Archive for the 'ookiku furikabutte' Category

Ookiku Furikabutte: Now THAT’S Baseball

I was going to wait until the end of this game to make this post, but it’s been five episodes and we’re only on the fifth inning. Slow game is slow.

As the first actual game of baseball Oofuri has had (there was that scrimmage game back at the beginning, but that’s not real  baseball), it’s quite the game, though. The focus is, as always, on Mihashi Ren, and his general state of mind (somewhat manic at the moment, due to the fact that Nishiura has held the returning champions in the tournament to a complete shutout, with the score being 2-0 at the moment. Not bad for a bunch of first-years.

This game isn’t about any one player (well, Ren is the main character) so much as it is about how the team functions as a whole. The playes support each other’s strengths and weaknesses, and sometimes sheer luck helps them out more than any actual skill. The team is, in a sense, rallying around Ren, which proves a welcome change of pace for the ace pitcher resented by his middle school team. Ren improves with every episode, almost, or, at least, finds some new reason to respect his teammates and friends. Indeed, as he pitches more and more strikeouts in this game, he’s getting ever more elated and prideful (or, well, at least what passes for pride when you’re talking about Ren). He’s slowly becoming more confident in himself, in the power of his teammates, and their ability to play a game of baseball. I don’t doubt that this game has plenty more twists and turns and thrilling “holy crap that play did not just happen” moments

The real beauty of the series, though, isn’t its focus on characters, but it’s the focus on characters while setting up a great  game of baseball. As slow as the game is, it still manages to be thrilling. Instead of a quick, fast-paced blow-by-blow, like the games in Princess Nine were, we get an almost mediative look at baseball. Lengthy at-bat internal monologues are the norm for this series. And that’s good–this game will probably compromise the rest of the series, or, if not, there won’t be another game after this for sure (barring a second season) unless one goes on to read the manga, which I can only hope will be licensed in the States. Despite the slow pace, the series manages to generate tension well–you’re not going to be on the edge of your seat at all times like you would be watching Hajime no Ippo, but there’s always this sense that you don’t know what’s going to happen next, and that the game could suddenly turn either way. Devious cliffhangers, as well, lend to the “must see another episode” syndrome.

Closing thought for today: Ren’s cousin wears twin braids and is cute to the max, yet she does not shut out the incredible potential of Shinooka Chiyo. But Chiyo hasn’t even shown up much this game, so she’s perfectly fine in a pinch.

Ookiku Furikabutte: Beware of Wild Momokans, For They Are Deadly and Quick to Anger

Once one grabs hold of you, you are through. End. Owari. Finito. So tread carefully.

Halfway through the little-seen but much-lauded Ookiku Furikabutte, I think I’ve finally gotten a grasp on the style of the series. It is a sports anime, of sorts, but the focus isn’t the actual sport, it’s the players of the sport. It’s definitely bringing back echoes of Princess Nine to me, doubly so because the manga is authored by a woman, although Princess Nine was shoujo, and Oofuri is seinen. The original manga actually ran in Afternoon, so for anyone who knows their manga serials, that’s a good sign, as I don’t think there’s been something I’ve read or seen that ran in Afternoon that I’ve disliked. From the soft and gentle Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou, to the rather less soft and gentle but still in the same sort of mindset Parasyte, it’s all been great.

In the case of Oofuri, it’s a fun series to watch. From the ever genki and cheerful Momoe, the coach, to the interplay between the nine members of the team (the names of which I can never remember, too many of them are regulated to bit roles in the face of the major focus, Abe and Ren, but they’re all fun). The series is about embracing teamwork in one sense, but in the other, it’s the story of a very personal growth of Mihashi Ren from his timid, low-self-esteem roots to a much more sociable person. It’s sort of a tale of recovery from bullying.

That doesn’t mean that there isn’t actual sports in this sports anime–it could hardly be called sports anime if it didn’t have actual games, but so far we’ve only had one, a scrimmage match against a team which contained most of Ren’s former teammates–the same ones who begrudged him for being the ace pitcher and who cost their middle school most of their games (or so they think). And even then, that game wasn’t about the tension of whether or not they were going to win, but the tension came from a combination of the characters’ own actions and the actual game itself. And, hey, if you ever wanted to see what Lelouch would look like playing baseball, Fukuyama Jun plays a bit character in that game, with a quite similar voice. It certainly amused me.

The non-game episodes are spent training, having impromptu birthday parties, making jokes about masturbation (it must be a sports manga meme to do sex jokes; Hajime no Ippo had plenty of “Ippo has a big ol’ one” jokes strewn liberally throughout the series), and having science lectures. The last of these amuses me greatly, because you’re sitting there watching a baseball anime, for chrissakes, and all of a sudden all these complicated psychology terms crop up and the teacher sponsor for the club makes them do some weird activity to boost their brainpower. It’s strangely surreal.

The series certainly isn’t for you if you have some kind of weak main male character allergy, although Ren is far from most characters who get termed “weak” main characters (he does not, for instance, ever accidentally brush against Chiyo’s bosom. Not once), but, then again, we live in a world where people hate Renton Thurston, so it’s a toss up.

And speaking of Shinooka Chiyo, she is the greatest thing in sports anime ever. She gets tragically short screentime, but every time she’s on screen, it’s mega-cute. She’s just there for relief from the male-overload, like Momoe, but that’s okay. She’ll be a love interest later in the manga, I just know it. Proof of cuteness:

She is truly dedicated to baseball. She will even wear herself out watching bad videotapes of baseball tournaments to collect data on opposing teams’ players. That is hardcore.

Well, that was certainly an exciting game of baseball

Put ’em up, pardner. This here baseball field ain’t big enough for the two of us.

After watching the obligatory initial practice game, which, since this is a sports anime after all, was every bit as thrilling and exciting as a real game, Ookiku Furikabutte has gotten quite amazing. Like the only other sports anime series I’ve seen (Hajime no Ippo) it handles the ups and downs of playing a sport well, and generates real tension during the actual baseball game. The scrimmage match was played against Mihashi’s old teammates (you know, the ones who ridiculed him for being a terrible slow pitcher) and the focus of the match was not the game but, rather, Mihashi overcoming the fears and doubts of his past.

I know, I know, you’re feeling like you want to shout “This is symbolism!” at the screen right now, but the series intentionally makes no effort to hide it. By the end of the game, Mihashi’s old teammates have apologized to him for their mistreatment of him during middle school, as they’ve now seen that, when paired with an effective team, Mihashi is indeed a formidable pitcher. All this and a thrilling game of baseball that’s more fun than real baseball! It’s a win-win situation!

One thing I’ve noticed I like about this series: in a genre where the main character is usually a star player and an arrogant dick, Mihashi is…a star player and insecure of himself. It’s an interesting change up, and that’s probably part of the reason that the manga won the Osamu Tezuka Award and Kodasha Manga Award–not only does it offer an interesting change in lead character for sports manga, it also handles it with aplomb. It’s just refreshing to have a sports anime that doesn’t focus on how manly the main character is, and instead handles a much more complicated issue: how human athletes are.

With the triumphing over adversity of Ippo and the high character-driven emotional content of shoujo (the author is orignally a shoujo/josei author…of BL manga, hence the somewhat unsubtle gay undertones, and the massive fujoshi fanbase), Ookiku Furikabutte is another seinen title that fuses the good parts of shoujo and shounen and creates a truly wonderful story. And, trust me on this one, we could use a lot more titles that fuse shoujo and shounen.

Ookiku Furikabutte Episode 1, or: Wow, Baseball Anime

Yes, I know about Princess Nine (and it is one of my favorites). But I’m not even a general fan of sports anime, aside from Hajime no Ippo, which is probably one of the best shounen manga/anime in existence (I have most  of the DVDs, and I hear I was supposed to get the rest for Christmas, but haven’t actually gotten them yet because they haven’t shipped–so, yes, you ex-Geneon staffers, someone actually bought Ippo), but I’ve always liked baseball as a sport, as I played it as a kid (also bowling, but I don’t think there’s been a bowling anime–yet). And Oofuri isn’t even shounen, it’s seinen, and the manga received the Osamu Tezuka Award and the Kodansha Manga Award, and was serialized in Afternoon, so you know it’s good.

And, although the first episode wasn’t quite entering “this is awesome” territory, it was still really good. The manager, who I don’t think has been named yet, can crush oranges to make juice with her bare hands. Of course, the real meat of the episode was the compaionship between Mihashi Ren, a pitcher (who thinks he sucks at pitching) and Abe Takaya, the catcher. Already they’re a team–Mihashi learned that the abuse heaped upon him by his peers in his middle school baseball club might have been really undeserved, as, with Abe’s help, he totally creams a fourth-at-batter.

I have no idea where the series is headed at this point; I can only hope that there’s a series of exciting games and character development ahead for me–from what I’ve seen, the series seems to be focused on the characters, rather than the sport, which isn’t necessarily bad, as Princess Nine focused on the characters too, but the games were not exactly thrilling escapades for the most part (although the episode where the girls used sex appeal to score runs was probably the best game of baseball ever played). Arguably, if I wanted to watch thrilling baseball games, I’d watch the four seasons of Major (which I might do, someday, maybe), but Oofuri will probably have at least a few good games in its run (which already ended but whatever). But, hopefully, this series will not only please my seinen aesthetics but also tickle my shounen aesthetics. If it does both, then I’ll love it.

Also, if you are reading this, Central Anime, please get a different encoder for your XviD versions. I’m not a video snob and I can tell there’s something wrong with those encodes. For one, you don’t encode a 16:9 video in a 4:3 resolution with black bars, that’s just wrong.


I cannot understand those that take anime seriously, but I can love them, and I do. Out of my love I warn them to keep clear of this blog.

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March 2023