Spring 2014 ~ Sports Anime
May 11, 2014
While I’m still working on the Alpha Project, I have been watching several shows from the new season, as well as a couple of carry overs. As it turns out I am watching 5 sports anime that are airing at the same time. This is very unusual. A couple of years back it was not uncommon to go for multiple seasons without a single sports anime. Now we have shows airing that are based on Baseball, Tennis, Cycling, Volleyball, and Ping Pong.
My Fave: Ping Pong, the Animation
Folks who don’t like an anime because it “doesn’t look anime enough” are really choosing to deprive themselves of a gem this season. The characters are all flawed in very human ways. they are trying to achieve something or avoid something not because they are better than us. None of these characters are traditional shounen leads, with the possible exception of Akuma, who rose through the ranks by working really hard. Even the adult characters seem twisted; instead of cheering on the main character because he is happy to see him develop his potential, the coach takes on Smile because he thinks he can use him to win. The coach clearly wasn’t giving the rest of the team his full attention, and even seems to tolerate bullying by the upperclassmen.
To learn about the others, read on …
Of the two continuing shows, I was initially more interested in Yawamushi Pedal, but it recently has gone in the wrong direction.
Initially I found Yawamushi Pedal appealing because the subject, cycling, seemed fresh, and the main character wasn’t obnoxious. Unfortunately, since the Inter High arc began, the show seems to want to be more like One Piece, than a thoughtful sports anime. Explanations about the importance of wind resistance and such have been dropped in favor of battles between super beings. Probably the worst was the episode about the sprinters, where one person thought he would win because of his abs, and was shocked to lose because the other two racers had 1) a good relationship with the wind, and 2) an abnormally large lung capacity. The next villain doesn’t even look human. It’s really a shame to see a decent show go on past the point of having good ideas.
In contrast, Ace of Diamond rubbed me the wrong way initially. Baseball has been done many times before and done well. Further the main character was is and probably always will be utterly obnoxious. However, unlike Yowamushi Pedal, this show still has legs, because it really seems like a show about baseball. People have special skills, but nobody has superhuman skills. Further the recent arc in which Seido played against Akikawa showed how good the show is at developing a rival (not a villain) so the pressure really mounts. Giving the opposing side a backstory gives you some insight into why the opposing side in a shounen sports anime is not to be laughed off — but it is also something more. It should ideally make you care enough about that person/team to make you feel a bit ambiguous about wanting to see them lose. You need to see them as deserving to win, even though you have a spent more time with the main character(s). That’s the pressure you feel when you really are unsure how this thing will turn out. Ace of Diamond did an excellent job giving Shun, Akikawa’s “clockwork” pitcher a believable skill, and a human story.
Haikyuu suffers from the annoying male lead, only the annoying-ness is spread across multiple characters. There hasn’t been a lot of volleyball yet, because the team is still coming together (as of episode 6, they are playing their first match as a team, but it is a training match, not a part of any official tournament). I like the fact that this show is working with Volleyball, which is an unusual sport to feature. It’s too early to say if I can stand to continue with this show. I find the interactions between the main characters very annoying, and haven’t seen enough tension to make me think they can pull off a good game. The basic concept about why they may be a good team despite their underdog status is pretty good, though.
Baby Steps has been pretty decent so far. I liked the way they started the show in the middle of the first match, then went back and brought us through everything that it took to get there. I also like the mathematical approach to tennis concept. The first real match just ended in episode 6, but they did a decent job of showing interesting gameplay. The artwork looks a bit like the show is being broadcast from the 1990s, but I have to give the creators props for doing the best job of incorporating a girl meaningfully into the storyline. The main character isn’t a jerk; he isn’t loud, or whiny. Unfortunately there is a hint that he has superpowers (really sharp eyes).
At this point I’m still watching all of these shows, so the season feels unusually tilted towards sports anime. I wouldn’t say these are all great shows, but they have been reasonably entertaining, so picking a show based upon your interest in the sport would be reasonable, if it weren’t for the fact that Ping Pong is so much better than the others. If you are not watching Ping Pong, you owe it to yourself to see it for yourself.
Are sports anime your thing? How do you feel about having so many sports shows airing this season? Have a different opinion about any of these series? Tell me what you think in the comments below!