Review by: Clive Owen
Publisher: FUNimation Entertainment
MSRP: $59.98 US
Running Time: 315 minutes
Rating: TV 14
Release Date: Available Now
Good enough for the Major League.
To borrow an old baseball announcer cliché, good pitching stops good hitting. Mihashi, however, isn’t much of a pitcher. He’s the type of kid who trembles at the thought of letting down his teammates and who would – almost instantly – begin to cry for just about every reason.
In short, Mihashi is a complete failure as a pitcher … or it seems that way in the beginning of Part 1 of Big Windup!, one of the best sports anime to come a long in a very long time. The embarrassment of his failure has led the young whimpering boy to transfer to Nishiura High only to find himself staring at the school’s baseball diamond with a longing to play again. Then, unexpectedly, an attractive young woman grabs him by the arm and drags him before a group of freshmen looking to join the school’s first ever hardball team. This young tough-as-nails woman is Maria Momoe, the sexy head coach of this year’s team and she wants Mihashi to join their team … and more so when she finds out that he was a pitcher on his last team.
The boys on the team all seem excited about the prospect of playing ball and this leads Mihashi to give it a try but it is when he meets the team’s catcher named Abe that the boy realizes that a little encouragement goes a long way. Seeing how well they interact with each another, Coach Momoe thinks Abe should work more closely with the twitchy boy who actually turns out to be quite an accurate pitcher who follows his catcher’s signals closely. While Abe is clearly annoyed with Mihashi, he sees the potential in the boy and plays along with Coach Momoe’s suggestion.
For the first time Mihashi has found acceptance within a group and it’s quite a group indeed with an outstanding hitter named Tajima and a boy who begins to show signs of being a good team captain named Hanai just to name a few of the boys that make up Team Nishiura. There’s even an equipment manager that comes in the form of a freshman girl named Suinooka. As the team heads out to Ohno for training, the boys bond over practice and exercises the team’s advisor. They even have to share futons in a cramped room not fit for an entire team and are even encouraged to sleep next to a different teammate each night. Yeah, definitely not the way we do it back on our side of the shore.
Then the team goes up against Mihashi’s former teammates in Team Nishiura’s first practice game of the season. While his old team managed to recruit some new players, Mihashi must face against familiar faces such as Kono, the rival team’s catcher. Sure, he can’t look his old teammates in the eye but he – thanks to Abe’s guidance – manages to pitch like he’s never pitches before and this impresses Team Mihoshi. Suddenly, the boy who was considered the worst pitcher ever manages to strike out their best hitters. Despite its slow pacing, the game actually turns out to be quite entertaining and more so for those who don’t really understand the game. Abe, as well as Coach Momoe, does a good job of explaining a few of the game’s technicalities such as speed reading, change ups and the art of reading players up at bat.
In the end, Mihashi earns the respect of his old teammates and is even asked to return to the old team … an offer Mihashi turns down. While he continues to be quite an annoying fellow, Abe begins to understand their star pitcher a little more and comes to realize that despite the harsh words he’s received in the past he continues to practice non-stop. We learn a little more about Abe as well when the team goes to another rival school’s game only for Abe to meet face-to-face with a pitcher he worked with in Junior High. It’s clear that there’s no respect between Abe and Haruna and their past is revealed in a few flashbacks that explains why Abe demands so much of Mihashi.
Meanwhile, the team enters the Summer National School Baseball Tournament that includes a variety of Prefectures. The team has come a long way since their practice game and have pulled their resources to not only form study groups but also celebrate each another’s birthdays. An old friend of Mihashi even joins the team as head of the cheering squad. In the final episodes, the team realizes that they – through luck of the draw – are chosen to go up against last year’s winner, Tosei High. They certainly have a lot of work before they meet on the field.
What makes Big Windup! such a delight to watch is not the camaraderie between teammates but the way these boys realize their full potential to slowly become a fully functional team. Yes, Mihashi’s personality might not make him the most enjoyable characters to follow and he might even annoy you just as much as he annoys Abe but it’s hard to complain when the story is this good and the voice acting is top notch with Greg Ayers standing out among the other English dub lineup.
You don’t have to love the sport of baseball to love Part 1 of Big Windup! but if you are you are most definitely in for a big treat. With a wonderful cast of characters, great animation and a delightful grasp of the sport that doesn’t drag on with too much explanation, this series manages to be just as fun as the game itself. We are certainly looking forward to the next inning of this engaging anime series.
DVD REVIEW BREAKDOWN
Mihashi has always been considered his team’s weakest member and one of the worst pitchers ever to play the game of baseball. Yet when he changes schools he finds a team that encourages him to the point that he shows everyone he is capable of being one of the best Japan has ever seen. We follow the team that begins to slowly function like a true team in this first half of the series.
VIDEO QUALITY: A
Baseball has never looked so good animated and this series definitely makes the colorful cast really stand out. While Mihashi comes off as a fidgety dork, it’s somehow fun watching his super deformed facial expressions.
AUDIO QUALITY: A+
I love the Japanese voice cast that does an amazing job but the English dub voices is the way to go seeing as the cast is outstanding. The score by Shirow Hamaguichi is excellent and the two theme songs – especially the opening tune “Dramatic” by Base Ball Bear never gets old no matter how many times I hear it.
If you’re looking for trailers and clean opening and closing songs you won’t be disappointed but if you’re looking for more features you are out of luck, my friends.
Big Windup!, Part 1, is the MVP of sports anime series and you will enjoy every minute of it. Like the Team Nishiura, this series is all heart and it shows in the well told story that anime and baseball fans will really love. This is certainly a series that make the Best Sports Anime Series list.