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Big Windup! -Oofuri-: Part 01 (a J!-ENT Anime DVD Review)

August 14, 2009 by  



“For those who enjoy sports anime, ‘Big  Windup! -Oofuri-‘ is an enjoyable anime baseball anime series.  Capturing Japan’s passion of the sport in the high school setting but also the camaraderie and teamwork for an underdog team that no one expects much from but are willing to prove other teams wrong. If you are a person who enjoys sports-related anime series,   “Big Windup!” is absolutely fun, entertaining and definitely recommended!”

 

Image courtesy of © Asa Higuchi – Kodansha – Oofuri Project.  All Rights Reserved.

DVD TITLE: Big Windup! -OOFURI- Part 1

DURATION: 13 Episodes (315 Minutes)

DVD INFORMATION: 16:9, English 5.1 Dolby Surround Sound, Japanese Stereo, Subtitles: English

COMPANY: FUNimation Entertainment

RATED: TV 14

Release Date: August 18, 2009

Originally created by Asa Higuchi

Directed by Tsutomu Mizushima

Series Composition and Script by Yousuke Kuroda

Storyboard by Koichi Taki, Michiko Yokote, Natsuo Souda and Yousuke Kuroda

Music by Shiroh Hamaguchi

Character Designs by Takahiro Yoshida

Art Director by Yukihiro Shibutani

Sound Director: Hiromi Kikuta

Director of Photography: Ei Rouhei

Anime Production by A-1 Pictures Inc.

Production by Aniplex

Featuring the following voice talent:

Tsubasa Yonaga/Sean Michael Teague as Ren Mihashi

Yuuichi Nakamura/Greg Ayres as Takaya Abe

Atsushi Kisaichi as Yoshirou Hamada

Chihiro Suzuki/Aaron Dismuke as Yuto Sakaeguchi

Jun Fukuyama/Chris Burnett as Kousuke Izumi

Ken’Ichirou Sumi/Jean-Luc Hester as Fumitaka Mizutani

Kisho Taniyama/Joel McDonald as Azusa Hanai

Makoto Yasumura/Anthony Bowling as Shouji Suyama

Masaya Matsukaze as Motoki Haruna

Risa Hayamizu/Cynthia Cranz as Maria Momoe

Ryohei Kimura/Scott Hinze as Shintarou Nishihiro

Takashi Hikida as Keisuke Umehara

Most guys can’t wait for baseball to start.  But not Mihashi.  For this kid, the crack of the bat is the sound of failure.  Every summer he gets caught in a pickle between wanting to stay on the mound and watching his pitches get blasted out of the park.  But each spring brings a fresh start, and this year, Mihashi’s at a new school with teammates that don’t know how bad he used to be.  Most importantly, he’s got Abe – a real superstar behind the plate.  If Mihashi can learn to trust his new catcher, this could be the year he falls in love with the game all over again.

In Japan, sports-based anime have been quite popular.  From  series such as the basketball anime “Slam Dunk”, soccer anime such as “Captain Tsubasa”, football anime such as “Eyeshield 21” and tennis anime “Prince of Tennis”, comes an anime baseball series that is just fun and enjoyable.

In Japan, baseball is a big part of Japanese culture.  Aside from soccer and sumo wrestling, Japanese baseball has been covered in manga and anime series such as the popular series “Touch” as well as”H2″, “Princess Nine” and “Idol Ace”, to name a few.

In 2003, Asa Higuchi began a manga series which is serialized in the monthly seinen magazine “Afternoon” since 2003.  The series has won an award such as the “Tezuka Osamu Cultural Prize” and the “Kodansha Manga Award” and eventually was made into a 26-episode anime series in 2007.  Animation was done by A-1 Pictures (A studio from the Sony’s anime production division, Aniplex) and shown on TBS and Animax Asia.  What many people don’t know is that Higuchi has researched and collected data on Japanese high school baseball for ten years before she started on the manga series.

Now “Big Windup!” (also known as “Okiku Furikabutte” aka Ofuri) will be released in the US via two DVD sets courtesy of FUNimation Entertainment.  The first set comes with the first 13 episodes of the animated television series.

The series is directed by Tsutomu Mizushima (“xxxHolic”, “Genshiken” and “Kujibiki Unbalance), written by Yousuke Kuroda (“Gungrave”, “Infinite Ryvius”, “Mobile Suit Gundam 00”, etc.), character designs by Takahiko Yoshida (who has worked on “Honey and Clover”, “Gad Guard” and “Welcome to the NHK”) and music by Shiroh Hamaguchi (“Ah! My Goddess”, “One Piece”, “Sakura Wars” and “Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children”).

The animated series initially revolves around a boy named Ren Mihashi.  Mihashi is a pitcher who has low-self esteem and lack of confidence courtesy of his former junior high school who criticized him because he was made starting pitcher of his junior high school team because his grandfather owned the school.  Because of that, he underwent some major bullying from his baseball team, to the point that everyone expects the worst out of him and expect him to lose each game.  In fact, Mihashi buys into all the negativity they give him and he blames himself for his teams losses and ruining his schoolmate’s love for the game, thus Mihashi’s self-confidence is totally shot.  So, bad that he’s always cringing in fear, always thinking that others are thinking negative of him and that he will ruin things for everyone.

Mihashi decides to go to Nishiura High School and thus staying away from his former classmates and to never play baseball.  That is until he is immediately recruited by Maria Momoe, the coach of Nishiura High School’s first baseball team.

Coach Momoe is very driven and formerly was a highly skilled softball player and coach but now she is driven to jumpstart the highschool’s baseball team.  Along with team adviser Tsuyoshi Shiga (who uses his knowledge of psychology, meditation and other subjects to help the team succeed), the two recruit Mihashi and a few other people to become a part of Nishiura High’s first baseball team.

At first glance, Nishiura High School’s baseball team doesn’t look like much of a team.  Some members are opinionated, egotistical and are not much of team players at first.  But  Coach Momoe knows what she’s doing, how to get these players to work together but most of all,  she believes in her team.

Nishiura High School’s baseball team includes:

Ren Mihashi – The pitcher of the team with low self-esteem, low-confidence and is always questioning if people are looking at him in a negative way.  He wants to be the ace pitcher but always feels negative towards himself.  Always seen crying, whining, hiding in a corner depressed but his friends/teammates know how he is and tolerate him.  Even becoming friends with him.  Although not known for his speed for fastballs, he has practiced for such a long time that his accuracy is excellent and he is able to throw various pitches.  Although he doesn’t notice his talent, his catcher Takaya Abe does.

Takaya Abe – The catcher and vice-captain of the team who is good at analyzing players and learns how talented of a pitcher Mihashi is and knows by directing him through his pitches, he can become a great pitcher. Coach Momoe puts her trust in Takaya to watch over Mihashi.  Takaya also has has a distrust towards pitchers who have not listened to him.  Abe looks at his pitch calling as strategy which he excels at but dislikes when pitchers don’t listen to him.

Yuichiro Tajima – Niishiura’s cleanup hitter and despite being a small guy, he has the ability to hit the ball wherever he wants 80% of the time, although he’s not strong enough to get home runs.  But he’s the best/accurate hitter of the team and also the third baseman and backup catcher for Takaya.

Azusa Hanai – Made the team captain because he’s not afraid to voice his opinion to Coach Momoe.  Formerly a cleanup hitter and known for hitting home runs. And at times, his cockiness gets the best of him.  He is also the right fielder and backup pitcher of the team.

Yuto Sakaeguchi – The lead off hitter and a person who becomes a good friend to Mihashi.  Also, known for having diarrhea when he’s stressed out.  Sakaeguchi is the vice captain and second baseman of the team.

Kosuke Izumi – Another player with experience and known for his running skills.  The center fielder of the team.

Shoji Suyama – The shortstop on the team who is known to help quiet the tensions or stress amongst the others in the team.

Fumiki Mizutani – Not so skilled at baseball and often will drop catches.  The left fielder of the team.

Kazutoshi Oki – The reserve left handed pitcher for the team who also plays first base.

Shintaro Nishihiro – More of the player on the bench who cheers for his team.

And characters that do not play baseball but are instrumental to the team are:

Chiyo Shino’oka – The equipment manager of the team.  She loves baseball.

Yoshiro Hamada – Also, known as “Hama-chan”.  Hamada grew up with Mihashi when they were younger.  But due to “Little League elbow”, unable to play baseball, Hamade uses his energy to become the leader and organizer of the cheering team for Nishiura High School baseball.  He is also a friend of Izumi.

The DVD set features a total of 13 episodes on two DVD’s:

DISC 1:

  • EPISODE 1 – THE REAL ACE
  • EPISODE 2 – THE CATCHER’S ROLE
  • EPISODE 3 – THE PRACTICE MATCH
  • EPISODE 4 – THE PLAY
  • EPISODE 5 – DON’T CUT CORNERS
  • EPISODE 6 – REQUIREMENTS FOR PITCHERS
  • EPISODE 7 – I WANT TO PLAY BASEBALL
  • EPISODE 8 – AN AMAZING PITCHER
  • EPISODE 9 – THE PAST

DISC 2:

  • EPISODE 10 – BIT BY BIT
  • EPISODE 11 – THE SUMMER STARTS
  • EPISODE 12 – THE CHEERING SQUAD
  • EPISODE 13 – THE SUMMER TOURNAMENT BEGINS

The first 13-episodes are broken up into 3-story arcs.  The first arc features the development of the team but most of all, how Mihashi, despite being an unpopular pitcher from his old school, they notice he has amazing talent, it was just not utilized well.  We get to learn about all characters of Nishiura High School’s baseball team.

The second arc features Coach Momoe organizing a competition between Nishiura High School and Mihashi’s former teammates from his other school.  With Mihashi’s self-confidence at an all-time low, Abe rallies his teammates to support Mihashi or else, they will have to deal with his whining and low self-esteem which can be detrimental to the entire team.

For the final arc, around episode nine, the series is less about Mihashi but now focusing on the entire team or a certain member of the team.   The Nishiura High School baseball team members become friends, helping each other with their education and trying to gel but most importantly, the group is now preparing for the Summer baseball tournament in which over a 170 high schools take part in.

We also, are introduced to Nishiura High School’s cheering team and also the viewers get to learn why Takaya Abe dislikes his former pitcher from his junior high school so much and why he’s determined to make things work well between he and Mihashi.

VIDEO & AUDIO:

“Big Windup!” is presented in 16:9 and sports a lot of painted backgrounds with its baseball field surroundings, neighborhoods but for a TV series, sports quite a bit of detail for its players and their baseball equipment.  May it be the dust on the baseball, their gloves or the catcher’s shin guards.   Each character has their own personal traits and for the most part, animators captured the wide range of emotions of each character quite well.  For the most part, there is a country like feel to “Big Windup!” but for the most part, a television series that does look quite nice!  Bare in mind, this is not a OVA or film, so for a TV series to a good amount of detail is a major plus.

The series does sport a soft kind of look.  The colors are not as eye-popping vibrant as I would have liked but actually is quite consistent with many other television animated series.

As for the audio, the English 5.1 Dolby Surround Sound is actually more livelier compared to its Japanese vocal counterpart (featured in stereo).   The soundtrack of course is more dialogue-driven, so expect to hear more use of the front and center channel speakers.

There are certain instances such as Sakaeguchi walking through the neighborhood and you can hear the sounds of a car or scooter (or motorcycle) passing by which can be heard through the surrounds, but for the most part this series is dialogue and music driven.  But for optimal sound on both soundtracks, for those with a receiver that is able to make all channels stereo, I found this setting to be the best.  And both English and Japanese vocal tracks are quite solid.

In terms of dialogue, there is quite a difference in terms of language used.  For example, Takaya Abe, when he gets into complaining mode, in the Japanese you will see the subtitles used as “asshole” but in the English dub, you hear Takaya Abe calling people “dicks”.  For the most part, the series is not vulgar, nor is there really anything violent.  It’s just certain words used in the dialogue that gives the series its TV 14 rating.

Subtitles are only in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

On the second DVD, you can find the textless opening and ending theme plus FUNimation Entertainment trailers.

“Big Windup!” is an enjoyable baseball anime series!

In a way it kind of reminds me of the classic American baseball film “The Bad News Bears” in which a team of baseball players that were no good, overcame adversity and through teamwork, became an awesome team.  In “Big Windup!”, it’s almost a similar situation which the team has its share of talented players and not-so-talented players but compared in size to the other competition, Nishiura High baseball players are much shorter nor are they physically as strong as compared to the senior baseball players of other high schools, nor do they have a top notch training facility as other high schools and last, this is the high school’s first year as a baseball team.

But the strength of the team relies on defense and pitching, with Mihashi having pinpoint accuracy when it comes to pitching, it all comes down to Takaya Abe, the catcher to direct him.  At first, Mihashi does get a bit too much (or very annoying) for the viewer as he is always afraid, whining, crying and quite literally is acting like a baby but when the team dynamics start to come to play, this becomes less noticeable and the series becomes more enjoyable.

But overall, I really enjoyed “Big Windup!” and finding myself wanting to watch even more after it ended.  This is truly a series about underdogs who have a lot to offer but must go through sacrifice and working as a team in order to become successful.  And for the most part, the series balances out the baseball aspect but also the series crazy antics and the humor of each character.  It’s basically a fun series to watch and enjoy.

“Big Windup!” doesn’t take long to get into the action and unlike “Slam Dunk” or “Prince of Tennis”, this is not an anime series that really goes into the dramatics of relationships or love triangles or anything like that.  Nor is it a series that tries to promote its characters as cool and visually appealing for female fans.  It’s pretty much an anime series of a group of young teens who want to be a very good baseball team but knowing they have to do many things in order to become successful.  And as a viewer, you end up rooting for the underdogs (which of course is Nishiura High School) and hope they can beat their opponents.

If you are a person who enjoys sports-related anime series,  “Big Windup!” is absolutely fun, entertaining and definitely recommended!  I look forward to Part 02!

 






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