So, as this current anime season in Japan comes to a close, there have been a large amount of series that I’ve been watching that have been damn enjoyable. The interestingly epic combo (Bakemonogatari with SHAFT x NISIOISIN), the action-packed adventure (CANAAN), the juggernaut from last season ( Saki, hell yeah), the emotional investment (Tokyo Magnitude 8.0, despite the writing/pacing problems at the end), the sequel (Spice of Wolf II), one of the typical “TheBigN would watch this, wouldn’t he?” shows (Aoi Hana), the guilty pleasures (Juuden-chan), and so on. And while most of these shows are great, my favorite anime of the season has been Taishou Yakyuu Musume, probably because I just enjoy seeing a group of girls try hard, be earnest and have fun. Or at least, that’s what I keep telling myself.
The premise of the show (like “Idolm@ster Baseball” as others would put it) was something that held a little bit of my interest as a show to check out for fun. I’d like to say that the show had me at the great opening musical number by Koume about the magical powers of a school uniform. But what really hooked me into the show was the rational for forming such a team. I’ve seen the defying the “girls should just Fate/Stay in the kitchen” stereotype a lot in anime as a reason for doing things, but seeing the determination in proving status quo-ers wrong coupled with the characters having a general interest in baseball despite not knowing the first thing about it was fun to see. From building their own field to basic training, to constant reminders about how the team is and where it has to go, the team is earnest about what they want to do. And luckily, the show is also earnest about its humor, as the team building leads to some very silly situations which normally wouldn’t be associated with baseball (delinquency, domestic partnerships, theate- oh wait) that some or all of the members get into every so often .
It’s hard to me to find a character that I don’t like in this show, though some stand out to me more than others (of course, your mileage may vary). Koume is an entertaining lead with her hardworking ethic, her adaptability and her responses in tending to get caught up in situations not of her own making. Her partnership with Akiko is fun to watch as the latter can be pretty headstrong and a little selfish drama queen in trying to achieve whatever goals she has in mind (she was the one with the idea of making a baseball club in the first place), though she usually means well. I always enjoy the strategists in anime (though I suck at being one myself), and Noe (yay Kana Ueda) is no exception as she’s constantly tweaking the rest of the team and thinking about how to maximize the team’s potential, though the plans don’t necessarily work out. And my favorite of the group, Tamaki (voiced by the same Ryou Hirohashi who was the more inferior namesake in Bamboo Blade. Yes I went there.), is the no-nonsense enforcer of the team who’s always willing to call someone out when they screw up, or ask the tough questions that need asking (or so I think in my mind). But others, such as Koume’s parents/co-worker, or the misguided suitor on the rival team, and even the “traditional” principal at the girls high school are fun to watch in their own way.
As to the original premise, I wouldn’t mind if the rest of the show is basically the “girls do random things & baseball” that has been presented. But it will be interesting see if other questions other than the main ones that can come to mind are answered, like what would baseball mean to the girls when all is said and done. Of course if you want to think about it, the underlying idea and setting of the show given the time period could be considered to be more complex and provide better questions, with a Japan starting to really feel out it’s on identity as things become more Westernized, the gender roles that come with the period and even now, and all that jazz. But it’s background info to just seeing an all-girl baseball team trying to learn how to play the game, and play it well enough to prove some other people wrong. I think.
With some wacky hijinks and character building thrown in as well, it leads to one of my favorite shows of the year, even if the concept and execution has been done before better by others. Taishou Yakyuu Musume is a show that’s easy to digest and enjoy, with enough charm, heart and pluck to win its way into my heart. I just hope there’s more to come, if by season’s end, the source light novels haven’t been exhausted just yet.