The Nihon Review - Anime Reviews & Editorials

Ookiku Furikabutte

Title: Ookiku Furikabutte
Genre: Sports/Drama
Company: A-1 Pictures
Format: 25 episodes
Dates: 12 Apr 2007 – 28 Sep 2007

Synopsis: Ren Mihashi had been the ace pitcher at his school for the duration of his middle school years; however, this was only because of his grandfather’s position of school superintendent. Ren’s pitching was lousy and his teammates hated him, leaving Mihashi with little self-esteem and confidence. After transferring to Nishiura High School – intent on quitting baseball altogether – he finds himself inexplicably dragged into the baseball team since they lack an alternative pitcher.

The Highlights
Animation: A mixed bag.
Initial premise: Fairly typical.
Character interactions: Phenomenal.
Stereotypes: Few and far between.
Ending: Next to no closure.

I’ll be frank; Ōkiku Furikabutte is not your standard shonen sports anime. Every aspect of the show contrasts deeply with standard sports anime, to the point where the “sports” aspect is relegated to the backburner and the character drama takes the main stage. There is no phenomenal ace pitcher, or absurdly strong cleanup batter. There are no special stances or fictional techniques a la Initial D(1,2) or Ace of Tennis. Rather, the series focuses on teamwork and unity, developed through the complex interactions between the characters that left me stunned. It’s tough to admit, but Ōfuri is quite possibly the best sports anime to date.

An endearing aspect of this anime is its ability to convey intricate character interactions using baseball as the conduit. Being the ace pitcher on a baseball team is a very heavy burden, and Mihashi’s no pitching genius. However, his ability to overcome this burden is not some miraculous shift in personality, or newfound inner talent. Rather, his reliance on his teammates – and their respective reliance on his pitching ability – is what brings out his potential. I found numerous symbolic references in the anime relegating aspects of baseball and training to character development and though subtle, it’s refreshing to see such elements in a genre that mainly consists of manly shouting and super abilities. Even the animation style is completely against the convention. The soft, pastel color palette and muted overtones, though rough at times and hard to get used to at first, is a refreshing change of pace from the usual fare.

The biggest draw to this anime, however, lies in its completely unconventional execution. The cleanup batter, Yuichiro Tajima, though talented has too small of a structure to hit home runs, completely nixing him as the source of plot devices. The catcher Abe has a strong personality that acts as the perfect foil to Mihashi, yet he has completely human character flaws and past ghosts that lower his confidence. Even the plot structure is completely unconventional: instead of showing a series of matches leading up to a grand finale, the show focuses meticulously on the play-by-play of solely two games, with the teammates being analyzed and developed in each out, hit, and run. We go through an intensely long roller coaster of emotions, and by the end, we understand the importance of the win, and loss, of each team. I’ve yet to see an anime, sports or otherwise, that so finely details and dissects each emotion to fully capture every aspect of the game and the players within.

Ōfuri’s biggest flaw is in the ending. It’s completely abrupt and open-ended, and understandably so for a series that only covers two matches with intense detail throughout the 26-episode run. Even so, I feel a little shortchanged, especially considering the team’s goal is to ultimately win at Koshien, which is still an extremely long path for the team to take. However, despite my griping, it’s inevitable that they would be forced to cut the series early, and given the choice between focus and expediency I’d always take the former. Even without a continuation, I hope that Ōfuri has left its mark on sports anime and is a sign of things to come from such a cliché-dominated genre.

The Rating: 8

Reviewed by: royal crown

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