Here is a story about a boy who kind of finds his place in the world through his baseball teammates. This is a tale about an underdog team learning to work with one another to create an unstoppable force in the high school leagues. I can not stress enough what I liked most about this anime is the amount of effort put into creating such a supportive atmosphere in every episode (for season one at least). Our main character; Mihashi, transfers from a big league Junior High School to a unknown school his mother went to because he felt useless to his old team; in Mihashi’s defense, his old Mihoshi teammates were bullies and they’d probably make anyone doubt themselves after three years. As we go through the first season we see Mihashi’s new teammates make an active effort to help him gain some type of confidence and win their games. This was a really good start for A-1’s first production release.
Growing as a Team: Character Development and Voice Acting
In this season it’s the first year the team is together; Momoe; their coach, rents a field and cottage type place to work on the boys teamwork. She pulls Abe; the catcher, and Mihashi aside to the field to work on their teamwork in a different way; in this show they make it a point that the relationship between the catcher and pitcher is very important. If it’s ever off then the team starts to become offset and then starts a chain reaction of losses. After the 2 on 1 session with the coach we see Mihashi become attached and subservient to Abe; Abe, although reluctant at first and thanks to Momoe; makes Mihashi’s confidence boost a priority. The big push for the teams development as a whole came from playing against Mihahi’s old school… In episode three we see a glimpse of how he was treated by his previous teammates; the guy who corners Mihashi is his old catcher. The guy really does hate Mihashi’s guts; he threatens to break Mihashi’s arm and thankfully Abe shows up to detour this violence.
I think a big reason why Nishiura becomes such a good team is because of this moment between Abe and Mihashi. Both had their own baggage from previous teams and neither understood each other. What this team needed was a core drive, and with it being to help Mihashi with his confidence; it helped develop each member individually and together just by showing how they interacted; how each boy was going to put his best foot forward to help a disheartened teammate. The warmth the boys showed Mihashi on the field when he was up to pitch was really nice to see; as the story progresses towards the end, you get to see how those small gestures helped Mihashi become a little more confident in himself. What I loved the most about this underdog team is that the warmth didn’t just stop at Mihashi, they all gave it to each other as well.
As for the voice acting goes; I prefer the dubbed over subbed. When I watched Big Windup! in Japanese it made me hate Mihashi more than feel sorry for him; the voice actor was way too whiny for my taste. The english voice acting for the others boys was spot on; I got a sense of their age and maturity better. It may have helped that Funimation reworked this anime in 2011, which means you’d get to hear some well established regulars voice acting.
Music that does it’s Job: Music, Opening, and Ending.
I didn’t have a problem with the music in this show; the soundtrack does it’s job well. The songs helped convey the mood and helped make the baseball games feel real. For me personally there was nothing special about the openings or the endings; I didn’t like that scenes from the show were used in the openings and the endings didn’t pump me up for the next episode. Heck, the music during each episode grabbed my attention more than Dramatic by BaseBall Bear and Medaka no Mita Niji by Takada Kozue. Again the music did its job; the opening and ending songs felt like they filled a space, a good enough space. I apologize to those who loved the songs.
3 Strikes You’re Out!: Directing
A-1 does such an amazing job (most of the time) directing action shots; it’s impressive to see from the very beginning they knew how to move a camera. When it came time for the baseball games, I felt like I was watching a real one. It would be easy to span out a long shot of the baseball flying towards a player, them catching it, and then it being thrown to the next person. No, the director didn’t allow such cheap shots to be taken; Tsutomu Mizushima liked to have the camera move with the ball and the background expressing the remaining movement.
The technique for the ball was also used for the players. Once someone hit the ball or especially when the runners were on the bases; you could feel the intensity of the situation. A lot of the times when we saw the runners, they were going between bases; either because the pitcher was about to attempt for an out or someone on their team made an amazing hit and the bases were free game. The amount of action in those scenes took a lot of framework, more than I think they could manage at the time. I still think though; with this minor set back the director was able to convey the action and suspense of real baseball games pretty darn well.
Beauty in the Basics: Animation and Artstyle
I’m not going to lie to you; I really hated Mihashi’s character; the design itself wasn’t bad but the bird like facial expressions were a turn off for me. The artstyle in general definitely took some getting used to because I’ve been watching anime 10 years after this was made. Mihashi aside, I enjoyed the character designs. I felt like A-1 took basic character designing to a new level. I could tell the players apart; a lot of the hairstyles repeated but that was made up for in facial features. Big Windup also felt kind of classic to me; the animators stuck with brush strokes for the backgrounds and subtle but bold outlines for the characters. As you can tell I like to take screenshots of the anime/show/movie I’m reviewing; when I went back to review which shots I wanted to use for this review I found something a bit troubling… I could see the the movement lines.
Of course the viewer doesn’t see this but I still find it sloppy. I’m not sure if this was the product of poor technology, the year it was, or if budgeting prevented a clean transition from frame to frame; whatever the issues is here I have to knock a few points off. Some of the examples I had to show for amazing camera work were compromised due to the poor quality; not from the pixelation but the frame rate was God awful sometimes. I know that a lot of animations’ charm is being able to seamlessly string “moving” images together and I’m not saying this anime had bad frame rates in every shot; this was mainly a problem I noticed in the action scenes. Even though I stand by my words from before; “the camera work was amazing”, I feel the need to share this. Moving forward in my journey with A-1 pictures, hopefully I’ll get to see the improvements they’ve made on a small and large scale.
Big Windup was a fun sports anime, it made me laugh quite a bit; definitely a nice change of pace from AnoHana. The animation and directing during the baseball games was absolutely stunning and I’d watch season two just to see the Nishiura boys play again; however I won’t rate it any higher because I was deeply annoyed by Mihashi. Dear Lord did he cry about everything and I personally don’t sympathize with perpetual cryers, although I did empathize with his inner turmoils and was happy that his teammates were there to curve his insecurities. With everything in mind my score for this anime is a solid 7.