Tag Archives: sports

Taisho Baseball Girls.

Taisho Baseball Girls.Type: TV Series
Episode Count: 12
Genre: Historical / Sports / Drama
Vintage: 2009

Version reviewed: Japanese Subtitled
Date of Review: 02 Dec 2011

Grade: B+

Princess Nine (minus the melodrama) meets Sakura Wars (minus the steampunk) in this charming series.

Plot Summary
In the mid 1920s, at the dawn of Japan’s Westernization towards the end of the Taisho era, a girl named Akiko at a prestigious girls’ academy has come up with a daring idea: start a girl’s baseball team. And as if that weren’t enough, Akiko wants to play against the boys. Enlisting the help of her friend Koume, the two set out recruiting players. It’s not an easy task though, since in this transitional time for Japan, there are many who cling to the old ways and believe that a woman’s place is in the home; for some girls, even if they wanted to play, their families would never allow it. Akiko and Koume have a great challenge ahead of them if they are to form a successful baseball team and beat the boys at their own game.

The Review
There were three main reasons that Taisho Baseball Girls found itself on my list of shows to check out: Kana Ueda, Mamiko Noto, and Ryo Hirohashi. Ueda happens to be perhaps my favorite voice actress, and the other two are also high on my list of favorites. They play only supporting roles in this series, yet it was enough to spark my interest. It was an investigation well worth taking, as Taisho Baseball Girls ended up being an absolutely delightful series.

Getting slightly more on topic, while the baseball team may have been Akiko’s idea, the series focuses on Koume. Koume is a fourteen-year-old bundle of genki. She’s energetic and spirited, and has a forward-looking attitude, believing that girls can do anything, much to her father’s frustration. The family may run a Western-style restaurant, but Koume’s father is set in his ways of the preceding Meiji era: girls shouldn’t so much as run, and they need to focus on getting ready for marriage and becoming a good wife. Koume’s entire spirit runs in opposition to this, especially since she has begun learning to play baseball in secret. Her biggest wish is to get one of the brand new sailor uniforms that the girls have just begun to wear in school, something her father will not allow.

Speaking of characters, being a series about a baseball team, there is a large cast, as a baseball team must have at least nine members. The only downside to having nine characters in a twelve episode series is that there simply isn’t enough time to expand on all of their backgrounds. Every member gets at least one episode of coverage, but Koume and Akiko are the primary characters, so they get the most background. The lack of coverage for the others doesn’t really hurt the series in this case, but had Taisho Baseball Girls been twice as long, we may have been able to learn more about the remaining seven members than the show’s short run allows. Also worth mentioning is the team’s coach, who is an English teacher at the school and is stereotypically American as often depicted in anime, with blonde hair, blue eyes, and a rather -ahem- full figure. This isn’t a negative point or anything, I just found it amusing.

One other unusual thing about the series is the dialogue. I can’t speak for the Japanese dialects used in the show, as my knowledge of the language is rudimentary at best, but as far as the English translation in the subtitles is concerned, there are some words and phrases used which I am pretty sure were not part of the average 1920s vocabulary. There are a few mannerisms which seem a bit out of place as well. These are little anachronisms which, every once in a while, are enough to make me forget that this show is supposed to take place more than eighty-five years ago. Again, it’s nothing which significantly takes away from the show, but it’s just enough to pull me out of the early twentieth century for a brief moment in those occurrences.

Overall, Taisho Baseball Girls is an absolutely charming show. It’s a cast of delightful girls who are fun to watch, and while by no means meant to be a serious Japanese history lesson, it is a refreshing change of pace to watch a show taking place in the past. You don’t even have to be a baseball fan. If you enjoy shows which highlight the day-to-day lives of characters, this is one series which is definitely worth checking out.

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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.