I hate baseball. A little known fact about me; my father was a coach for a local softball team. He mainly did it for my two older sisters to keep them out of what my mother called “guy troubles” (spoilers: didn’t work!) and to help them build a bit of character. That isn’t where my hate stems from for America’s pastime. Sure, I had to stay with my pop after each game and collect stray balls out in the fields -in complete darkness, then carry duffel bags of aluminum baseball bats, but that wasn’t so bad. Actually, there were some perks, like the porn mags that were hidden in the bushes by the outfield that the other snot-nosed brothers of the players collected!
So, then, why does it seem like I have a wild baseball stick up my ass about the sport? I won’t cop-out and just say I don’t like sports, because I can be competitive as hell when I’m in the game. I guess I don’t care to watch. How about when you mix anime into it? Uh… Nope. Japan has given us a slew of baseball series over the years, and while there is an audience for them I personally have to take a pass. Looking back, anime series about baseball just doesn’t jive with many fans when Japan tosses it over the Pacific. Some would say it’s ironic, but when you break it down it all comes to what separates it from not only other anime series, but the bajillion other stories about baseball?
Taisho Yakyu Musume stands out like a sore thumb in many regards. For one, its focus is on building a baseball team of girls — and before you ask; yes, I’ve seen a A League of Their Own, and no, they’re not much alike. Well, they each have their own cute little ditty.
Another key aspect to the series is that it’s set in the Taisho period (1912-1926). When you look into it, it’s an interesting as hell time in Japan, especially considering the international relations going on that would be worth exploring with through an anime series. But, sure, we’ll take baseball. Hey, don’t think I’m trying to paint this in a negative light. For instance, the first episode shows the transition of how some school girls have adapted into the western-styled sailor uniforms while other girls still wear the traditional kimono to class. There are other aspects to the series that they sprinkle in scenes to let the viewer know its time period, but not too heavily, which is kind of a give-and-take deal. It doesn’t jam down your throat how things like automobiles are these amazing things(!), yet, it doesn’t take the time distinguish how this era of Japan is that much different with what they’re doing. Sure, women had to go grow through Hell to get some damn respect in those days – in our reality. In this anime, they have people who look down their noses at how girls should ‘know their place’ and not mess with a man’s sport, but it doesn’t show that great of a challenge to these young ladies.
That’s a bit of a problem. On one hand, I’m glad there aren’t over dozens or hundreds of episodes like many other competitive sports series. On the other hand, though, even in a few episodes it doesn’t really show how much grief and injustice that women had to go to even get a chance to play a sport that was catered to men. Any sort of opposition these girls faced were solved in a matter of minutes or at least rather conveniently. Even how the team gains skills and experience to play as true competitors is done rather quickly with little build up. Honestly, I think they could have gotten away with setting this series in our time. I mean, the characters shift their attention to other matters, such as boys and such, which is cool, but there isn’t any real bonding between them that you’d normally see in sports or coming-of-age stories. There just isn’t that fierce spirit shown to get to the field, let alone in the actual field.
To tell a good baseball story, you tell it to the fans. To tell a great baseball story, you tell it to everyone. That’s what enjoy about reading and hearing about what Jackie Robinson; a black man in post World War II America. He’s not just playing in a man’s game, but a white man’s game. That is a story that socks you in the gut when you know what he had to go through to get a chance to swing at the plate, in nearly every game. Alright, perhaps I’m coming down a little too hard on these girls. It’s just that if the story wanted to tell the plight of girls who were struck down for playing sports, it wasn’t terribly convincing. I should be thankful that the characters weren’t portrayed in stereotypical fashion so heavily that many series are guilty of doing now. At the same time, their lack of a strong personality really don’t make them appear memorable to me. There was one character who seemed like the stiff upper lip type who would have fit in well in a sports story and maybe fill in for some dramatic moments, but maybe it was just wishful thinking, ’cause nothing of the sort happened.
I liked Taisho Yakyu Musume. I also like the smell of a fresh cut lawn, and hot dogs. It’s just that any sort of fun and excitement this series threw were weak pitches that didn’t really go anywhere – and they really had potential to take it into interesting places. Was I expecting a little too much? Probably. What I saw, though, were ground balls to make a safe play to reach first base, and yeah, that’s exactly what I would call it; safe.
Historical photos via http://minkara.carview.co.jp/