Princess Nine

Princess NineType: TV Series
Episode Count: 26
Genre: Sports / Drama
Vintage: 1998

Version reviewed: Japanese Subtitled
Date of Review: 30 Jul 2008

Grade: B

Something of a sleeper, this is a good drama even if you aren’t all that interested in baseball.

Plot Summary
Fifteen year old Ryo Hayakawa has just finished Middle School, but doesn’t plan to attend high school so she can stay with her mother and help run the family Oden bar. Ryo has a great talent though – for baseball. She’s the community baseball team’s star relief pitcher, and nobody in town has ever been able to hit any of her pitches. This skill was passed down to her from her late father, the famous pitcher Hidehiko Hayakawa. The chairman of nearby Kisaragi Girl’s High School sees Ryo pitching one day, and makes an unprecedented decision: she will start a girl’s baseball team with the intent to go all the way to Koshien and win the national High School Baseball tournament. There will be many obstacles on the way to this goal, not the least of which is that girls are not permitted to participate in this all-boys tournament. And then there is the matter of assembling a team around Ryo…

The Review
Princess Nine is an unexpected success. It’s a shoujo drama that uses baseball as its backdrop. If you can forgive a few glaring defiances of reality and occasional over the top melodrama, this might be one of the better shows that you haven’t heard a lot about. Its best asset is its writing.

The story isn’t all that difficult to follow; a girl’s high school team is formed with the intent to compete against the boys and take the biggest prize in Japanese scholastic sports. That’s the easy part. The complexity of Princess Nine shows itself in the character drama which makes up the real core of the show. Overall though, the balance is fairly even between the character drama and the sports.

There are a lot of characters in Princess Nine (can you guess how many at the least?), so with only 26 episodes to work with, not everyone is going to be given as much detail as the leads. There are nine girls on the team, but of them only two end up being primary characters, so that leaves lot of secondary characters to cover, and that doesn’t even include those not in the team! That said, each of the nine does get an episode to explain their character amidst all of the baseball developments. The cast is large, but it never manages to be so much that you lose track of who’s who.

Not everything is perfect in the world of Princess Nine, though. From a technical standpoint, the animation is not consistent in quality, which can be distracting at times. The most obvious evidence of this is that the characters don’t always seem to stick with the model sheets; it’s as if each animator had different instructions on how to draw each character. Also, there is the logical improbability of a baseball team having only one pitcher. As good as Ryo may be, it seems hard to believe that she can pitch all nine innings of every single game without any relief whatsoever. The team is made up of only nine players; there is no backup for any of them. From a baseball standpoint, this is virtually unfeasible. Lastly, some of the drama is incredibly over the top. You have to be able to suspend reality a little bit while watching Princess Nine, and just take it at its own level.

So, despite all of that, Princess Nine is a wonderfully done sports drama with some great writing; almost all of the episodes end on a cliffhanger, so you’re always left wanting to know what is going to happen next. Check it out if you want to see a good series that sneaks in under most peoples’ radar.

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