The Nihon Review - Anime Reviews & Editorials

One Outs

Title: One Outs
Genre: Drama
Company: Madhouse Studios
Format: 25 episodes
Dates: 7 Oct 2008 – 31 Mar 2009

Synopsis: Tokuchi Toua is a master gambler, and his specialty is One Outs, a simplified version of baseball where the pitcher’s aim is to keep the ball from leaving the infield. Toua is scouted one summer by players from the Lycaons, a baseball squad that’s down on its luck. After a game of One Outs against Lycaons veteran hitter Kojima Hiromichi, Toua is persuaded to join the team. He meets the team’s owner and negotiates a unique contract: for every out Toua records, he earns 5 million yen (about $64,000); however, for every run scored against him, Toua has to pay back 50 million yen (10 times that amount).

The Highlights
Psychological tension: One Outs drips with it, although the heat is almost always on Toua’s opponents.
Baseball: Not at all interesting, which in a weird way contributes to the show’s success.
Tokuchi Toua: Can worm his way out of any situation and look awesome doing so.

Let’s be real: there is no way anything Toua does could happen for long in any worthwhile pro league. Toua has one pitch — a slow fastball that makes Jamie Moyer look like Randy Johnson — and plays psychological tricks, but real batters would catch on to Toua eventually.

None of that matters, though, because One Outs does not care about presenting realistic — or even interesting — baseball. Not caring about displaying strategically-intricate baseball frees One Outs to concentrate on what it does best: putting Toua through a series of psychological war games against every team the Lycaons face. And, frankly, I think baseball is boring, so I am perfectly content to allow One Outs to stretch the limits of possibility within America’s past time.

One Outs is directed by Sato Yuzo, who directed Kaiji, and Toua is voiced by Hagiwara Masato, who also voices Kaiji’s titular character, so one would be forgiven for thinking of that series immediately after beginning One Outs. But the series is more similar to Akagi (also directed by Sato and starring Hagiwara): both shows feature only enough of their games to send the message, “our lead characters know how to win, and will do it every time out”, which means the point of both series is not “will Toua/Akagi win” but “how much ass will Toua/Akagi kick on the way to victory?”

Because it’s rarely in doubt that Toua will emerge victorious, it would be easy for One Outs to become repetitive. Fortunately, the series staves this off by constantly shifting both Toua’s objectives and the enemies’ plans of attack. Everything is taken into account in the series: the composition of baseball schedules, specific situations in which pitchers can be subbed in without suspicion, pitch counts and types, cheating, etc. Those who scheme to take Toua down literally try everything in their power to do so, and One Outs continually surprised me with how fresh these attempts stay throughout.

With all these elements in place, however, One Outs would not work at all if Toua weren’t such a striking, charismatic lead. He’s an amoral scoundrel; he aims only to destroy his opponents, look them in the eyes and make certain they know who came out on top that day. Cheating doesn’t bother Toua; in fact, he blames his teammates for being so lazy and unimaginative that they never suspect opponents of foul play. He doesn’t care if the opposing side tries to injure him — rough play is simply another chess piece to be employed. Something as simple as a smile becomes a nuclear bomb. He gets his teammates to respect themselves and hone their craft to the point where they fulfill their potential, but it’s apparent that Toua views them more as well-sharpened weapons than people with whom he shares victory.

All this makes Toua a fascinating anti-hero. What makes Toua more appealing is that he achieves results through the power of his mind and by squeezing every drop out of his limited physical abilities. Toua stares down those who are several times the athlete he will ever be, and nonetheless intimidates them through sheer force of will. One Outs taps into that most basic element of sports drama: The less-physically gifted athlete playing bigger than his size and winning through guts and guile.

One Outs isn’t a perfect series. The animation is serviceable most of the time, but rarely impressive. Outside of Toua, the characters are mostly one-note, save perhaps the Lycaons’ catcher, Ideguchi Satoshi, who develops some solid chemistry with Toua as his much more scrupulous second-in-command. It’s also clear that One Outs ends at just the right moment: the final couple of episodes are just a bit less inspired than the rest of the series and it feels as if the creators’ ideas are finally sapped. But these are minor problems in the face of what is a surprisingly gripping anime.

The Rating: 8

Reviewed by: Shinmaru

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