The dream of every young baseball player in Japan is to someday play at the hallowed ground of Koshien Stadium. Hayakawa Ryou is just such a youth, with a wicked arm that makes grown men tremble at the plate.
Problem is, she's a girl.
That's not such a problem in the eyes of Himuro Keiko, president of a large corporation, and more importantly, the president of Kisaragi Girls' High School. She has dreams of taking an all-girl team to Koshien with hard-pitching Ryou at the center. But this is no second-rate league she wants ... she wants them to play on the same field as the boys. It's an uphill battle, and they have players to recruit and off-the-field battles to fight. Not only that, but Keiko's own tennis-star daughter Izumi resents the attention her mother gives Ryou and decides to become Ryou's rival.
Will the girls make it to Koshien after all? Or will they simply be just another bunch of people with big dreams?
Think baseball is boring?
Not when a ball is racing at you at a hundred miles an hour, and on the top of that mound is a cute girl-next-door with eyes of fire.
As other reviewers have noted, Princess Nine is *not* A League of Their Own. The girls are playing true hardball, and they're not afraid to beat the boys at what is traditionally "their" game.
As it should be, though, an anime like this isn't just about sports. Much of what makes this TV series tick is the relationships between the characters, and that camaraderie between teammates is especially evident in an ensemble series such as this. While the characters of Ryou and Izumi are by far the strongest, much time is spent developing each of the other players and cast members as well. Occasionally, it's a bit slow, but it's treated with a sense of respect and seriousness that betrays a director who knows how to deal with character pieces.
No big surprise, then, when the director turns out to be Mochizuki Tomomi, who also directed the Studio Ghibli feature I Can Hear the Sea and Kimagure Orange Road: I Want to Return to that Day. The deft personal touch of Mochizuki's direction brings a very human element to an anime genre that is all too often ignored in North America. While the rest of the world watched localized versions of Touch and Captain Tsubasa, Americans remained completely oblivious, which is a shame. But no longer.
The good folks at ADV have done a splendid job in making this series available to American audiences, with a competent (and affordably-priced) DVD release, a decently produced dubbed version, and extras that explain things as esoteric as oden bars and the widespread popularity of the Japanese high school baseball playoffs (which makes the College World Series look like Little League).
The animation itself, by the way, is decent, and rather surprisingly, produced in the traditional cel-style with little to no apparent digital work. Dramatic pans and speed lines are common in sports titles, so there isn't too much to be asked of the animators, but all in all, the line work is good, and the frame rate isn't embarrassing. The background music is good (which is to be expected since the original creator of this series is a music producer), but the opening and ending tracks, while enjoyable, are an acquired taste for most Westerners and not terribly remarkable outside the context of the show.
The only true downside to this series is that it does occasionally go into excessive levels of angst and melodrama, which is to be expected from the genre. Some viewers unused to the concept of sports anime may find this annoying, but as long as your viewing audience has even a surface appreciation of baseball, then this series will definitely score a few hits among the crowd.
Princess Nine is intense and grueling. It will make your heart race and may make your soul cry. While it follows every convention of sports anime to the letter, you will probably love it anyway. Though it may not be the greatest thing ever made, it's certainly good enough - and special enough - to be a perfect introduction to a worthy genre of Japanese animation.
Highly recommended intro to sports anime. — Carlos/Giancarla Ross
Recommended Audience: Best for older children and above due to intensity and some violence (though not much). While some sites say there is brief nudity, I don't even remember it, so that comment should be considered a non-factor.
Version(s) Viewed: R1 DVD
Review Status: Full (26/26)
Princess Nine © 1998 Date Kensei / Phoenix Entertainment / AnimeX / NHK
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