baseball

Nostalgia, Touch, and Mix: Meisei Story

When Cross Game initially aired, the small handful of western Mitsuru Adachi went to work, attempting to spread the word of a bestselling Japanese artist who was an unknown in the west. Touch, a domestic phenomenon in Japan, was cited in tandem with Cross Game as his most influential and greatest work. Although Cross Game is more accessible — especially for western anime viewers — and modern, Touch is Adachi’s magnum opus. Mix: Meisei Story is Adachi’s latest, set in the same universe as Touch, decades later.

It’s impossible to talk about Mix without mentioning Touch, but not for the reasons you may think.

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Princess Nine and “Tradition”

princess nine group photo

When I first started Princess Nine, I was warned by others that it wasn’t overly concerned with baseball as it was with drama. Part of this is correct, as nearly all of the girls’ individual narratives have little to do with the actual sport of baseball. However, in a more nebulous way, Princess Nine has everything to do with baseball, because baseball in Japan is tradition. In fact, there’s a funny little quote attributed to the Japan Tourism Organization that Japanese people are often surprised to discover that the United States considers baseball its “national pastime.”

A lot of what Princess Nine aims to achieve is rooted in overcoming deep seated notions of tradition or family. Instead of looking at the series through a strictly feminist lens – it is girls playing baseball against boys, after all, so this option is rather easy – perhaps it would be better served with the framework of tradition above all, and what breaking preexisting tradition, or perceived familial obligation, entails. Hint, this also has a little to do with that aforementioned feminist lens.

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Princess Nine: Calling Ryo’s Pitches

ryo princess nine, princess nine ryo hayakawa, princess nine episode 2, ryo hayakawa

What makes a truly great catcher is unfortunately tricky to identify with statistics. There are the obvious things like caught stealing percentages, and the offensive side of the plate is covered the exact same way as any other position; however, the nuances of a particularly excellent catcher involve an eye test that’s unquantifiable.

Good catchers earn the trust of their counterparts on the mound, forming a battery that when working together is often unstoppable. With the pitcher performing the action, a strong catcher will act as their brain, calling their pitches in a specific manner tailored to outsmart whoever steps into the batter’s box. The trust of a pitcher is crucial here, because all it takes is one hit to disrupt a battery’s communication – pitchers are known for being finicky, nervous creatures. Once the pitch is called, the catcher’s job is not done. Aside from their actual function of an at-bat – catching the ball, as per the position’s title – top-tier catchers will frame the ball in a manner that gives them the best possible chance of having a strike called in their favor. If you don’t believe me, watch a bit of tape from this year’s World Series and compare Kansas City’s Salvador Perez to the Mets’ Travis d’Arnaud. The latter was far more artful with this particular skill than the former.

Our lead character of Princess Nine is not a catcher, but a pitcher. More importantly, she’s a pitcher who, as of the series’ second episode, will instantly override her partner behind the plate.

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[One] Goodbye

touch, tatsuya uesugi, tacchan, touch episode 25, tatsuya learns of kazuya's death

My first days of college were hardly a reflection of what the rest of my college career would be. Forced into orientation groups named after colors – if memory serves – energetic and intoxicated upperclassmen herded us around in groups, until we learned to herd ourselves. Those weeks, we traveled in packs, first grouped by floor, then grouped by interest or field of study, and finally, grouped with those whom we truly could call friends. As it so happened, one of my orientation group-mates ended up in my group of friends. It was a friendship born of similar interest, namely the sport of rugby, and although we grew to be mere acquaintances by the end of our respective college lifetimes, I always enjoyed spending time with him.

Attending a small college – for reference, my graduating class consisted of about 300 students, mirroring my high school graduating class size – is a uniquely insular experience. I received an excellent education; however, the social alliances, friendships, and relationships that were formed were instantly broadcast throughout the school. If something happened, everyone knew a version of the event within 24 hours of its occurrence. These events were not divisive, but my class was certainly split into specific groups of people. This changed during our senior week.

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The Monstrous Consequences of Being an Ace

satoru furuya, ace of diamond, baseball, furuya pitching, daiya no ace

In the 2013 Spring Koushien, 16 year-old Saibi ace pitcher, Tomohiro Anraku, threw 772 pitches in nine days. Five games, nine days, 772 pitches. There is no need for embellishment, because those numbers say it all. He is an elusive kaibutsu – a monster in both pitching and presence – not only in the games he plays in, but over the entire Koushien tournament. Rumors, awe, and the perception of his ability affect the mindset of other teams competing for the title. Anraku’s pitch count and perceived stamina drew national reverence and international ire, with Don Nomura (now an advisor to Texas Rangers pitcher Yu Darvish) likening coaches’ treatment of Anraku to child abuse.

While discussing Ace of Diamond with a friend of mine the other day, he lauded the series for focusing on “the Yankees” of Japanese high school baseball, as opposed to another team of scrappy underdogs. For the most part – although I would more readily compare Japanese high school baseball to American college football – this analogy holds true. Eijun Sawamura leaves Nagano to attend the powerhouse baseball factory Seidou for his high school career. He himself is a scrappy underdog because Seidou is just that good, churning out highly-competitive teams year after year. With enough players to field at least three teams, if one person fails there is another waiting eagerly on the bench for their chance. For Sawamura, who yearns to be the ace pitcher of Seidou, the rookie kaibutsu, Satoru Furuya, solidly stands in his way.

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