Is there a better time of year than baseball season? The crack of the bat, the roar of the crowd and the disappointment of seeing the Toronto Blue Jays not make it into the playoffs. While baseball is known as America’s pass time it is still extremely popular in Japan. The love of the sport lead to the creation of the Big Windup!
The Big Windup! is a 26 episode series based upon a manga series by Asa Higuchi that was published by Kodansha. The series was produced by A-1 Pictures and released in North America by Funimation Entertainment.
The series follows main character Ren Mihashi as he tries to play baseball between bouts of crying…I mean “as he tries to fight his lack of confidence and make friends along the way” yeah lets go with that one.
Why is he so depressed? Well it has to do with his old school/baseball team.
Ren originally went to a school that his grandfather owned. He joined the school baseball team and was made the ace pitcher due in part to his relation to his grandfather. His teammates resented him for this, to the point that his back catcher didn’t even give him any signs during the game so they lost every game.
For non-baseball fans out there, a back catcher not giving signs is a math teacher not teaching you a formula before an exam (welcome to college kids). The whole dynamic between the pitcher and back catcher is extremely important to the game.
At Ren’s new school he is inlisted into their new baseball team by busty Head Coach Maria Momoe and the team’s know-it-all teacher advisor, Tsuyoshi Shiga.
Ren then meets his new catcher Takaya Abe. Much like Crash Davis in Bull Durham, Takaya is tasked to turn Ren into the team’s ace pitcher.
(sorry this was the best clip I could find, skip to 2:34 to see the reference)
Takaya soon finds out the only thing holding Ren back is himself.
Ren has excellent control and can visualize the strike zone of the batter and separate it into 9 different sections…again if you don’t understand baseball just know that, that is impressive (that’s some Roy Halladay s*it there…when he’s not injuried I mean).
Soon Ren and Takaya forge a strong working relationship and form the backbone of the team. The team soon enters a large tournament to try and become the best school team in Japan, but can they win? Or will Ren and his stupid facial expressions force the team to lose.
Animation wise, the show isn’t bad. While Ren’s aforementioned facial expressions might make your brain collapse into itself, the show looks decent and fluid during the baseball games.
The dub and dialogue are what you would expect from a Funimation release, it’s good and features plenty of voices that anime fans will recognize from other shows. While the shows opening theme is OK but ultimately forgettable, the ending theme is just awful.
While the music doesn’t make the cut, the shows main issues comes from two of its characters.
The first is of course Ren. While I’m aware that the idea of a ‘reluctant hero learning to believe in himself’ is tried and true storytelling, in this instance it bothers me. Ren spends more time crying then throwing pitchers and as we all know, there’s no crying in baseball.
The show also tries to make Ren the funniest character in the show.
While comedy is extremely difficult to translate due to differences in cultures, most of this show comedy comes from people staring at Ren’s face. The wackiness of Ren is put in contrast to the seriousness of the other characters and this is supposed to make you laugh. Big Windup! isn’t the only show to do this, but there’s something about this character that makes it even less funny.
The second character that makes me want to punch a wall is the teacher adviser Tsuyoshi Shiga. The character, while he doesn’t know much about baseball but he knows a lot about the human body…and he is more than willing to tell you about it.
Large portions of episodes are detected to out of place lessons about how to meditate, or how eating gives you energy. These moments don’t really fit with the show.
The only reason I see these segments being in the show is to educate the audience, but this isn’t Dora the Explorer; it’s a show about a bunch of high school kids playing baseball. Maybe if they spent more time explain the many workings of baseball and less with the high school fitness classes the show wouldn’t drag as much. After a while he it feels like Navi telling you how to use the hookshot.
When Ren’s pity parties or Shiga’s public service announcements don’t interrupt the show, the baseball is good and does a good job exploring the mental aspects of the game (i.e. the relationship between the pitcher and the back catcher or the rivalry between two pitchers).
Overall, the show isn’t a home run. Some of the characters are annoying; the music isn’t that good and the show spends more time in the stands, than on the diamond. In the end the show is a bit of a fielders choice.
The series was release in North America by Funimation Entertainment and was released as part of the S.A.V.E. DVD line. It’s also available through there website and on YouTube (Subtitled). A second season of the show was produced and released in Japan in 2010, but isn’t available in North America yet.