Taisho Yakyuu Musume Manga, Volume 1 (大正野球娘) Guest Review by George R.

November 4th, 2009

TYMM1Once again it is my great pleasure to welcome back George R., with another timely review, so I can get a few chores done. :-) As it happens, thanks to another Okazu Superhero, Bruce P., I am currently reading this very volume, so I may have some comments at the bottom. In the meantime, George, the room is all yours….

Seeing Taisho Yakyuu Musume from this summer’s anime lineup prompted me to look at its appearance in other media. This show followed the now-common path of starting as a light novel series, then branching out to both manga and anime adaptations. I’ll talk about Volume 1 of the manga here, as I still need to get the novels. In this case, the manga adaptation is done by Shimpei Itoh, a well-established mangaka, though not one known for Yuri.

I think the manga works well on its own, though it is interesting to see how it differs from the anime. For instance, several girls end up playing different positions, which makes me wonder where the novels originally assigned them.

The art is unquestionably Shimpei Itoh’s style. This differs from the anime, but is just fine in its own right. In fact, the art and humor remind me of his 1999 manga, Shoujo Tantei (Girl Detective), which was also set in the Taisho era, but has no Yuri. I think Itoh-sensei’s girls are a bit less moe than those of the anime, or at least Koume and Noe are.

It also follows Itoh-sensei’s story-telling style including a healthy dose of physical comedy and over-the-top humor. Somehow I doubt the novels include Noe experimenting with small rockets for military use (unsuccessfully) or suggesting they make bats from aluminum (accompanied by an illustration of an aluminum-armored tank from the ’70s). Those just seem his style. A couple bath scenes give us a little humor and also a chance to see the characters modelling their birthday suits. I wonder why the Japanese seem to have a fascination with spring-based resistance training harnesses. I’ve seen these in multiple shows. These appear a couple times here, though only played for humor.

The first volume of the manga covers introducing the characters and assembling the team. Baseball doesn’t even come up until the second chapter where we get Akiko’s motivation and her request to form the team.

Koume is still the sweet girl who happily follows and supports her friends through their adventures. Her mother seems to have no problem with her and baseball, wishing her a fun time and even letting her wear a western school uniform.

Akiko is the same rich daughter who is chauffeured to school, so naturally she is called Ojou. Noe is more of a ringleader here, taking Akiko’s baseball idea and running with it. She is the only one, other than Anna-sensei, who starts knowing anything about baseball.

We are given a closer look at some of the supporting characters. Shizuka is possessive of her twin sister Tomoe, and they both seem equally athletically competent. Their dad is a well-known doll-maker, and some call the twins living dolls he made. Tomoe likes Koume’s friendliness and warmth and hopes that becoming friends will warm the heart under her (and maybe Shizuka’s) cool porcelain skin.

Tamaki and Yuki are childhood friends. Tama-chan takes care of all the cooking at home as her mother is busy being a newspaper reporter. This may be a bit anachronistic for Japan of this era, but I find it hard to argue with women having independent careers like she and Anna-sensei do. However, Tama-chan certainly wishes her mother was a bit more responsible at home, which may be the source of Tama-chan’s attitude. Yuki is her same responsible, caring self, supplying her
friends with advice and equipment among other things.

Saburo comes off well as Koume’s fiancee, even taking her out for a date to watch a practice baseball game. When he finds she knows little of the game, he happily explains it to her.

What Yuri is here requires goggles to see. Mine needed a higher setting for the manga than the anime. We are treated to displays of both akogare and shinyuu in the different relationships among the girls. Kome and Akiko vary between the two. Tama-chan and Yuki have the comfortable ease of shinyuu, whereas Tomoe’s feelings for Koume are definitely akogare, as are those of Tomoe’s fanclub.

Ratings:

Art – 7
Story – 6
Characters – 8
Yuri – 1
Service – 4

Overall – 6

In all, I found this an amusing manga. Though it never made me fall off the couch laughing, it did bring many a grin to my face. I will admit to preferring the anime. Perhaps because it seemed better at keeping the feel of the Taisho era: some of Itoh-sensei’s humor jars my mind out of the era. Or perhaps seeing the anime first left me naturally biased in its favor.

Erica here. The art style is distinctively Itoh’s and, as a result, everyone is a bit over the top. Akiko’s fiancée’s rant about women in the home was three pages long and done at high volume, as opposed to his quiet, old-fashioned confusion as to why on earth women would want more from the anime.

I disagree that baseball is not mentioned until the second chapter – and, oddly, it seems that you’re not alone in thinking this, George. In the first chapter, the baseball team is *already* formed, Koume’s mother asks her if it’s fun to play baseball, and she waxes rhapsodic about how much fun practice and games are. The rest of the story is a flashback to how the team was formed. I’m guessing that, since Itoh’s specialty is not sports manga, they skipped trying to show any of that. ^_^ So we can understand that Koume and the others are, in fact, *already* playing ball, even if we don’t see it. Which we don’t. ^_^;

The other thing I wanted to add was that the anime, surprisingly, added a great deal of dignity to the story. By pulling back from over-the-top antics and rants, the issue of feminism was handled really, shockingly, well. Considering the dehumanization of women into object d’fetish so often in anime, it was just that much better handled than I could have possibly expected. Where the anime was a comedy-drama, with an emphasis on “sports drama,” this manga is definitely “comedy.” Fun, at times funny, but firmly in the “wackiness ensues” side of comedy. It is Itoh, after all. ^_^

Well thank you, as always, George for a great review!

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2 Responses

  1. George R says:

    Erica, you’re definitely right about the first chapter. Thanks for the correction. I guess I started reading expecting a similar timeline to the anime, not starting in medias res, and then flashback to how the team was formed. Oops! A good and knowledgable editor is a gift beyond price.

    And I completely agree about the anime. I love the dignity it grants the girls and their quest, from the start to the end. I hope the novels have a similar flavor.

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