When I was a teenager, I worked at Wal-Mart. During the Christmas season, I was moved to the layaway department. Though it was extremely busy (at times, we literally had more than 100 people in line [counted!]), it was a great time because I bonded with my co-workers. One year, we did a Secret Santa exchange. However, being the shy guy that I was, I expressed interest in getting involved, but didn’t get any details. The outcome? I received a gift…and someone else didn’t. Woops.
My recent experiences with Secret Santa have been much better, thanks to Reverse Thieves. Last year, I watched Kino’s Journey, which became one of my favorite series. This year, the recommendations I received were all right on the money: Sora no Woto, a show that I’ve vowed to one day take up again (both R86 and myself have struggled through the first few episodes); Kamichu, a series that piques my interest for entertainment purposes and because of my blog’s theme; and the show I ended up selecting, Taishou Yakyuu Musume (Taishou Baseball Girls).
Set in Japan in 1925, the series follows two 14 year old girls who form a school baseball team. Despite a variety of issue working against them, mostly as a result of ideals of the time period, the girls work hard and persevere in building a team. Their goal? To play and defeat a boy’s baseball team that is a favorite to take part in Koshien.
Of course, the series tackles the sport from a feminine angle. Sometimes, it’s for the better, as when the girls encourage our main characters, Koume (catcher) and Akiko (pitcher) to see their battery as a marriage (discussed at detail by ajthefourth at The Untold Story of Altair & Vega). There’s even an affair in the relationship – ha!
Another part of the story’s charm has to do with the time period. Although the character types, speech, and other elements are anachronistic, other elements (seemingly) fit the time period. The uniforms, school and athletic, as well as various story elements (including a neat episode about a silent film) add a fine and unique touch the anime.
Maybe most fitting to the time period is the show’s theme. The girls, led by Akiko, set out to prove they can play baseball on a competitive level with the boys. They’re seeking to break free from the constraints of a society that tells them that women have no choice – a household is the only place for a married lady (which is the position some of the characters are going to be in sooner than later – see below). But the theme is never preachy, nor does it drift into corniness. In fact, the idea is approached in a realistic and empathetic manner, as Akiko deals with expectations befitting of high society (and that of her fiancee, a star of the opposing boys’ team) and Koume hides her hobby from an disapproving father.
As with any sports show, the emphasis is not necessarily on the sport. This anime is particularly so, as baseball strategy isn’t nearly so detailed as in, say, Ookiku Furikabutte, and not even to the extent of the Mitsuru Adachi classics, Touch and Cross Game. This is a smart move, not only because of the series’ length (only 12 episodes), but also because the cast of characters is fun and should be the focal point of the series. Akiko is admirable, but is also full of faults; Tomoe is a slugger with some interesting quirks; and Kyouko, first presented as a fangirl for Tomoe, even gets depth with an entire episode mostly devoted to her.
But the most interesting character of all is Koume. Timid at first, she becomes devoted to her team as the series progresses; her role reminds me of that of Giselle in Last Exile: Fam, the Silver Wing, who must corral her overly confident pilot. We also get to see Koume’s teenage attitude in her home environment, as well as the development of one sweet relationship and one humorous one involving her and suitors.
By the end of the series, the audience has a good feeling how the show is going to end. But as with most good shows, it’s about the journey, not the ultimate destination. And as we root for the baseball team that could, we realize that the path Akiko, Koume, and the others are taking is one not dissimilar to our own, remembering that we have faced (or are facing) obstacles in our life that we can overcome through hard work, determination, and I would say, faith. And because of this theme, we do more than move along with the fun antics of the sporting girls – they move us.