate the abilities of the girls and their performance are kept to rather realistic humanly achieveable standards. Comedic relief comes in the form of the girls' creative quick-fix methods to becoming stellar players within the shortest time with the mistaken assumption that strenuous training can thus be traded off this way.
I am particularly pleased at the gentle handling of the almost wholly female cast. Some of the more recent anime had been rather violent with the female cast (Canaan comes to mind, understandable given different genre but still...). There is very little angst in the anime and comes only from Akiko who usually snaps out of it rather quickly and no flashbacks whatsoever!
Animation is colouful and surprisingly crisp and clean. The anime does not scrimp on animating movements and there are lots in the show. Close-up and details are very well done, especially when they were showing the more subtle tricks of baseball - how the ball and hand signals are hidden.
If, like me, you have been staying clear of sports-themed anime, try watching this. You might just find it to your liking. — Diane Tiu
Recommended Audience: Mostly appropriate for children, although one of the baseball team members has a quite obvious crush on another girl on the team. There are some other light mature themes in the series, such as arranged marriages, sexism, and social/gender-based roles and the expectations that often comes with them. Fanservice and violence are virtually non-existent.
Version(s) Viewed: Prelicense digital source
Review Status: Full (12/12)
Taisho Baseball Girls © 2009 Atsushi Kagurazaka / Tokuma Shoten / Toho Star Committee
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