Ah, baseball. A sport I doubt I’d ever get a chance to play (mainly ‘cause the university I’m in doesn’t really offer it) or watch live. Nevertheless, the technicality of it all just gets me going – whether it’s the pitching, the run-hitting, the strategy, or everything else that goes on in between. That’s why for this Quick Look, I’ll be talking about… you guessed it, a baseball-themed anime.
One of my absolute favorite titles, and is, in my opinion, one of the more under-“watched” ones as well – Big Windup!
Big Windup!, or Ookiku Furikabutte (affectionately dubbed OoFuri) is a twenty-five episode adaptation (twenty-six if we count the bonus episode) of a seinen manga series with the same name. There’s already a second season out but I won’t be covering that.
This here first season covers up to chapter sixteen of the manga, which covers two whole, nine-inning games. You’d think they were gimping us with that since on paper, that’s just two games. However OoFuri justifies this by being completely nitty-gritty with the technicals. What I mean is that, although an entire episode can be devoted to only a single inning, they really get down with it and make it so you get that feeling where everyone and everything they show is there because they are in the game.
The story centers on Mihashi Ren, a seemingly no-good and self-deprecating pitcher who enters Nishiura High School in hopes of a fresh start. He finds himself spirited away so to speak to Nishiura’s baseball field wherein they were to hold open tryouts for their first official baseball team. With his past of being a winless ace for a team that despises him, he could only get himself to watch, as his love for baseball (specifically pitching) never left him. Much to his dismay however, standing coach, Momoe Maria drags him in and, after hearing Mihashi’s position of being a pitcher, asks him to try out.
He declines at first, saying his pitches were way too slow, but decides to get it over with, thinking that once they see him pitch, they’ll simply give up on him. Fellow freshman and sole catcher Abe Takaya was the first to test out Mihashi’s pitches. Thing is, Mihashi’s pitches are indeed slow (maxing 101 kmph, which was some 10-15 kmph’s below the regular high school pitcher), but Abe notices something else entirely – Mihashi has incredible, nearly impossible pitching precision. Amazed, Abe believes that with his pitch calling, he can make Mihashi Nishiura’s ace.
There we have the series’ two core characters. Mihashi is admittedly a make or break character depending on how much you can tolerate his attitude. He’s immensely timid and wimpy, and oftentimes your first impression of the guy would be similar to most; that being along the lines of “I want to smack this guy”. Abe, however, kinda balances Mihashi in that regard as being the guy that straightens him out. Their chemistry is a slightly weird yet well-developing one, and over the course of the series their “battery”, as they call it, serves as an important key for Mihashi’s growth.
The rest of the main characters, namely the Nishiura team, are also something to note. If you’d remember my Moshidora review, one of my minor complaints about it, baseball-wise, was the fact that aside from two or three people, the rest of their team was never fully utilized – which was totally understandable given the time they were given. Here in OoFuri however, they tried their best to introduce and develop as many characters as they could, and I think that was a nice move. It can’t be helped that three or four characters won’t get as much screen time as the rest, but in a nine-man team it’s nice to have a memorable face or two, as what we’d do when we watch real sports.
Another thing that I love about this series is the matches. Despite essentially being a nine-on-nine game, oftentimes it will become a duel. For example, in the heat of the moment, it becomes a distinct battle between the pitcher and the clean-up hitter (which is really a benefit of having developed characters in a team). There are also times when it becomes an all-out strategy war a la “Keikaku Doori” (thanks to Abe’s pitch calling or Coach Momokan’s game calling) although way milder and more susceptible to blunders.
However there is also another side to these matches and that is the length. Although it’s not something that you’ll notice right away, the games are long. It’s reasonable to give it a pass since its still baseball after all and that they really need the time. Not really a downside, but I think it’s something I need to point out. Just bear with Mihashi and you should be fine.
I don’t really think you have to be a baseball fan to enjoy OoFuri. I mean, it’s the reverse for me – I came to appreciate the aesthetics of baseball because of this show. And, as serious as I’ve been making it out to be, OoFuri is more on the lighthearted side of things. So yeah, give it a try. You may even be surprised.