It must be Wednesday. Oh, look at that, it is. Snow complicates everything, I’ve learned…even working from home. So thank heavens we have another Guest Review from George R to pick up the slack! The floor is yours, George!
While over in Japan I picked up the first Taisho Yakyuu Musume novel. This is the original work which launched the manga and then anime series. I decided to take the bit in my teeth, the book in my hand and forge ahead without dictionary. This had the advantage of making it easier to read on the train (or station platform, like Fumi in Aoi Hana) but meant foregoing taking notes while I read. So this review will skip any detailed description of the novel in favor of comparisons with its two offspring. The first novel covers more time than the first manga, but less than the anime, only extending to the first practice baseball game.
While previously reading the manga I was curious whether it or the anime was closer to the original novels. It turns out that Itoh-sensei stayed much closer to the novel than the anime producers, and I think he was the perfect choice to draw the manga. I wondered about aluminum bats and the spring-based resistance training harnesses: both of these come straight from the novel, and are part of Noe’s strategy to beat the boys. Tomoe also helps with some innovative training ideas from her martial-arts background.
The novel delivers in one area that attracted me to this series, a good Taisho era feel. In fact at the end, we’re even given a small bibliography of books about the era. The Taisho era (1912-1926) was one of continued change and growth for Japan. Starting from an almost medieval level at the start of the preceding Meiji era, Japan built herself to be recognized as one of the 5 great world powers by 1919. Both politically and culturally the era saw a rise of the liberal movement. It also saw the beginning of long slow road of the woman’s rights movement in Japan.
The novel capitalizes on several trends of these times. The introduction of baseball is an obvious one, but the very middle school the girls attend is also emblematic. The mere 52 of these in Japan in 1900 had grown to 576 by 1924, the time of this story. The Oukakai the girls form fits right in with the blossoming of women’s associations during the era, as does the tea party Akiko hosts. I would have liked to see this party in the anime, too. The girls not only show they are nice modern young ladies, they also invite a couple respected intellectuals to the party and are able to use them to thwart Akiko’s father’s attempt to block her from playing baseball.
The cast are still the same smart gals that we’ve learned to love, who won’t take “you can’t do that because you’re a girl” for an answer. And I enjoyed spending more time with them. You need a higher setting on your goggles to see the yuri in the novel. However, we’re still treated to a tasty range of flavors of friendship among the girls.
Art – 7 (though not much, it’s a light novel after all)
Story – 6
Characters – 8
Yuri – 1
Service – 2
Overall – 6
I enjoyed this novel, though it’s not my top for the year. I fear I have been spoiled by the anime, where I feel the adaptation far surpasses the original work. While the novel treats the girls with more dignity than the manga, I feel the anime did better than either. I still recommend this to light novel fans who enjoy strong girls or the Taisho era.
Excellent, George. It sounds like a fun read, and one of those unusual cases of the anime just being better than any of the other media for the series. Both kind of disappointing, but also pretty amazing and cool. Now all we need is an anime company picking up the series for distribution here in the West to make the series a real home run. ^_^