Taisho Baseball Girls

By Chris Dahlberg

Published on Friday, May 2, 2014

At first glance, Taisho Baseball Girls seems like it is going to be another addition to the moe or “girls doing ____” branch of anime. Lighthearted comedy/slice of life series about high school girls forming a club of some kind or just going to classes has taken over a significant portion of the anime industry, so it isn’t unexpected that you might think this. But as it turns out, this series is much closer to a traditional sports anime about a ragtag group of players rising up against the odds with a social message added into the mix. While it isn’t necessarily going to become anyone’s favorite anime of all time, Taisho Baseball Girls’ backdrop of 1920’s Japan and its story of high school girls forming a baseball team despite societal pressure not to is an enjoyable watch that’s a nice change of pace.

The story starts off by introducing the viewer to Koume Suzukawa, the daughter of a yoshoku restaurant owner. She goes to an all-girls school, and while many of her friends wear the sailor suits that were just starting to come into style at the time, Koume’s family restricts her to wearing a traditional kimono. One of her closest friends, Akiko Ogasawara, asks Koume to start an all-girls baseball team with her after her fiancée tells her that baseball is not a game for women and that their only place is to become housewives. The two of them decide to band together and prove that women can play the sport just as well as men, and begin to search their school for other girls to join the team.

As is typical for a shorter anime, the first couple of episodes introduce the nine members that join the baseball team and follows their progress as they begin to learn the game. Each of the girls has their own quirks, but it becomes clear fairly quickly that Koume and Akiko are the main characters as they are the ones that are developed the most in-depth. A little ways into the show the team has a practice game with the school baseball team Akiko’s fiancée is a part of, and as you might expect they get absolutely crushed. From this point on Taisho Baseball Girls follows the traditional sports anime path as the team trains hard and proves that they are more than capable of playing baseball and can hold their own. In between all of this there are plenty of lighthearted moments, such as when some of the girls decide to sneak off at night to challenge boys to baseball and end up thwarting a pair of thieves.

Taisho Baseball Girls’ storyline will feel familiar, as the underdog rising up to meet a challenge plot line has been used in numerous entertainment mediums. But the series is very enjoyable to watch, and as you watch these girls struggle to not only learn baseball in a short period of time but overcome some of the societal challenges thrown their way you can’t help but root for them. I haven’t seen too many anime series that take place in this particular period of Japan’s history, and the social message that viewers are presented with does help to give the story a bit more depth than one might expect. However, the fact that it is only 12 episodes in length does keep the series from really expanding upon its characters and I think that’s why it hasn’t quite stuck with me as much as I had hoped. Viewers are given a good deal of background about Koume and Akiko as well as Tomoe, who is one of the more athletically skilled members of the team. But the other six members only get brief snippets and they don’t really have enough definable characteristics to stand on their own. I’ve found that the anime that stuck with me the most had a main and supporting cast that had memorable moments throughout, and Taisho Baseball Girls wasn’t quite able to reach that level.

This is the second J.C. Staff series I am reviewing in a row, although this one is a bit more recent (it originally aired in Japan in 2009). I’ve noticed that the series the studio has produced in recent years have all had fairly different looks to them, and this is true of Taisho Baseball Girls which has eye catching designs. The backgrounds have a watercolor painting look to them, which gives a different overall feel than what I’ve found to be typical for both sports and slice of life anime. But while the backgrounds may be pretty to look at, you won’t be focusing on them for too long as the emphasis is on each of the girls and the baseball games. The characters are well animated and I did get the impression that a good deal of effort was put into making the games look close to the real thing. It’s not necessarily the type of series where you’ll be marveling at the animation throughout, but the consistent look and feel helps to draw you into the story and the setting of 1920’s Japan.

I don’t really remember that much of the background music, but both the opening and ending themes were catchy, lighthearted J-pop songs that fit the tone of the series extremely well. What will likely grab most people’s attention is the voice acting though, as the amount of recognizable actresses in this show is staggering. Kanae Itou does a great job bringing Koume to life, and I’m not used to seeing her in a slightly more subdued lead role after watching Haganai and Hanasaku Iroha. Almost every other character on the baseball team was voiced by an actress I had come across in another series, although for some of them they were playing different character types than I was used to. Despite the fact that not all of the cast may have stood out from a story perspective, I think that they were voiced appropriately and it’s always enjoyable to come across plenty of familiar voices as I make my way through an anime.

Taisho Baseball Girls tells an enjoyable story, and just about any viewer should be able to appreciate the struggles these girls go through to prove they’re capable of playing baseball as well as the boys. There’s a nice balance of the typical sports anime setup with some lighthearted and humorous moments, and while the shorter number of episodes makes it harder for the main cast to fully stand out I still enjoyed the time I spent with the series overall.

http://www.hulu.com/taisho-baseball-girls
http://www.sentaifilmworks.com

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