Art by Miyuki Ruria

First game of the anime; first time we have really met these characters. As we talked about after we finished the first few episodes Ookiku Furikabutte, the show has not hesitated to toss us right into the action that is baseball.

So let’s toss ourselves right into our thoughts about it to match!

(normal: mef; italics: TWWK)

To me, this tossing is still not good. Seven episodes into the series, I feel as though the only characters  we can even begin to claim an understanding of are Mihashi and Abe. Of those two, we know very few things thus far. Abe doesn’t like his pitchers to shake him off; Abe is confident in his ability as a catcher. Mihashi has a weak arm but great aim, Mihashi is not confident in his ability as a pitcher, and Mihashi had some bad experiences with his former teammates.

Not exactly a lot to go on for understanding these characters. I assume, and in fact, I expect and will be disappointed if I am wrong, that we will learn more about not only Abe and Mihashi but also the other members of the team as the show goes on. Of course, at this point it almost seems as though it would run out of episodes before it could do that (baseball teams are large!), but I suppose I should not judge the series’ aim. Especially not before episode eight.

I actually kind of feel the opposite – to me, thrusting us right into the action is a strength of the show.  But that could be because I’m looking for something a little different after watching Cross Game, where the focus is hardly ever on strategy.  If the goal of the series is to show how a group of different personalities develop as a result of teamwork, starting with a game near the very beginning is a good idea.

The real negative for me, though, is that I don’t (yet) like Abe or Mihashi.  My favorite parts of the earlier episodes where team-building was occurring was when other characters were in the picture.  Baldy, for instance, is more likable than Abe’s serious self.

I feel the same. I really hope that the show manages to bring us around to liking Abe and Mihashi. Or that it moves away from them entirely.

Art by Satsukiai

What I did like, however, was the way the show integrated the entire team into the game despite not developing the other characters. It began as a battle between Mihashi, Abe, and the other team (Mihoshi, only the most confusing name choice they could have come up with), but as the episodes wore on it turned more into a struggle for the entire group of players.

This was mainly due to their hopes of achieving a perfect game.

It surprised me, I must say, that the anime even introduced the very first game of the series as having the potential to be perfect. The players don’t know each other well, it’s only the summer after they have first met, and they have not even practiced very much yet. But they almost managed to score a perfect victory anyway, and in that we saw some beauty.

Teamwork is beauty. The ability of the team to come together and take the fall for their mistakes as a whole and not point fingers or try to blame each other for the failure was excellent. I don’t think I’ll ever forget the moment in anime when one of the boys (whose name I am not certain of) walked over to the pouting Mihashi and told him to come sit with the rest of the team, after he had exiled himself for allowing the other team to get a run on him.

Other people have made errors. That doesn’t mean they’re not allowed in the dugout, he asserted.

THAT was a terrific moment.  I think this show is really creating a cast of characters that are strangely realistic, despite their unrealistic eccentricities.  Notice that no single character is purely evil, even on the opposing team.  The big bully of a catcher on that team has one of the great redeeming moments in the arc near its end, and even before that, becomes one we sympathize with when he’s chastised by Mihoshi’s catcher.  Also, Mihashi’s teammates aren’t divided into “we support you” and “we don’t support you, but your kind personality and stellar pitching will eventually turn around” groups.  They support him because he’s their pitcher, and they’ll stand behind him.  That’s what baseball, particularly in the lower levels, is like.

And I think the perfect game, too, was a realistic possibility, for two reasons.  First, the show establishes that Mihashi has excellent control and knows many of the batters inside-out.  But secondly, consider this is a practice game.  Not only are the batters going at half-speed, but early in baseball seasons (particularly in spring training), pitchers have advantages over batters.  It makes sense on that level, though I doubt the creator ever thought that far.

And looking back at support, what Mihashi’s teammates have done and how they feel make it so much easier to look at something else the anime introduced: pressure. The pressure for Mihashi not to allow the other team to get runs, the pressure for his teammates to score runs and hit the ball, the pressure to not be tripped up by the other team’s trick balls: pressure is everywhere. Not just in this game but in all of them.

Look at that beautiful job I did expanding the thumbnail! Impressive. Art by Shiratama Shima, whose website/pixiv has been deleted.

As an athlete myself, I have always found it amazing how much different it is to deal with pressure to succeed when you have a good team versus a bad team. My most remarkable experiences of my recent years have been with my cross-country teammates, a group of over one hundred members, but also some of the most wonderful girls I have ever met and easily the most supportive people I know. As a team we ave always pushed each other to succeed, but we have also appreciated each other’s strengths and weaknesses.

<Random insert> You’re an athlete?  You’ve suddenly got me thinking of Suzuka, with your tsundere self.  Actually, you’re not really tsundere, are you?  I’ll just pretend…

<random response> I am an athlete! I always have been, actually. But you can imagine whatever you want…~

<more randomness> You’re very Suzuka.  You know, hard, gruff, and insanely unlikable.  And athletic.

<final randomness> Why are old men like you so mean? Stupid old men…A-Anyway…

Our team is good. We have many state championships under our belt. But even when our best girls graduated and we had to start the season with a team of only mediocre runners, we managed to push together to  support our runners, enable them to make it to the state competition despite their challenges, and though they did not win, we never blamed them.

It’s a special sort of teamwork.

And a team is all about trust, be it in baseball, cross-country, or anything else. So watching Mihashi and Abe learn to trust, watching the coach learn to trust her players, and hopefully watching the players learn to trust each other is going to be a wonderful ride.

Yay, now time to watch more episodes and forget the utter disappointment that the Spring anime season is turning out to be!

What Spring anime season? Teehee.