Two weeks later and this is no longer a wrist problem, but my whole right arm and shoulder. The dictated reviews shall continue on.
One of the reasons that I decided to add an anime list to my bucket list blog was because it had been years since I watched an anime series in its entirety. 5 years to the exact. I always loved Japanese animation and I’m not sure what happened to make me lose touch the way I did.
Anyway, I’m kicking off this list with Cross Game – a shonen series that is part romantic comedy and all baseball. Looking at the list there is an extraordinarily large number of popular sports-based anime series, but most of them seem to follow baseball. Now this is a sport that has zero bearing in the UK, which means that my knowledge of the subject is gleaned from secondary school games of softball. From my visit to Hiroshima I know that baseball is hugely beloved in Japan (Go Carps!!!) so I have seen firsthand how crazy people can be about this sport.
Of course, whilst this series has been very clever in amping up tension at the baseball games (to the point that I began to feel nervous about a fictional cartoon baseball match) there’s a lot to be said about the character building.
It would be all too easy to create these characters as overblown stereotypes or as people who act out of character in order to create storylines and/or moments of slapstick. You can tell from the very first episode that the creator of Cross Game cares deeply about the characters. It is very hard to do a first episode for any TV series, but the ending of the first episode was absolutely fantastic. As someone who has not even heard of the manga I was utterly floored. To the point that it takes the characters seven or eight years to get to grips with what happened.
Speaking of characters, Aoba and Kou make for a fantastic leading pair. The writers are able to mine so much humour from their interactions and yet it all feels natural. Even if Aoba is your stereotypical tsundere character. Over the course of 50 episodes we have the privilege of watching their friendship grow from her initial animosity to a growing respect – and all he had to do was to pitch a 160km/hr ball and help them to reach a national tournament (Koshien). She doesn’t ask for much!? Since this is a romantic comedy in part you think you can just plot a course… but this anime is a lot smarter than that.
Other than these two there is a wealth of well constructed, believable and empathetic characters. Most worthy of note are Azuma (the star batter for the team) and their captain/catcher Akaishi. There are many others but these are the two that tugged most at my heartstrings. I’d like to point out here that whilst Aoba’s family cat may have struck a chord in Japan and gained a fan base (apparently), I began to get a bit annoyed by her random meowing interjections.
I will admit that I enjoyed this a lot more than I expected. It has firmed up in my head that adding an anime list as the final entertainment goal of my bucket list blog is going to be very fruitful for my enjoyment. Now, do I delve into Major, which has five entries in the top 100, or go for something completely different? Choices, choices.