Tag Archives: Sports

The conflict and goals are based around a sport.

Cross Game – Anime Review

Japanese Title: Cross Game

 

Similar: Major

Ace of Diamond

Big Windup

 

Watched in: Japanese

Genre: Drama Romance Sports

Length: 50 episodes

 

Positives:

  • Scoundrel protagonist
  • Adorable main couple
  • More heart and story outside of the baseball

Negatives:

  • Monkey ears
  • Not much baseball for a baseball anime

(Request an anime for review here.)

Cross Game is a story about two families connected by business, baseball, and tragedy. Ko is son to the owner of the local sports shop and Wakaba is daughter to the owner of the batting centre. These two are as close as kittens wrapped in the same blanket. They even share a birthday. An accident sadly takes Wakaba from this world, shattering the lives of both families and many more in the tightknit community. Wakaba’s younger sister, Aoba, who was always jealous of the close bond between those two, starts to befriend him in later years as he looks to honour his friend’s memory.

Cross Game’s first impression is that of an anime for kids with those character designs and bright colours, but with the death of Wakaba in the first episode, it tells viewers that it’s being serious for a kids’ anime. I appreciate that it doesn’t talk down to the audience. It handles death with an honest reality. From there, Ko has to move on and grow up.

Characters are one of Cross Game’s strengths. I love how Ko is such a scoundrel. At one point, he pretends to be interested in forming a baseball team at his school, which he succeeds with, but it was all a ploy to have the team buy equipment from his family’s store. Then he bails on the team. However, when confronted by bullies, he has to divert and hide in the team again for protection. Awful at the game though. He’s a good character. I like the relationship between him and Aoba, keeping each other in check and making for believable kids.

The general plot jumps back and forth between the high school and childhood years. Emphasis here is more on the characters rather than the baseball, opposite to the likes of Ace of Diamond. Matches don’t drag into dozen-episode epics. So if you’re here for the baseball, Cross Game isn’t the best choice. Not bad baseball, by any means, just not much of it.

One notable flaw of Cross Game for an older audience is its predictability – not in a “the butler did it” sense, but if you ask, “What’s the most obvious thing to happen next?” you will answer correctly nine times out of ten.

This is a simple anime, good for those that want something with drama, but whoa, not too much. Some baseball as well – easy there, not too much. Perhaps this game plan of playing it so safe prevented it from reaching greater heights.

Art – Medium

The style suits the younger slant of Cross Game and it’s a unique look. However! Those monkey ears. On everyone. God damn. I don’t blame the anime artists. I blame the manga artist, who – I’d wager – didn’t know how to draw ears, let alone differentiate them in profile and portrait.

Sound – Medium

Acting is good (except from the cat, but bad animal acting in Japanese is never a surprise) and the music is that fun kids’ fare.

Story – Medium

A kid swears to become an excellent baseball player to honour his lost childhood friend. Cross Game is for kids and as such hasn’t the most complex story, but it is solid without glaring faults.

Overall Quality – Medium

Recommendation: For kids. To adults, Cross Game and its predictability may not have much appeal unless you can relate on a personal level. You must tolerate monkey ears.

(Request reviews here. Find out more about the rating system here.)

 

Awards: (hover over each award to see descriptions; click award for more recipients)

Positive: None

Negative: None

Ace of Diamond – Anime Review

Japanese Title: Diamond no Ace

 

Related: Ace of Diamond: Season 2

Similar: Major

Cross Game

Big Windup

 

Watched in: Japanese

Genre: Sports

Length: 75 episodes

 

Positives:

  • Looks better than most baseball anime
  • The baseball is quite good

Negatives:

  • I’m ACTING!
  • One note protagonist
  • Single. Play. Is. Amazing!
  • Much flashback, little pace

(Request an anime for review here.)

Of the baseball anime quartet I’ll be reviewing over the next few days, Ace of Diamond was the first I watched (more than a year ago at this point, having waited to complete all four for comparison). I started here, as it seemed the most “shounen” of the baseball anime. I was right.

Eijun is your typical high-energy protagonist with arrogance as his defining characteristic. We join him at the end of middle school, where his pitch is the final fault in the last baseball game of the year. A scout sees something in him and recruits him to an elite high school’s baseball team, one filled with players of a higher calibre.

Let me be straight with you right away. I don’t like Ace of Diamond. Eijun is so bloody obnoxious. He’s an annoying arse who trash talks and hits others but can’t take it himself, claims not to watch baseball (how did he learn?), and would turn down a prestigious school to play with his weak teammates while still trumpeting his seriousness towards the championship. He personifies “keeping the cake and eating it too”. He’s a walking series of contradictions, and not the good kind that add character depth. There’s a lack of consequences for this guy. When he dishes it out and can’t take it, nothing happens. Obnoxious to everyone around him? Eh. No one cares. In fact, now that I think about it, the inter-character drama is weak. Everyone does their personality “trait” and…we move on. The most common interaction is people yelling at one another.

Don’t get me started on the yelling! Have you seen Drifters with its constant interjections of random humour? It’s like that but with yelling. I take it the audience is to guffaw every time – and humour is subjective, I know – but man does it grow tiring quickly.

Let’s not talk of the yelling in serious scenes. They communicate with overdramatic, try hard shouting, which would be fine in moderation. This is all the time. Everything is overdramatic, then repeated in the instant flashback, with overdone effort sounds of course. Early on, a guy hits a difficult shot once and everyone’s heads explode. One instance isn’t an indication of skill. A total amateur could get lucky. I don’t doubt he has skill, but would you mind proving it too us before you wet yourselves with delight? Greatness comes from consistency and reliability. One good hit should give management pause. “Huh, not bad.” Twice in row – “Okay, twice lucky.” The third time – “Now I’m interested.” If one hit blows everyone away, you can’t escalate from there.

I cannot emphasise enough just how much they dramatise. Remember the words of the mighty Syndrome. “When everything is super dramatic, nothing is.” (Or something to that effect.) Moments that should be impactful feel the same as normal events because they all have the same hype.

It’s a shame because the baseball itself isn’t half bad, drawing much inspiration from real plays and real games. Looks great too. Excessive dramatisation and flashbacks for the gigantic cast keep obscuring the good qualities, unfortunately. And they kill the pace. This reminds me of when Naruto Shippuden would stall in canon episodes by flashing back to a scene from five minutes ago. These 75 episodes are equal to three standard seasons yet have two seasons of content, made obvious when we get to Cross Game and Major later. Now, if it were dramatics of the JoJo variety accompanied by crazy characters to match, I would be singing a different tune (you know, that sounds like a great anime. Someone make it, please).

If you love baseball and live for the non-stop hyper shounen energy, you will have a great time with Ace of Diamond. It works as a “turn your brain off” sports anime.

Art – High

Considering baseball’s popularity in Japan, it’s surprising how many of its anime have low budgets. Ace of Diamond is the exception with its clean art and more than two colour tones for the full runtime. It’s only real visual flaw – more a fault of the manga – is the standard character designs that don’t match the hyperactive shounen energy. They’re too normal. With helmets on, half of the team looks the same. Not a big deal though.

Sound – Low

SHOUTING = ACTING best summarises major character performances. Everything is overdramatic, yet nothing is ever serious thanks to truly delightful random acts of yelling. Music is better.

Story – Low

An unconventional player joins an elite high school with a baseball program. The matches are okay, but the characters are below average.

Overall Quality – Low

Recommendation: For hardcore shounen baseball fans only. Being a baseball fan isn’t enough; you need to like this type of sports anime.

(Request reviews here. Find out more about the rating system here.)

 

Awards: (hover over each award to see descriptions; click award for more recipients)

Positive: None

Negative:

Poor Pacing

Yowamushi Pedal – Anime Review

Japanese Title: Yowamushi Pedal

 

Related: Yowamushi Pedal: Grande Road (sequel)

Similar: Haikyuu!!

Initial D

Baby Steps

 

Watched in: Japanese

Genre: Comedy Sports

Length: 38 episodes

 

Positives:

  • Strong acting.
  • Loveable protagonist.
  • Good at teaching the mechanics of cycling as a sport.

Negatives:

  • Heavy reliance on CG environments.
  • Main antagonist is a nightmare.

(Request an anime for review here.)

Onoda is the type of kid who cycles four hours each way to Akihabara instead of taking the train because it’s free. A train fare worth less than an hour’s work saved at the expense of eight hours cycling? I love this kid’s dumb innocence. Seeing Onoda tackle the incline to school with ease, cycle club member Imaizumi challenges him to a race and soon ropes him into joining the club.

I was going to watch just a few episodes of Yowamushi Pedal before dropping it, but I ended up finishing the season. The protagonist is so likeable and the technical explanations do a good job of engaging you in cycling as a sport. Onoda makes an outgoing friend in Akiba, Naruko, who teaches him how to gearshift like a pro and draft while chasing a punk in a car that threw his trash out the window. It’s a tad unrealistic, of course, but it’s good fun.

Yowamushi Pedal gives off similar vibes to Haikyuu (not as good though), so if you liked that, you will enjoy this. Where Yowamushi differs is in the protagonist, Onoda. What personality type do you think of when someone says “boys’ sports anime”? Most would imagine an energetic, hot-blooded guy with endless determination to be the best, always the centre of attention. Onoda is the opposite (he’s almost Mob from Mob Psycho 100 levels of opposite). He’s timid, introverted, doesn’t like having the spotlight, barely speaks up for any reason, and has confidence in the negatives. He’s not someone you’d cast as a shounen sports protagonist.

However, he works as lead in Yowamushi because one, the explanation for his sporting ability makes sense (they didn’t have him scale the mountain the first time on a bike after some ancient master “saw something special” in him), and two, his evolution from this starting point is believable. The supporting cast works on his aforementioned weaknesses.

Naruko teaching him how to cycle properly and not just on sheer determination is perfect. He justifies his place as a support character and it establishes who he is (he’s the sort to help a newbie in need). Great way of inserting shounen “ability exposition” in a natural manner, by the way. Onada’s cycling team is a good make up of characters. You have some of your usual archetypes here, though an unusual one is Makishima, a creepy looking dude with long green hair and a bizarre notion of what can pass for fashion. On first introduction, he’s a bit of douche with his bluntness, made worse by his attitude and appearance, but as time goes on, you learn why he is this way, and how he cares about the team even when rude to them. He provides a balance to an otherwise “good guys” team.

Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for the antagonists. The competing racers aren’t interesting or memorable. Well, one guy is memorable, yet for all of the wrong reasons. The antagonist focus goes to (I had to look up his name) Midousuji, a design mix of the Cheshire cat meets Orochimaru. He has a broad grin of grinding teeth, bulging eyes, a reptile’s tongue, and a personality that transcends human limits into the comical realm. With a personality so over the top and played up to a grotesque degree, you can’t take him seriously, even when he strangles teammates. He’s so ridiculous that I think he walked into the wrong anime. He does not fit. At all.

Worse still, he just doesn’t stop with the cackling, the grinding teeth, the leering, and the lolloping tongue. Terrible antagonist. I find myself more interested in the small rivalries within the team than the main conflicts against this guy.

As for the cycling itself, you know, the core of the show, it’s solid. You won’t feel lost if you have no idea how it works at a professional level. I dare say, you may even find the intricacies of working as a team and pushing the man and machine symbiosis to the limit surprisingly interesting. It isn’t about pedalling as hard as you can.

Yowamushi Pedal is still a sports anime for sports anime fans at the end of the day. It’s a good one at that, though I don’t imagine it will draw in many outsiders. Want a lesser featured sport in anime? Yowamushi Pedal has you covered.

Art – Medium

Yowamushi Pedal has a good amount of animation, but as a sport that’s constantly in motion, they had to rely on CG roads and environments when cycling, so you will need to get used to it. Animations repeat often as well, but seeing as cycling is a repeated motion, it isn’t a notable problem and the camerawork mixes things up. I like the character designs, reminding me of Haikyuu with the easy distinction among the cast.

Sound – High

Strong acting. Honestly, even if you aren’t into cycling, the characters keep you entertained. The background music is solid as well, though the OP and ED aren’t hype enough for a sports anime.

Story – Medium

An otaku who cycles long distance to save money has his arm twisted into joining the school racing team. Yowamushi Pedal follows the standard sports formula, not that this is a bad thing, but it doesn’t take any risks.

Overall Quality – Medium

Recommendation: For sports fans. Yowamushi Pedal is the perfect example of a sports anime that delivers every aspect to a good standard without excelling in any way either. Good for sports anime beginners.

(Request reviews here. Find out more about the rating system here.)

 

Awards: (hover over each award to see descriptions; click award for more recipients)

Positive: None

Negative: None

Hanebado – Anime Review

Japanese Title: Hanebado

 

Similar: Haikyu!!

Free! Iwatobi Swim Club

Stars Align

 

Watched in: Japanese & English

Genre: Sports

Length: 13 episodes

 

Positives:

  • The badminton is great

Negatives:

  • What is with the protagonist?
  • Who is the protagonist?
  • Split personality storytelling
  • Worst parent in anime

(Request an anime for review here.)

What a rollercoaster of opinion Hanebado is for me! This was a request from a dear reader for an anime I hadn’t heard of (though did see a clip of the badminton). When I looked it up to see what it was about, I noted the poor ratings. Didn’t think anything of them at the time. We fast-forward to this week, where I am supposed to review Yowamushi Pedal (finished watching it over a month ago) and am watching Hanebado for the future. Hanebado turns out to be such a baffling anime that I must talk of it immediately.

The story is about high school girl Ayano who reluctantly joins the badminton team. This prodigy had stayed away from the game for a while after her mother, a 10-time badminton champion, abandoned her.

Or!

The story is about Nagisa, captain of a high school badminton team, who hasn’t gotten over a 0-21 loss at the hands of prodigy Ayano last Nationals. She takes out her frustrations on members of the team. One day, an Olympic player joins as their coach and he recruits Ayano to the team with sights on Nationals.

I’ll get to the reason for these two versions of the story in a moment. I want to start positive with my first impressions.

Hanebado opens on the Nationals match between Nagisa and Ayano on the verge of a 0-21 finish (perfect game). The animation is fluid, the choreography is tight, and sound design is flawless. Everything about this scene draws you into the sport. If you’ve ever played badminton, you’ll know the feel of flicking the racquet, that ping of resistance when the shuttlecock hits the strings, and the swiftness of your shot into the opponent’s court. Hanebado captures this.

With such a good first impression, those poor ratings return to mind. What could possibly go so wrong?

The first negative, though not a critical one, is indecisiveness on the protagonist. This relates to my two story angles above. It starts by presenting Nagisa as protagonist, but then from episode four, Nagisa is barely in it and Ayano takes the position. It switches again later. Whoever wrote this (or adapted it, if different from the manga), could not decide on a clear direction. We even see a smaller version of this problem later, where some guy we barely know form the boys’ badminton team gets a dedicated episode. If you only watch this one episode, you would be excused for thinking him protagonist. It’s a mess.

Not a deal breaker though.

Early episodes are standard sports anime fair. You meet the team, there’s a bit of comedy, a bit of personality, ambitious speeches, the shy one, the mean one, and the cocky one. The usual. Then it gets stuck into the matches and we see Ayano’s competitive side. During a serious game, this timid girl turns into a coldblooded killer of badminton. She even has the dead anime eyes when “in the zone”. It’s cheesy as hell. More than this, her whole personality changes into a bitch. She becomes so nasty to everyone that no sane person would want to associate with her again. When a friend wishes her good luck, she insults her for it. She even badmouths a teammate for trying hard to win.

What a failure at portraying a “tough” character. She has split personality disorder, surely, but the writer doesn’t treat it as such. Barely anyone even comments on how nasty she is. I cannot emphasise enough how disparate her two versions are, as if replaced by a different character. And if I haven’t made it clear yet, she is trash writing. This also ties back to the protagonist confusion, as when Ayano is “in the zone” she comes across as the antagonist!

The justification for her personality is from past trauma. This is where I introduce you to an even worse character – the mother. Let me give you the 411, as they say, on this woman. She abandons her daughter after she loses a match while sick (the opponent pinned her down and coughed on her because it wouldn’t be fair if only one person was sick). And her justification for this? It’s for Ayano’s good, that it would make her a better player. Which parenting school did she go to? Abandon your kid for years out of some sense that it will be good for her? Ayano spots her years later in a magazine alongside a Danish girl, a badminton champion and her adopted daughter. Replaced… Harsh.

It would be one thing if she were a neglectful parent antagonist to Ayano’s arc. However, Hanebado doesn’t see her that way. When she comes back to Japan, there’s barely a criticism against her. The grandparents on the father’s side don’t seem to care whatsoever for abandoning her infant. Their response is akin to having missed her daughter’s school play. “Oh that’s too bad. Maybe next time.”

As for Ayano’s response, she’s mad at her mother at first, but the final episode cops out and ends with, “Eh, I’m over it.” What just happened?

Usually when a story has a poor writing decision, I can see what the author was trying for. The result may not have worked, but the idea makes sense. In Hanebado, I don’t know what the author was thinking. Either it doesn’t make sense, like I have perceived it, or the author somehow thinks that the mother’s parenting is good and the split personality behaviour is praiseworthy.

When I say author, I want to be clear that I don’t know if it’s this way in the manga. I’m questioning whoever is responsible for putting it on screen.

It’s a shame that the characters and story have such problems, as the badminton itself is great. I love the matches. The animation, the cinematography, and the sound design – all fantastic. Sadly, there isn’t much outside of that to praise.

Art – High

Easily the best aspect of Hanebado, the art is clean, the animation fluid, and the opening sequence is beautiful. Such a waste on this story. I like the practical character designs that make sense in badminton, except for the pink haired girl (should have tied her hair up during the game).

Sound – Medium

The acting is fine in either Japanese or English and the casting is similar. The music is solid as well. Fine all around here.

Story – Very Low

A girl reluctantly joins the badminton team after bad memories of her mother kept her away from the game. Hanebado starts as a standard sports anime before it takes a turn for the stupid with baffling character choices and drama.

Overall Quality – Low

Recommendation: Skip it. Unless you want to see some well-animated badminton, stay away from Hanebado. I still don’t understand the story choices.

(Request reviews here. Find out more about the rating system here.)

 

Awards: (hover over each award to see descriptions; click award for more recipients)

Positive:

Fluid Animation

Negative: 

Induces StupidityRubbish Major Characters

F-Zero: GP Legend– Anime Review

Japanese Title: F-Zero: Falcon Densetsu

 

Similar: Redline

Initial D

Bubblegum Crisis Tokyo 2040

 

Watched in: Japanese

Genre: Racing Sports Science Fiction Action

Length: 51 episodes

 

Positives:

  • Some good design elements.

Negatives:

  • The art quality!
  • Surprisingly low energy for the fastest racer ever.

(Request an anime for review here.)

I want you to look at the screenshots below and take a guess at the year of release for F-Zero: GP Legend. Or at least think of anime that you believe came out around the same time.

Have an answer in mind? 1992 alongside Sailor Moon? 1997 with Pokémon? You’re thinking far too early. F-Zero: GP Legend came out in 2003 – late 2003… It blew my mind when I realised this, which was only after I had finished the series. The whole time I thought I was watching something that would have been wedged between Sailor Moon and Dragonball Z during my morning cartoon block, had it ever been localised.

To give you context of how bad this looks for the time, know that Fullmetal Alchemist, Gungrave, and Planetes came out in the same season. Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex came out a year earlier and looked great even with CG animation. What happened? Did they make GP Legend ten years earlier but forgot about it until an intern, charged with clearing the archive room, found the reels caked in dust below a shaft of musty light? He blew off the years of neglect and back rushed memories of his favourite racing game? I’d love to know the answer.

Speaking of forgotten for many years, Ryu Suzaku (Rick Wheeler in English) enters cryo-freeze for 150 years after an accident during a car chase with the villain Zoda. Jody Summer wakes Ryu from his slumber to join her special police unit comprised of pro racers. In the future world of Mute City – formerly New York City – lightning-fast racing dominates the entertainment and gambling scene and the special unit must keep the prize money out of villainous hands. You could focus on getting into the villains’ lair instead, but whatever.

Ryu adjusts and functions surprisingly well for a guy who just woke up after 150 years. (Shame they didn’t look to Demolition Man for inspiration. I love that movie.) The story quality matches the early 90’s art. Early episodes are a villain of the week format that incorporates racing, pitting Ryu against/alongside one of many racers from the games such as Samurai Goroh. The plot goes deeper after that, though not by much. The characters are a varied and unusual bunch, which does make events a tad more interesting. One guy looks like Mario auditioning for the fifth Tellytubby in white.

You’ll notice that I’ve made no mention of Captain Falcon, the character everyone associates the games with even if they have never played them. In GP Legend, he is the legend and therefore isn’t part of the story very much. Ryu is firmly the protagonist.

With 51 episodes of this artistic quality and bland story, it takes an iron stomach or being a super-fan to complete F-Zero: GP Legend.

 

Art – Very Low

I cannot believe this was made in 2003. Take an N64, increase the anti-aliasing, and you have yourself F-Zero: GP Legend. It looks better elsewhere, but this is a cheap anime. The world and cars have good design intentions.

Sound – Low

F-Zero’s electronic music is present, yet a pale imitation of the games’ soundtracks. The acting is typical morning cartoon fare.

Story – Low

A police detective wakes up 150 years in the future after an accident and works with an elite task force to stop villains through racing. F-Zero: GP Legend is more a low-energy villain of the week series than a racer to boring results.

Overall Quality – Low

Recommendation: Skip it. Unless you are the biggest Captain Falcon fan, F-Zero: GP Legend has nothing for you.

(Request reviews here. Find out more about the rating system here.)

 

Awards: (hover over each award to see descriptions; click award for more recipients)

Positive: None

Negative:

Ugly Artistic Design