Friday, July 03, 2009

First Impressions: Taishou Yakyuu Musume

Summer season is looking pretty strong so far, especially now that I've seen the first episode of Taishou Yakyuu Musume, based on a light novel about a girls' baseball team, set between the world wars in 1925 Japan (during the reign of the Taishou emperor). JC Staff is at the helm so at least I won't have to look forward to the same episode four times in a row, although there is a Broadway musical number in the first couple minutes of episode 1 that's it's probably better just to pretend never happened.

If you've seen Princess Nine you're not unfamiliar with the premise of Taisho Yakyuu Musume. A wealthy girl named Akiko decides to put a girls' baseball team together and play against guys, after a guy who plays baseball tells her at a party he basically thinks women should just get their asses back in the kitchen already. Akiko first recruits her best friend Koume, who's more or less the heroine of the story, and tries to build a team from there, although the obvious obstacles are getting permission from the school and the girls' families, learning to play the game, and then somehow beating a guys' team that's likely to have a lot more practice and experience under their belts. Koume's parents run a "Western-style" restaurant, but her father is pretty much a traditionalist and won't let her wear serafuku to school. It's funny how in every generation you have the struggle between parents pushing tradition and kids pushing the envelope, and I'm sure that'll play a big part in the story as well.

It's an interesting premise with a lot of potential, and baseball can be pretty entertaining to watch (for me, anyway - and after Saki I'm dying to watch an anime series with a game in it that I actually understand). Maybe I'm shallow, but I'm also a sucker for good character designs and this has them in spades - brilliantly following the Asakura Otome Rule (pink ribbon = instant moe level up) Akiko is especially easy on the eyes. If you're looking for fanservice you'll likely be disappointed, but the setting is interesting too - the 20s were a tumultuous decade, with Japan's modernization continuing at a brisk pace, and the mix of old and new is easy to see just in the mix of serafuku and kimono in Akiko and Koume's classroom (although I wonder, what kind of school gives students a choice of uniforms)?

The rest of the cast we haven't seen too much of yet, but there's some potential there too. One of the girls in kimono gives me a Yakumo vibe for some reason, and the rest of the cast looks interesting too. Usually the portrayal of foreigners in anime makes me cringe (I'm thinking Weiner-kun or whatever his name was in Karin) and there is a teacher with the requisite blue eyes, blond hair, and D-cup - but mercifully her accent isn't too bad, and I'm sure she'll end up their club's adviser down the road, probably since no one else at the school likely knows how to play baseball anyway.

There doesn't seem to be an obvious romance element to the story yet, and there may not be - but I've got to think that Akiko likes the guy who told her women belonged in the kitchen, and that's why Akiko was so upset by what he said and now is trying so hard to prove him wrong. And something's up with the cook at Koume's house, so wouldn't surprise me if it turns out that he likes her too. But we'll see - even if the theme of the series is just friendship and overcoming the odds, I'll enjoy watching this. Definitely looking forward to next week, only complaint is that we're getting it in 4:3 (hoping this is like K-On and Clannad and the 16:9 will follow in a couple weeks on a different station). It does looks like it won't be as heavy on the drama as Princess Nine, which is probably a good thing (for me anyway).