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Time to champion Ookiku Furikabutte

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Living in ol’ Blightly, we aren’t taught the delights of baseball. For us, it’s either cricket or rounders, and the latter’s enjoyed mostly by girls anyway. So I sat down to watch Ookiku Furikabutte knowing basically zip all about the game, except that the Americans (especially Bobby De Niro) are mad about it. Why bother then? I love sports anime; the genre might be cliche, but for me, you can’t beat seeing an underdog battling against all the odds, trying their hardest to compete and eventually winning the respect of others through sheer guts and determination. For me, then, sports anime is a reaffirming and inspirational journey. A constant, heart-warming reminder that success and talent is always a curve-ball within our range; we just need practice and strength enough to know when its time to swing away.

Our journey, then, kicks-off when we meet high school new fish Ren Mihashi; though he’s unconfident and shy, Ren’s blood flows with an unlimited passion for baseball, and baseball alone. All he’s ever wanted to do is stand on that mound in the middle of the pitch and throw strike after strike to success. So, belying his timid nature, Ren dreams of being his team’s ace, their number one most important player, but he’s often struggling with his own (lack of) self belief as much as his opposition’s swing.
That’s really the basic outline of Ookiku Furikabutte, Ren starts the series by transferring schools and joining a newly formed team just in time for the summer competitions; we follow them, all strangers at first, from their early morning training sessions right through to the marathon matches themselves. Ren might be the main character, but several other strong personalities on his team shine through too; catcher Abe is a down-to-earth and tactically astute friend, Tajima is your typical hot-blooded shonen hero with immense natural talent and finally, their coach, Maria, is a no-nonsense, big breasted 23 year old woman with an absolutely wicked swing.

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Seeing it all come together in Ookiku Furikabutte is a joy to behold. With everyone fighting for a common goal, they bond together and battle as one. They believe in each other. If it ever looks like someone’s feeling down and out, a team-mate is there, almost instantly, to shoulder that pain. Writing this now, I know it must be sounding cliche, but when you’re seeing it on screen, and you’re so invested in these characters, it’s heart-warming to sense this comradery between friends. That, for example, Ren can smile when he’s pitching, considering he’s basically a broken-heart in the beginning is really quite moving. Just like its great when Ren’s female cousin calls him “Ren-Ren” in front of his team-mates and they all burst out laughing at him for having such a “cute” rapport with her.

If Ookiku Furikabutte ever does come close to losing my attention, it’s probably because there’s been a sudden burst of complex baseball tactics that went way over my head, but this sense of confusion is often tempered by some amusing scenes involving the shrieking mothers of the players, all of whom are huddled together at the back of the stands, positively beaming with pride watching their children on the field.
At this point, I should note that despite this being a 25 episode TV series, it contains only two actual baseball matches, both of which are multi-episode, tense epics of inner-strife, clever tactics and brinksmanship. Because things progress at such a slow pace, I’m left wishing for an as-yet-unannounced second season (I could quite happily watch another 100 episodes just like this) or will have to resort to reading the original manga instead, but regardless, I’ve loved watching this.

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It might be formulaic, but this is a story bubbling with positive energy and emotive characters. If you feel sad, in need of inspiration or just lacking a bit of self-confidence, don’t be afraid to have a swing at Ookiku Furikabutte. It’s ostensibly centred on Baseball, yes, but for all its sports-talk, it’s a true champion of friendship, team-work and fun.

Comments

Ivy says:

Wow…thats such an inspirational post! Really lovely!
As I stated before I’ve grown tired of the sport genre since it stagnated after PoT.
But judging from your post (and everyone else for that matter!) this seems to be more about the characters and the many turmoils and hurdles they face…I’m actually considering this. One little question though, how’s the animation, art and the whole production front?

Protodude says:

Hmm, I should really watch this and Major seeing as baseball is the only sport I regularly follow. I’ll give it a shot after I finish some of the shows I’m currently watching.

Jayme says:

Something about this show, When you mentioned it last time and even more so now, Just clicks with me. It half reminds me of Beck in that they are all fairly young adults/teenagers trying to do something in life. Although, I think the main reason is purely the way the characters are designed and from them pictures it instantaneously makes me think its a Madhouse animation, I’m not sure if it is though. ;p

Looks a very colourful and enjoyable show to watch and no doubt I’ll be starting it soon enough as it seems to be bursting with energy and creative characters.

..Even if the title is a mouthful.

Seleria says:

I love this show and I am a baseball noob. I ended up blogging every episode of this because subs were too slow then. I had to refer to the manga for translation notes. What I really liked about this is how they managed to make the characters all very likable with all their flaws and set of redeeming qualities.

Even Ren, whom I thought would be the spineless little emo twit, is strong in his own rite. Even Abe, who is usually very composed, has signs of breaking down and Ren rises to the occasion to save him. Each man has his moment. But no one is quite like Momoe. She is just awesome!

Of course, the humor is great too, not to mention the gratuitous BL tones. Fangirls will agree on me on this one.

The baseball builds up slowly, but there are moments that are absolutely exhilarating. As you said, the anime is all about teamwork, fun, and friendship. I really do wish for a second season. There’s still a ton of material to work it, I hope A-1 decides to continue it. In terms of market, fangirls and fanboys alike overrun :)

Cheers!

maglor says:

http://forums.animesuki.com/showthread.php?t=62507

Check the above animesuki thread which shows how popular this series may be.

Xerox says:

Oooooh, your post makes me love Oofuri more. The content and the pics, I can’t quite put a finger on what I’m trying to express, or even why I’m expressing anything, but, Ooooh!! “It’s ostensibly centred on Baseball, yes, but for all its sports-talk, it’s a true champion of friendship, team-work and fun.” That sums up everything I wanted to say, all in one simple sentence. >.<!!!!!!

bateszi says:

@Ivy: Thanks for the nice comment, glad I might have nudged you into giving Oofuri a shot. I wouldn’t compare it to something like Prince of Tennis, if just because it’s much more realistic than that; there’s no “special moves”. As for the animation and soundtrack, both are perfectly fine. For example, we regularly see characters swing their bats and the ball moving across the screen when it’s thrown/hit. I was a little concerned about the animation, but it’s definitely good enough. I like the character designs too, they are very post-Honey & Clover, josei style and look vibrant and expressive without being especially anime”ish”.

@Protodude: If you love (and/or have played) baseball, you won’t regret watching Oofuri. In fact, you’ll probably get much more out of it than me; I play/watch a lot of sports myself, so I could definitely understand these characters quite easily.

@Jayme: I know what you mean. I think that’s why I first felt like I wanted to see Oofuri, the characters and general colour-scheme is vibrant and whimsical. I look at it and instantly think of easy-going, dramatic, dreamy stories like “Honey & Clover” and “The Girl Who Leapt Through Time”. I think the colours are a big reason as to why I love One Piece so much too; it looks so bright and happy!

@Seleria: I must admit, much like when I was watching Toward the Terra, there were certain emotional scenes when I thought just how much fun the BL fan-fiction writers must be having whilst watching Oofuri. I’m sure it sets your imagination into overdrive! :)

Anyway, I can only agree with what you’ve said here. I was also a bit annoyed just how spineless Ren was at first, but things quickly change once we have a better understanding of his personality. I was really impressed that, despite being at rock bottom, he was never afraid to stand on the mound and pitch; those kind of little insights into his personality reveal that he isn’t such a wuss after all. Anyway, nice to meet another fan!

@maglor: I’d like to see something like this have a crack at US TV, I’m sure it’d be popular given a chance to establish itself. That said, even I’m surprised how popular it seems to be with the female audience!

@Xerox: Thanks :) I had real fun writing this review, I hope it shines through. And it’s cool you started watching this around the same time as me, what are the chances of that?! And now I’m desperate for those last few episodes to be fansubbed.

Kim says:

I am sort of indifferent to the sports genre. I don’t care for Prince of Tennis although I do love Hikaru no Go (if that counts as sport) but I think I am interested in this more for the characters. I do have a soft spot for inspirational stories (as cliche as they can be). Hence why I love One Piece and Gurren Lagann so much.

When I was really young, I used to devour Captain Tsubasa and Moero Top Striker – they were playing on some Italian channel. So sports anime will always bring me back to that golden age of anime period. I’ve never payed attention to this genre from then on, except watching a few episodes with nostalgia and tenderness over something so idiotic and yet so great. I think I’ll try this one though, your entry really makes me hungry for some sports anime. Thank you.

Benjiro says:

Some other good series:

— Major ( 4th season is now running ), baseball. Each season shows us part of the main characters life ( with some surprising moments ).

— Capeta: Racing Cart based. Also a very good serie.

— Slam Dunk: A old serie, hard to find. Basketball based. Lots of humor.

— Hajime No Ippo: Boxing. Again a nice serie. Lots of humor.

— Eyeshield 21: American Football. Another humor based sport serie. But not very realistic.

— Prince of tennis: A nice serie, but goes overboard with the ‘special’ moves. Over time, they get insain.

JKTrix says:

I got into this anime during the first part of my ongoing ‘What the hell am I supposed to watch after Gurren-Lagann?!’ phase. Part of what drew me into this anime is that Kittan and Yoko are in it (Capt. Hanai and Mihashi’s cousin Ruri respectively), and part of it was the relatively good, but quiet buzz the show had been getting. Baccano! was another show that had a very similar set of selling points for me. The final straw was when I saw that one fansub group had suddenly started subtitling the episodes, and had quickly overtaken the previous group that was stalled on the series for some time.

I love ’em both. Can’t wait for the last few episodes, but with only 2 games under the team’s belt it’s easy to see that it’s just the beginning of the story. I hope more of it gets animated, since I’m not much of a manga reader. (Also, I freakin’ love Marina Inoue’s (Yoko, Ruri, Eve Genoard & others) voice, I’d watch almost anything with her in it. Almost anything.)

But I love crazy special moves. Since I’m not into sports (at all) there needs to be something exciting that would drag me to watch it. If I wanted real matches, I would just watch some sports channel.

Benjiro says:

Ubiquitous:

True. But lets be honest, Prince Of Tennis goes overboard. My main problem is not the other people’s but most specially, Echizen’s ‘Drive A’ etc. Its almost like the tennis court is a 500m long runway for him to slide ;-) You notice the problem mostly at the end of the serie, when its almost none stop Drive A, B etc…

But you don’t need special ‘fictive’ moves to have a exiting sports anime serie. A sport serie is all about the buildup, the drama. Real sports ( aka sport channel ) are for 99% boring running, riding, etz, with only that one percent of it something happening.

Take a look at F1. Start = good. Slip ups, crashes, overtaking. En then it stabilizes in a game of just driving rounds. With only now & then something happening. Football, same deal. To be honest, they really need to get a wife, because they can’t keep there hands of each other. Always trying to undress ( jersey pulling ) each other *lol*.

Real sports also bore the hell out of me. Anime Sport series on the other hand. Even series with limited or no special ( or fictive ) moves can get my blood boiling. :-)

Kim says:

But you don’t need special ‘fictive’ moves to have a exiting sports anime series.

Agreed, for me its more about the characters than the actual sports. Then again it’s actually the same for me in action series. I don’t care about the victory in the battle or the game, I just enjoy watching the characters obtain that victory. It makes for some interesting drama.

dengar says:

I’m in Boston right now so I guess I should be embracing everything baseball related. It’ll be interesting to see all these “tactics,” from what I know of the game (and I haven’t played actual baseball since I was like 9) most of the tactics come when you are deciding where to place the outfield, which pitches to throw and when to steal a base whereas other sports like (american) football or basketball seem more tactic centered .

I wonder whether this show comments at all on the steroid epidemic that the MLB is dealing with…

bateszi says:

@JKTrix: Thanks for recommending this to me, you gave me the push I needed to give it a shot.

@dengar: Nope, no steroids, it’s just high school baseball in Japan after all. Anyway, you’ve described a lot of the tactics contained within Oofuri, so it might be worth giving it shot; one of the most interesting tactical aspects is how a certain character memorizes the throwing motion of the pitcher and shouts ‘go’ when there’s an opportunity to steal a base or two.

@Kim/Ubiquitous urchin/Benjiro: Though I quite enjoy (sports) anime with super-powered ‘special moves’, it’s almost like a deus ex machina in the sense that as long as these characters always have their special moves, they can escape from some really tough situations relatively unscathed. Given we’re dealing with much more normal people in Ookiku Furikabutte, they have to dig deeper and genuinely rely on each other if they are going to win, so it’s much more about the individual players and how they react to each other, and as a result, I suppose it finishes off feeling like a much more human drama than a straight forward baseball story.

It’s interesting reading that people like Benjiro and Ubiquitous urchin don’t enjoy ‘real’ sports, but love sports anime, and I guess that’s down to feeling empathy for the characters and the struggles they face. To be honest, I’m not especially engaged in watching sports unless I really care about one of the sides I’m seeing in front of me. That emotional bond is so important.

If any of you guys haven’t seen it yet, I seriously suggest watching the Japanese live action movie Ping Pong, it’s just like a sports anime, right down how to the actual sport in question takes a back seat to the various relationships fracturing between the characters. Suffice to say, it’s one of my all-time favourite movies.

Yes it is quite peculiar and somewhat odd that enjoying sports anime does not go hand in hand with enjoying real life sports. I guess, yea, like you said, it might more about enjoying teamwork, comradership in the face of an ultimate challenge.
However, I’m really precautious when it comes to films that are “just like anime”. I just don’t think this kind of aesthetics and drama patterns work in a movie. I’ve tried watching some live shows made after famous anime series and found myself disgusted by the melodramatic scenes, by the ridiculousness of actually voicing the characters’ thoughts, by the bluntness of the dialogue, features which otherwise would not seem out of place in an anime.

bateszi says:

@Ubiquitous urchin: This is the trailer for Ping Pong, please take a look:

I agree that a lot comic/anime/manga adaptations are poor; for example, I thought the Death Note movies made a mockery of the far superior manga/anime. However, trust me on this, Ping Pong is different; for a start, it’s based on a manga by Taiyō Matsumoto (Tekkonkinkreet), the soundtrack features a lot of SUPERCAR music, and like Oofuri, it’s a realistic sports drama, with no random shinigami.

KT Kore says:

DUDE. Please watch Touch and join me in loving its awesomeness. We Touch fans are a lonely bunch. More fans are always welcome. :)

As for Ookiku, this is a show that I’ve been eying since it was announced. I’ll definitely be checking it out when the time comes.

bateszi says:

@KT: Touch is on my list for sure, it’s just a case of finding good quality fansubs. It looks awesome. Since I’ve now caught up with Oofuri, I’ve moved on to checking out ‘Air Master’, which I’ve heard good things about, but Touch is something I want to see ASAP too. I can’t get enough of sports anime, Ashita no Joe (Tomorrow’s Joe) is another that I’m desperate to see fansubbed.

Ok, the Ping Pong trailer does look good and free of absurdities. Thank you. I’ll give it a try.

Benjiro says:

bateszi:

Saizen is doing fansubs of Ashita no Joe. Think they are on eps 3 now.

KT Kore says:

http://www.boxtorrents.com/details.php?id=11724&hit=1 (Eps 1-50)
(Eps 51-101 + movies)

I’m not sure if you can use Box Torrents, but there’s the whole series for you. The subs are done by Central Anime (one of my favorite groups). You’ve already experienced their work when you watched Legend of the Galactic Heroes. They do a good job.

If you can’t get it from Box for some reason, check out their ScaryWater torrent page: http://www.centralanime.net/index2.html

Ashita no Joe sounds awesome. I finished Hajime no Ippo not too long ago (finished it in about 1 week, lol) and I can certainly go for some more boxing anime, and one being as classic as Joe sounds delicious. I actually have the whole series ripped from the R2 DVDs that a friend gave me, but their raw…so, yeah. That does me no good. I watched the OP a countless amount of times already though. *laughs* I just love it.

dengar says:

So I’ve seen the first 5 episodes. I liked it and will watch more. BUT THIS IS SOOOO SLOW!!

Maybe its because I have not watched the shows one after the other, but the last 3 episodes have been about 1 game without the plot even advancing much. I realize the comparison is unfair on some level, but an actual baseball game on TV while just as long still feels like it goes faster (and the equal length is mostly due to commercial breaks).

I’m also getting really tired of Mr. Ace Pitcher. If I wanted Shinji I would watch Eva again…

bateszi says:

@Benjiro/KT Kore: I watched the first three episodes of Ashita no Joe on Saturday. For TV anime produced in 1970, it looks really, really good, in fact, it has to have been remastered? Regardless, three episodes in and Joe hasn’t even stepped into a boxing ring yet; the level of story-telling and characterisation is much higher than expected, given a lot of anime from this period seems (to me) to be rather inconsistent and basic. Joe isn’t the hero I was expecting either, in fact, he’s a real selfish bastard so far. Anyway, as fate would have it, episode 4 was released yesterday, so I’m definitely going to check that out. And yeah, the opening theme is pure win.

@dengar: I know the feeling. I was getting annoyed with Ren at first, but persevere, he gets better. As for the slowness, well, I agree, but once you get inside the character’s heads, it won’t seem as languid. Honestly, I felt exactly the same as you around that point (especially considering I know jack-all about baseball), but trust me, it gets easier.

Impz says:

Yep, I always remember how much I blog about it, only to realize people are not too interested to watch a sports anime because “it’s all the same”. It is one of the very few anime that stops making sports as a shounen genre anime because it should not be so.

I have no interest when I watch it initially, only for myself to anticipate it every week. What can I say? I like the loser guy who grows in confidence. What’s more, the loser guy is not crap but someone who is willing to work twice as hard to be better. Simply inspirational.

[…] on my recent viewing habits than anything else, because since finishing with February’s Ookiku Furikabutte, I’ve not been able to immerse myself in a series to the point where I could contribute any […]

[…] 20, 2008   After reading Bateszi’s juicy presentation of Ookiku Furikabutte, I got irreversibly hooked on this baseball anime and […]

[…] this caps off a fine second year for Bateszi Anime Blog, from fun interviews to emotionally wrought reviews and nostalgic reflections to controversial drama, it’s been fun. Since you’re reading […]

Kim says:

Now that I actually watched this I can say I am really glad I did. It definitely needs the second season. Yeah I can read the manga but I don’t think it will be the same without the animation. Well I plan to buy it when it comes out on DVD. :)

bateszi says:

@Kim: How did you find Ren? My theory is that his spinelessness early on in the series, up there with Shinji Ikari, frustrates many people; enough to out-right drop the series after a few episodes, yet his emotional development is one of the most inspiring elements of the story. Also, I read on your LJ that you really liked Tajima; I agree. He’s kind of like a mini-version of Kamina! :)

Kim says:

Ren sort of annoyed me the entire series but not to the point that I hated him (he had his moments) or I would stop watching the series. But I think what Hanai said about Mihashi in the last episode summed up my feelings about him. I loved the rest of the team very much and I expect Mihashi develops even more in the actual manga.

As for Tajima I guess he is sort of your typical shounen character. He was definitely the uplifting guy on the team and I liked that about him. Although I would say I think Tajima is more realistic than Kamina but I guess he has Kamina’s sense of spirit. :)

Tyuken says:

I dunno why everyone hates Ren. I liked him throughout the entire anime series (and up to where I am in the manga). He does cry a bit which, due to my overly sympathizing nature, made me cringe a bit. But, he tries his best. And I feel so bad for him.

The character I don’t like as much is (Don’t shoot me!) Abe. Maybe it’s because things he said later on in the manga, I don’t know. (No worries, I don’t spoil). But, he really is rather rude and impatient and more importantly, bossy.

Every character is very cool. But I think that only 4-5 characters on the team have a serious role in the anime. (Tajima, Momoe, Hanai, Abe, and Ren) I hope they do flesh out the rest in the manga, but it’s not seeming hopeful.

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