A little different than before: I’m reviewing the two seasons together and will have combined reviews, but will be graded separately. This is one of these really under-rated gems of a series that I hope you;ll check out.
Ookiku Furikabutte (hereon referred as “Oofuri”) was a very intriguing series when I first heard of it about a year ago. At first glance it baffled me why there’s an abundance of female fans, considering this is a series about pure baseball. But a few episodes in, and I already understood full well the power of fujoshi. But this time, there was no “implied” anything: the hand-holding, the crying, the tickling..and promotional images like this not only provoke clearly predictable emotions from the fangirls, but it gives much pause to people that assume this series only caters to a certain demographic. But that couldn’t be further from the truth.
In reality, this is one of the rare sport series that doesn’t depend on flashy special effects to make a sport more interesting: this is a series that clearly was made with a lot of planning and attention to detail that is very rare in most media today. Higuchi Asa, the creator of Oofuri, might seem like he was a baseball player himself and thus it’s quite obvious how detailed this series is. Wrong, not only was Higuchi not even a baseball player it’s not even possible to be one: because Higuchi is a female. Yes, the careful analysis and roundabout terminology and the extremely specific information on not only the protagonists of Nishiura but every single member of every single team they’ve faced, was all conjured up by a woman. I’ll go slightly off-topic for a second: many people always clamor that “the manga is always better!” and most times that is indeed true, but if the source isn’t any good how do you expect the anime to be any better unless the staff is really risking alienating the original fans (and to an extent, their profits). The reason why Oofuri the anime is extremely well received is because the source was in the hands of a very well educated and knowledgeable person like Higuchi. She ought to be commended for creating such a realistic and emotionally intense manga.
But this isn’t a review of the manga and of course there will be some things that the anime series has to cut or leave out completely to fit within a certain predetermined schedule. Below is the scoring for seasons 1 and 2:
Director: Tsutomu Mizushima
Screenplay: Yousuke Kuroda
Character Designs: Takahiro Yoshida
Animation Production: A-1 Pictures
For Season 1:
Animation: 7/10 – Fun fact: This was A-1 Pictures’ first animated work all the way back in 2007 and to see how far they’ve gone (Ano Hana, iDOLM@STER, AoEx, among others) is kinda interesting from my point. Anyways, though they may be part of the super-rich production company Aniplex, A-1 didn’t really put too much effort in this series. It’s well animated during the baseball matches but other than that it’s pretty plain. Character designs made it hard to tell different people apart initially.
Story: 9/10 – Oofuri really balances itself from being too technical with the baseball terminology (to drive many people away for being overly technical) and too relaxed to venture into everyday school life . But the main goal is Mihashi’s journey not only to be a better pitcher but an overall better person. I fondly remember episode 10: Mihashi’s birthday, not only was it a break from the baseball matches but it gave us a lot more depth to both Mihashi and Abe. That episode was really one of the best. The tension during the matches were really well structured and at times it was even scaring me how psychological this sport can be. Oddly, this show reminds me of The Sandlot..minus the toilet humor. It’s scary that it takes 11 episodes for just one match and it was captivating and never for a second did it seem boring. Yes, the actual plot is pretty straightforward but what this show does extremely well is create the tension for us the viewers as if we’re actually watching Nishiura at the stands!
Sound: 7/10 – I liked the opening themes though i personally think they should have switched the order. The ending themes are decent. But the voice acting is really superb in this series, you can tell that the voice actors aren’t just reading the lines but they’re getting into the spirit of it as well. Like him or not, Mihashi is able to be both annoying and great because of his voice actor’s range. The music was okay, but like most series it only gets noticed when the mood is heightened.
Characters: 8/10 – As mentioned above, Mihashi is one of those characters that just stays the same throughout the series. This is actually refreshing to see this happen, even if it’s Mihashi’s diamond-shaped facial expressions and constant studdering that drives most people insane. Abe is also a fascinating character: he’s headstrong and determined to win, but he tends to let that drive his opinion and judgment which cost Nishiura a few points against Tosei. But the good thing is, he actually admits to his shortcomings instead of pushing it aside or blaming someone else for it. The rest of the cast is great, though the biggest standout is obviously Tajima (is this where Hiro Shimono started getting comedy roles?) for not only being an honest pervert, but a real standout player which extraordinary analytical thinking when the time comes (like being able to read the opponents when no one else could). My only complaint is that Abe and Mihashi got a little too much screentime, the other players should have had some more attention.
Enjoyment: 9/10 – This is a rock-solid series that really understands the sport to a masterful degree, and the characters are extremely likeable with their own quirks. If you’ve never seen a sports anime, please check this series out. It does start slow and the baseball terminology can be intense, but the journey was completely worth it.
Ookiku Furikabutte Tally Score:
Animation – 7/10
Story – 13.5/15
Sound – 7/10
Characters – 16/20
Enjoyment – 40.5/45
Total – 84/100
Ookiku Furikabutte ~Natsu no Taikai Hen~ is the second season which aired from April to June of 2010, spanning thirteen episodes with the same staff from the first season. It immediately started by showing a brief recap of the Tousei game and a foreshadowing of Nishiura’s game against Bijou. My first instinct was to just marvel at how nicer the animation looks, of course this was a three year wait between both seasons so I was hoping to see a boost in animation and that’s exactly what i got. Not that it was a huge problem in season 1, but this was a much needed improvement for a show that had relatively few big mistakes to name. But what really hurt this season was how short it was, with only 13 episodes it was expected that the matches would be cut down for time and that involved rushing alot of the pitches and skipping some of the conversations with the players on both sides.
For Season 2:
Animation: 8/10 – You wait three or so years, and of course the animation just took a huge jump in quality. Everything is much cleaner and sharper, with more vivid colors. Compared to season 1, this was a huge step in the right direction.
Story: 8/10 – And this was the step in the wrong direction. Come on, A-1, 13 episodes?? You bet this was rushed towards the end: the first match was only 3 episodes while the last was about 7 but started to go super fast when Mihashi was pitching towards the 5th inning. The tension was still as strong as ever, despite the rushed matches and we did get to see a lot more of the other players.
Sound: 8/10 – The music in this series improved quite a bit. The background music during episode 12 was really powerful and definitely was a new addition to the large soundtrack. Voice acting was once again solid effort as well, it’s not a “reading the lines” feel at all.
Characters: 8/10 – We get to see a lot of the other players and they’ve really stepped up to the plate (or mound) when Nishiura is in a pinch against Bijou, the last team of the second season. Of course more Mihashi and Abe, but this time around it felt like the cast was equally getting some screen time.
Enjoyment: 8/10 – This was a step down story-wise as it felt much more faster than season 1, but it still remained quite a fun series to watch. There’s more character development and better animation/sound than season 1, so not everything is on a down note. I still highly recommend checking out this series, it is far and away better than most sports anime today.
Ookiku Furikabutte ~Natsu no Taikai Hen~ Tally Score:
Animation – 8/10
Story – 12/15
Sound – 8/10
Characters – 16/20
Enjoyment – 36/45
Total – 80/100