Number of episodes: TBA
Production Studio: Synergy SP
Fansub Release Viewed: Shiki Subs
Likelihood of US Release: Low
5th Grader Koh Kitamura lives next door the Tsukishima family, who own a cafe and a batting cage. Their daughter, Wakaba, dreams of Koh pitching at Koshien stadium, and when tragedy strikes, Koh vows to live up to that dream.
Koh Kitamura helps out with his family’s sporting goods business by doing deliveries. One day he has a delivery for his neighbors, the Tsukishima family, who own a batting cage. He’s friends with their daughter, Wakaba, since she’s exactly his age and they’ve know each other all their lives. When she asks him to take her to swimming practice, he drops everything to drive her over on his bike. On the way back, he’s confronted by Akaishi, a thuggish boy from his grade. To escape he joins a baseball game being played by some of his friends. Of course, things turn a bit sour when Akaishi shows up to pitch for the other team. However, with Wakaba watching after returning from class, Koh is able to hit Akaishi’s monstrous fastball and gets a grand slam for his team.
Later on, Koh’s friends decide to teach him some baseball defense by playing catch with him. He notices that Wakaba’s sister Aoba is quite the pitcher herself. Later, Koh and Wakaba exchange gifts on their shared birthday. Wakaba is going to swimming camp in a couple of days, and asks to bring along Koh’s hat. Koh secretly thinks that she’s the cutest girl in his entire grade. The night before she leaves, Wakaba walks Koh to the end of the street between them and gives him a kiss on the cheek before leaving. The day that Wakaba is to return, Koh rides his bike past her place and notices that the restaurant is closed. The day after, his family finds out that Wakaba passed away while trying to rescue another student from drowning at camp. With her gone, Koh doesn’t seem to know what else to do, but seeing Akaishi on the street helps him to figure it out — right now, he just needs to cry.
You know there’s something special about a show that makes you whimper like a baby after the first episode. It hasn’t happened to me very many times, but after viewing this episode and seeing a young kid have to deal with something as real and as tragic as the death of his friend, it would be difficult for anyone not to be affected in some way. Well, unless they were completely dead inside or the type of person who thinks that sports taint an anime in some way (they exist, I’ve seen them, and they are sad, sad people). But in any case, anyone who says that shounen anime is all a bunch of annoying characters fighting each other needs to watch an episode of this show and see how it can and should be done. Even shows for little kids can be written well enough to touch those of us who have lived past that stage in our lives.
I think the strength of this episode is that the show contains sports but it’s not about the sport. Rather, it’s about the people who play the sport and how their lives intertwine with the sport. Unlike say, Tennis Ball Z... ahem, I mean Prince of Tennis, which became more about each character’s special attack and who wielded a bunch of made-up skills used to win, the most successful sports anime seem to focus more on developing the main characters. The sport plays a role in the characters’ lives of course, but character development is first and foremost the most important aspect. This show, at least as far as the first episode is concerned, appears to fall into the latter category. Obviously the ultimate goal is for Koh to play at Koshien, but his path there most likely will not revolve only around learning how to catch the ball or strategize about how to take down the other team, but how he grows into the person Wakaba seemed to know that he could become. It’s a journey far less petty than many a cheap shounen diversion.
Visually, the show maintains a nostalgic quality, which is due in part to the faithful rendition of manga author Mitsuru Adachi’s iconic style in the character designs. Viewers used to more modern anime character designs might have some trouble adjusting to something that really looks like it could have come out of the 80’s, but all other aspects of the animation are thoroughly modern. The background art and sound give an almost perfect illusion of the summertime setting of the first episode, and the bright blue skies and green grass are a definite visual highlight.
And of course there are the characters. There are so many obnoxious shounen heroes out there that fall into the “brash and idiotic” category; simplistic characters meant to embody a brave heroic ideal but who aren’t much of a character in their own right. On the other hand, Koh and Wakaba seem like real 5th graders. Wakaba is confident and a bit contemplative beyond her years, whereas Koh is at times sullen, but just beginning to realize how precious Wakaba is to him. When he experiences her death, it feels as if something concrete changes within Koh’s character, and the sense of loss and confusion he has is so real and almost tangible. One feels as if this is how a real kid might react in that situation. It’s this attention to detail and this sensitivity to real life that sets this show apart from the pack.
So far this show is very high up on my list. I feel like it has appeal across many age groups, and the sensitivity to the characters, the setting, and the story so far is really stellar. Even if baseball isn’t your thing, I think the story speaks well enough for itself in spite of that.
- The characterization is much better than most shounen anime
- The sensitivity to detail and attention to the story make the show a pleasure to watch
- Interest in baseball not required for enjoyment
- The retro character designs might take some getting used to for fans more used to modern character designs