If you have ever wanted Japanese women to speak up for themselves, then you really must watch Taisho Baseball Girls.
The plot is a simple one. In the beginning of the 20th century, Japan was embracing Western culture with some fervor. Western clothes, sports, vehicles, cuisine took on more than just a new and exotic flavor – they became emblematic of Japan’s appearance on the international stage.
A young woman, totally dissed by her fiancée’, and not at all pleased with his antiquated notion of what a woman’s role was supposed to be, decides to fight him on his own turf – the baseball diamond. Akiko decides that she will form and field a baseball team of…shock!…girls!…to combat this grotesque display of sexism. And, slowly, piece by piece, she does. In this, she is joined by her friend, Koumei. Koumei is the daughter of a Western cuisine restaurateur who is himself ironically very conservative.
This story is as much a paean to amateur baseball as anything else. The girls, who know nothing about the game, recreate all the wheels for themselves; everything from basic batting and throwing techniques, to signals and scouting. If you strongly oppose sports stories, this may not be the anime for you, then. But if the “guts” ideal holds for you, I cannot think of a more delightful way to revel in each and every step of the journey.
There is Yuri. It begins with tall, athletic Tomoe, who is much admired by a coterie of younger students. Tomoe may not be the brightest bulb in the box, but she has a sincere princeliness that she’s not afraid to wield.
Tomoe might be admired by the other girls, but it’s Koumei that she herself has her eyes on. It’s easy to see that she does, because we also watch Koumei closely through the series. She’s a great character – strong, but not unreasonably so, and smart in a “got a good grasp of human nature” way.
That’s it for the “real” Yuri, but there’s no end of slashable pairings. Of course people like Akiko and Koumei together. They are the leads. They are the team’s pitcher and catcher pair and, as team manager Kawashima notes, they ought to function like a married couple and be of one mind and heart.
In my head (and I have no doubt I am not alone in this) I am convinced that Yuki and Tamaki are a ridiculously adorable couple.
But my own personal crush goes to Kawashima Noe. If Akiko and Koumei are the heart of the team, Kawashima is the brain – and if you know anything about me, you know that competence and intelligence are my two favorite qualities in a woman. Even a non-existent ones. ^_^ Kawashima is the one who recreates the position of manager and scout for the team, enabling them to progress.
Sentai Filmworks’ production is not perfect. The subtitles are dubtitle-y. They often represent the conversation in a way that the script is not actually expressing, but if you can’t understand what they are saying anyway, it seems sensible enough. There is no dub, which is no loss for me, as the voice actresses in this series are some of my faves. “Extras” are the non-extras of DVD credits and ads for other Sentai properties.
If you’re interested in the manga for this series, you probably should be warned that Itou Shimpei does the art, so there’s less baseball, less Yuri, more service and the character designs are goofier. But it’s still cute. Here’s my review of Volume 1. For an overview of the first Light Novel, check out George R’s review from earlier this year.
All that being said, for a story that is sure to make you smile, and lots of really laugh out loud moments, Taisho Baseball Girls is an excellent choice. This is a pick-me-up-when-I’m-down series, without question.
Art – 7
Story – 8
Characters – 9
Yuri – 2
Series – 1
Overall – 9
Many, many thanks to Okazu Superhero Amanda M for providing us with hours of entertaining baseball hijinks and smart, dedicated and increasingly competent girls!