Princess Nine – episodes 22 to 26

May 26, 2004 on 12:10 pm | In Princess Nine | Comments Off on Princess Nine – episodes 22 to 26

I haven’t cried that much since the end of Fruits Basket. That’s really all I want to say, but I don’t think I can get away with it.

The unimportant stuff first. Yuki episode: I can’t believe her parents were such bastards. Through these few episodes, Izumi wavered in her attitude until she closed the book and became strong again. Damn, she took everyone for a ride during that series. It was so good to just see her acting plain nice for once, without the facade.

Then the first match in the preliminaries finally comes, and the girls play against one of the dirtiest schools in organised baseball. Their tricks, and the way that the girls retaliate, were marvellous, although at times it was a little underanimated. Sometimes if they just say “Wow! That was a marvellous trick!” without actually showing it, one feels a little cheated. At least that makes sense to someone who knows baseball well, unlike episode four, wherein the “Somehow we managed to get out of that sticky situation” tactic is used. Generally, the shock moves coming out of clouds of dust worked.
With only three episodes left, the rest of the season is played out in montages; however, it works and doesn’t feel as rushed as it might have done. Director Mochizuki proved himself to be more than competent after all. Unfortunately, for having come this far, Ryo has forgotten her love of the game. ‘I want to pitch until my mind goes blank’, she says. This sort of dispassionate action is just plain sad.

Then romance comes up again and works exactly like it always does in anime; misunderstanding and unspoken oaths. Fortunately the whole series hadn’t been made up of that so it had some impact, and closure was given for one character.

The final game is not actually Koshien, as might have been expected, but it’s something just as good. It’s not a sad last lot of episodes; the tears are of exhilaration, joy, relief and love for the journey that has been left behind.
Princess Nine was a rare beauty that enthralled all throughout; its sense of properness could instil a love of baseball in even the coldest of hearts.

Princess Nine – episodes 17 to 21

May 20, 2004 on 8:52 pm | In Princess Nine | Comments Off on Princess Nine – episodes 17 to 21

The potential cliffhanger of episode 16 was realised in episode 17, with all the hardhitting emotion that one could hope for. Izumi through this reveals herself to be the self-denying girl that we all knew she was, but later on her mother helped her to realise that she should be more open and perhaps less arrogant. The romantic advances that she makes aren’t subtle at all and the responses that she gets are adamantly in the negative; in fact, the advice that she gets makes little sense and her hatred seems only to be fuelled by it. The internal dilemmas of Izumi make her one of the more interesting characters. Then, as it turns out, one of the most despicable.
Even the dreams were handled well: metaphorically and whatnot, also containing the series’ only panty shot so far, simply because it was unavoidable. Ryo probably didn’t come to her conclusion in her sleep, but it was a nice way of showing it.

In fact, this set of four was all about honesty, or about revelation of true feelings. Then there was the fifth episode, in which Ryo decides just to blatantly lie so as not to hurt … who, exactly? The only one who can benefit from such an action is the only one who deserves not to.
All of the other characters are becoming better and more open, particularly Yoko – everyone comes to understand what is most important to them.

The romance episode arrives at last. Ryo realises that her feelings are actually there, Hikaru gets to feel feelings of her own (which means that the nerdy best friend character won’t miss out!). The problem, then, with this romance is how it affects Izumi. Up until then she had just been rude and blunt, while being unable to voice her feelings in a tactful manner. Now she has become cruel, manipulative, petty and vindictive. Ryo needs to grow a backbone when it comes to Izumi. She shouldn’t allow herself to be steamrolled!
Romance took a while to arrive, but it came in a truly acidic form.
Also, Kido, the notoriously drunk coach who isn’t happy unless he comes to work with a hangover, tries to give up alcohol for love (without being asked). The feeling is palpable.

However, it’s at around this camp point that you realise there are only five episodes left and they haven’t actually played an official game yet. It’s possible that the season will be played as a whirlwind montage, contrary to the generally detailed episodes that have been seen so far. It seems more likely that the team will fall short of Koshien; which, while it was a nice dream, even Chairman Himuro only expected the team to get there within three years. I can’t really imagine a series like Princess Nine disappointing at the last, so what conclusion there will be is something to really anticipate.

Princess Nine – episodes one to sixteen

May 13, 2004 on 7:01 pm | In Princess Nine | Comments Off on Princess Nine – episodes one to sixteen

Given my fondness for over dramatics, sepia, fiery passion and skilled use of genre hallmarks, and coupling that with my complete ignorance of the workings of baseball, it’s no surprise that I like Princess Nine, the baseball anime about the chairwoman who dared to dream!

Kisaragi Girls High School Chairwoman Himuro Keiko wants to start a baseball team at the girls high school that she chairs, but she needs a team to prove that girls can compete in a male dominated sport. Her star choice is Hayakawa Ryo, daughter of one of the greatest high school baseball players in Japanese history (who is of course now deceased). Ryo is reluctant to accept a scholarship, as she wanted to be able to help her mother run the family Oden bar.
Upon learning that her father went to Koshien, the stadium of the Japanese high school major league, and with the insistence of her mother, she is persuaded to take on the role as pitcher for the team and receive a high school education.

It’s clear from the beginning that Ryo is going to accept her destiny as Japan’s number one pitcher and that there will be many tears along the way, but that’s good. It’s the set up for a classical sports anime saga, and baseball is one of the most romantic of Japanese sports. Princess Nine is given exactly the right treatment, and shows all the right types and scenarios. The thing about sports anime is that it’s the journey that is important. That’s not to say that they never have surprising endings; look at Tomorrow’s Joe, that classic of boxing anime. That manga’s ending was so surprising that it was postponed so that another season of the anime could be made.
Heck, even Pokémon had Ash lose the Pokémon League.
In fact, because of the almost foregone ending, the genre has to come up with spectacular complications along the way. It’s the great adversity that has to be overcome; inspiration is what it’s all about.
And, of course, Princess Nine has been shown to have quite enough of this.

Princess Nine is also highly addictive anime. I started writing this article at episode one, for instance, and now I’m up to episode fifteen (now sixteen!) … it’s very easy to get lost in the series, even if you don’t know quite how baseball works; sports anime has an ability to rise up above the mere sports that they represent, infusing them with humanity and drama. It’s enough to make the most sedentary of viewers want to run out and hit a ball, before they realise that the reason they don’t like sports is because they’re not very good at them.
This series has much going for it: two potential love triangles, although the drama doesn’t focus on romance, bitter rivalries that are tempered by respect, evil authority figures, ganguro girls who are afraid of catching the ball when it’s hit to them …
All of the characters have something going for them, and they all fit as a “type” without being too obtrusive about it.

It’s another series where the actors in each language approach the characters differently, so it’s naturally divisive. Nagasawa Miki is passionate and kind as Ryo, Kingetsu Mami is cold and almost cruel as Izumi, and Koyasu Takehito is his usual golden smooth self as Takasugi. A stand out among the nine girls is Yajima Akiko as Hotta Koharu, who is very strong and against her standard type of meek or pacifist characters. Because the nine come from all throughout Japan there are regional accents all around, and Nagasawa Naomi boasts the weirdest Kansai accent I’ve ever heard, but she grows on you.

The animation in the early episodes is odd. Sometimes characters’ mouths keep on going after they’ve stopped talking. Sometimes the perspective seems a little off. On at least two occasions, the animators forgot to colour Ryo’s pupils. After about two or three episodes, no one looks weird anymore. The series is hypnotic, and the flashback sequences are particularly well handled. In one the characters have lines over their movements, as if they’re part of a photo. The sepia; oh, the sepia.
The score is performed by the Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra, which means that the music can be as dramatic as it damn well pleases. It’s marvellous, generally.

Admittedly for the first ten episodes the baseball team isn’t even complete; the “real” games are different to the rest of the program, as it’s no longer about building, it’s about surviving. And everyone wants to tear the team apart … but there’s never any lag. The editing is brilliant; director Mochizuki knows precisely when to stop for maximum suspense. The anime is altogether highly compelling.

Princess Nine doesn’t lack originality; its devotion to the genre, to the sport and to the characters is a delicious stew, a metaphor embraced within the series itself. It’s certainly not the prettiest of anime at times, but it doesn’t matter! Sports anime represents a triumph of the will, which is why it’s great to watch regardless of one’s knowledge of the sport.

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