Sunday, January 30, 2011

Anime Review: Big Windup! Oofuri


As promised here is the review of Big Windup! Oofuri, otherwise known as Everyone Cries All the Time.  For info about the show check out yesterday's blog.
In middle school Ren Mihashi was the ace starting pitcher of his baseball club, a position he likely received because his grandfather owned the school; a fact his teammates merciless bullied and tortured him over all three years he was there.  His slow pitches are attributed to their team’s losing streak but, despite believing this wholeheartedly, Ren refused to give up the mound.  In the end he transfers to a new high school and decides to quit baseball forever, his self-confidence now in the toilet.  However his first day at Nishiura High School his is practically forced to join the school’s newly formed baseball club despite his reservations.  However his new coach, catcher and other teammates quickly realize that there’s more to Mihashi’s pitching than even he realizes.
Let me get this out of the way before I forget to mention it: I was pretty convinced that Mihashi and Abe had some sort homosexual romance thing going on.  I had to check online, which I desperately try to avoid for shows I haven’t watched (At least for the purposes of this blog), just to check whether this was supposed to be a Yaoi Anime (Boy Love).  I’m still not convinced these two won’t eventually hook up.  This is obviously not a negative, as there's nothing wrong with a little "guy-on-guy",  but I was distracted by it in the first few episodes.   They don’t make a particularly cute couple, by the way.
Ren Mihashi: Makes emo kids seem reasonable
The animation on this show is actually pretty decent for the most part.  I feel like the last year I’ve been watching a lot of shows with either dated and/or mediocre art or sometimes ones where the budget seems to give out during certain episodes but Big Windup! stays pretty solid throughout.  It’s not the prettiest anime I’ve ever seen but no news is good news in this case.  Although Mihashi’s bizarre facial expressions are pretty damn disgusting to look at, I’m afraid; I guess it’s not all peaches and lollipops.  I will soon get into the bad side of the characters but I did really like some of the major characters on the Nishiura Baseball Team.   Abe the catcher, the main reason Mihashi can function at all, is a control freak but has a superior strategic mind.  Hanai is the very reluctant captain and straight man/big brother-type to his more eccentric teammates.  Tajima is the batting genius who is the friendliest and most outgoing guy you’re likely to meet, who thinks nothing of causally chatting about his masturbation habits.  Um…yeah.  Look he’s better than he sounds, trust me.  Also their coach, Maria Momoe who is very likely an Author Avatar of sorts for manga creator Asa Higuchi, is also a big and scary fun personality that is a great for a supporting character.   My point is that the cast, at least key members of the cast, are entertaining clash of personalities that would make for an extremely enjoyable Slice of Life story about coming of age that uses baseball as the backdrop and activity that turns them into comrades.  You know, like The Sandlot.
FOR-EV-ER.  FOR-EV-ER
Except that this isn’t a Slice of Life series.  This is a sports series.  Now I’m not saying that just because the main focus is on a sport that automatically makes a show (Or whatever) bad.  I saw a bit of American Football anime (Seriously?) Eyeshield 21 and greatly enjoyed what I saw (And I’ve heard that the manga is actually much, much better) and I enjoy many different sports films (I love Remember the Titans).  But in this case I feel like it all basically falls apart, at least in regards to my own taste.  It comes down to two severe problems.
Problem #1: There’s just too much focus on the games themselves.  After 25 episodes there were a grand total of only TWO games played.  Why only two games?  Because those two games take FOREVER to finish.  The first game, which is a practice game that won’t count, takes about four episodes to conclude which admittedly isn’t that bad.  The second game, which indeed has higher stakes, takes ELEVEN GODDAMN EPISODES!  That is waaay too much for a show of this size.   That’s nearly half the series and is more than half with the first game taken into consideration.  The big problem is that we sacrifice a lot of character moments outside of the field.  I liked a good chunk of these characters but I feel like I’m not getting my money’s worth from them during these games.  I’d much rather see them having Slice of Life hijinks like inabilities to pass tests or bad luck with girls in addition to the baseball.  For example aside from typical “sport movie moments” most of Tajima’s best scenes and funniest lines occur when the team is just hanging out somewhere.   This is a kid who is so happy-go-lucky that he doesn’t understand the concept of shame!  It writes itself, people!
Also the games themselves are extremely boring.  I think it’s partly because I find this particular sport to be boring as shit, though to be fair I don’t find Major League dull at all and it’s the same sport.  It’s just so amazingly detailed in its execution but that may be the point and perhaps it’s great for someone who really likes baseball.  For me it was just a torture session with few and far spots of fun here and there.  It took me a long while to finish this show because I literally was dreading having to go back to watch those boring ass games.  Seriously one whole episode will likely just be one half of an inning, not a whole inning, where nothing significantly relevant to the game, and thus the plot, happens at all.    BORING!
Problem #2: Ren Mihashi is a lousy lead character.  He might have been okay as a supporting character with one of the other guys I mentioned as a protagonist, or maybe if it was just an ensemble piece with no one in specific taking the lead like in Azumanga Daioh, but as it is he is a pain and the makes watching this show painful.  As part of the back-story for the story Mihashi was heavily bullied by his former teammates to the point that it absolutely destroyed his self-confidence and ability t interact with other people.  He is a bag of mental problems who thinks that every single person hates him no matter how much they tell him they don’t.  It’s like this:
Abe: Nice pitching, Mshashi!
Mihashi: [Inwardly] Abe raised his voice at me.  He must be mad about how badly I’m pitching…[Starts crying]
Just like that, except for several looooong hours.  Plus he cries at the drop of a hat.  It doesn’t take much, just a gust of wind, and the guy is balling his eyes out and trying to hide from his new teammates.  I can’t get behind a weak willed guy like that for an entire series.  True enough I liked Ikari Shinji from Neon Genesis Evangelion (Until End of Evangelion, at least.  Then he starts to lose me) and he was similarly messed up at the beginning of his show but in his defense his mother died then his father abandoned him; a least he willingly piloted giant robot to balance it out.   Sure Mihashi gets some important character development over time but his core problems never go away.  It’s the difference of starting off being completely intolerable and then becoming slightly less intolerable overtime.  Sure, he hasn’t taken Ayano Kannagi’s throne of suck away from her but that’s like comparing Michael Jordon in his prime to a real talented kid playing street ball.
"Who'd want to be in your stupid blog anyway, you jerk!"
Speaking of characters one of the other big reasons the main cast don’t get to do much as I’d like and the games take so long is that the show insists on focusing on many, many minor characters appearing on other teams.  The worst culprit is technically Motoki Haruna, Abe’s old pitcher whom he dislikes, but in his defense the guy was the main focus of a one-shot manga Higuchi wrote prior to this manga.  But most of the others seem just like its taking screen time away from the characters I want to see.  I like the idea that the opposition aren’t nameless, faceless jerks who we’re just supposed to blindly hate but I think it’s taken a bit too far making an already uncomfortably long series longer.  Plus there’s a lot of crying in general in this show.  Maybe I just don’t have enough team activities in my life because I don’t get it.  I myself only cry during Pixar films [EDIT: And Hayao Miyazaki films too, apparently].  Weirdly most of the secondary characters are completely worthless as it is.  How worthless?  On the list of characters I liked earlier in the review I was about to add one more name but as I was researching I realized that it was actually two different characters who acted similarly the whole damn time.  They’re all interchangeable: enthusiastic young teenage boys.  Yay. [EDIT: As I now understand it most of the crying is likely due to the fact that a loss in the summer tournament means that third year students, the seniors, most likely won't be playing high school baseball ever again due to graduation.  It would be emotional for anyone.  Except me, of course.  Because I'm too manly for that]
The cast of Big Windup!
(Not too sure who's who...)
Also this show doesn’t end, it stops.  As you may know this is one of my hot buttons.  This is certainly due to the fact that the manga was unfinished at the time the anime was being produced.  Unlike the other shows I’ve bitched about when it comes to this problem Big Windup! has a pretty good reason: more episodes were later made for a second season.  Of course that season wouldn’t come out for another three years and it certainly hasn’t been brought over to America yet, but hey, that still makes finale more tolerable than Kaze no Stigma and Black Blood Brothers.  Therefore I’ve decided not to hold it against them...for now.
Ultimately. this show dulled me to death, but what really bothered me about this anime was that I really liked most of the main characters and wanted to see them do more.  What I got was a ton of analytical mumbo jumbo about a sport I don’t care about.  Hurrah.   I feel like this might be too harsh on the show because, after all, it technically isn’t as awful as most of the other show I gave low scores to but disappointment is a depressing pill to shallow.  This should have been a better series; it should have been more fun and, God willing, it should have been more heartwarming.   Still once Season 2 hits our shores I’ll likely pick it up again.  Maybe next time I’ll appreciate it more.  I’ll recommended it to baseball fans and people who like to watch mundane anime focusing on Japanese life (Though there’s better examples out there), but not everyone will enjoy it.  I didn’t.
Oh Abe; he's not good enough for you
Also…FUNimantion Entertaiment? Your trailer for this show sucked.  Stop making stupid trailers.  I’m seriously getting pissed off by your misleading advertisements.
I give Big Windup! Oofuri 2 out of 5 Adorable Pandas.
Pros
-Some fun characters
-Consistent animation
Cons
-So dull I actually hesitated putting in the DVD
-Awful, awful main character


Don't forget to come back later today for a review of Princess Nine!

8 comments:

  1. Aw, I definitely liked this one better than you, even though I agree with a lot of your criticisms. The games do take too freaking long, and a lot of the characters really are pretty interchangeable. That said, even though I hate sports of any kind to be incredibly dull in real life, this one still hit the right "sports anime/manga" buttons for me. I like seeing characters manage to pull wins out of what seems like impending defeat.

    And, yup, you weren't the only one who wondered if this series was going to have homosexual romance. Had FUNimation grabbed onto that and used it to market the show towards the "screaming fangirl" demographic, it might have sold better than it did.

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  2. Fair enough. I like to think of that marketing strategy as "The Gundam Wing Gambit".

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  3. When I realized you were bashing on this show I was preparing myself to beat you into the ground....until I read the review...
    I don't know which is more depressing, the fact that I agreed with everything you said or the fact that I still like this anime...

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    1. I understand where you're coming from. I gave this show a bad grade not really because it's a bad show but because it could have been an amazingly awesome show if it weren't for its major problems. It was more of an angry "Why aren't you better?!" type of grade than anything. When it was bad it was dull to me but when it was good it was fantastic.

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  4. Hmmm. While I absolutely love this anime to pieces, you made good points (Mihashi is sorta annoying, though I conditioned myself to get used to him ^__^;).
    But the thing that surprised me the most was that you said it was dull! I practically marathoned through the entire season in a day without getting bored (and I don't even like sports). What I like about this anime is that each hit, each pitch, each decision matters. So once Nishiura scores a run, it feel so satisfying and most of all-- earned. Not only that, but the characters are absolutely adorable and their interactions are so real.
    Though, this review made me realize that Oofuri isn't for everyone. I'll keep this in mind before I introduce this anime to my sisters

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    1. My main problem was just how slow it all went. The games just felt like they were dragging on forever. If they were shorter I would have probably liked the show way more.

      But it's like you said; Oofuri isn't for everyone.

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  5. I feel like I would've completely agreed with your grade if it weren't for the second season. It's a pain to find since it isn't licensed, but I hope you get to it eventually. It made this one of my favorite sports shows almost completely on its own (though I admit I have a soft spot for the crazy long games).

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    1. That's fair. But this review was completely based on that first season, so I feel that score is perfectly accurate. Should I ever get to see season two I would likely give it a separate review.

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