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Big Windup! -Oofuri-: Part 02 (a J!-ENT Anime DVD Review)

September 19, 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. The second part of “Big Windup! -Oofuri- is even more baseball driven as the episodes revolve around the first round of a baseball tournament.  For baseball fans, “Big Windup!” is absolutely fun and entertaining.”

 

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

DVD TITLE: Big Windup! -OOFURI- Part 2

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: September 29, 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

Spring training is over, and it’s time for the real fun to start.  Mihashi’s confidence got a huge boost from beating his old school, and now he’s more determined than ever to become his team’s ace.  With Abe calling the pitches, the once shell-shocked hurler feels like he can strike out the world.  But things won’t be easy for the Nishiura nine in the big summer tournament.  They play the defending champs in the first round, and Mihashi comes down with a bad case of fastball envy when he bumps into Abe’s old pitcher.  Playing for fun is fine, but now that the games count – it’s time to win!

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.

With the first 13 episodes released in August, the second and final part of “Big Windup!” (also known as “Okiku Furikabutte” aka Ofuri) will be released in the US courtesy of FUNimation Entertainment.

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 ends up being coached by Coach Momoe for Nishiura High School’s first baseball team.  In the first part of the series, Mihashi learns that by listening to catcher Takaya Abe, he can be a successful pitcher.  Abe knows that Mihashi has true pitching talent but he needs direction which he is willing to give.  But he and his other teammates know that it is important to get Mihashi’s self-esteem up and thus, the team goes through intensive training and even going against Mihashi’s old high school to get the team’s spirits up.

For the second half of the series, Nishiura High School enters its first summer tournament.  But unfortunately for them, for the lottery, they end up picking last year’s champions, Tosei High School.

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”, he is unable to play baseball and thus uses his energy to support the team by becoming the leader of the cheering team for Nishiura High School.  He is also a friend of Izumi.

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

DISC 1:

  • EPISODE 14 – Challenge
  • EPISODE 15 – The First Run of the Game
  • EPISODE 16 – Don’t Underestimate
  • EPISODE 17 – The Third Runner
  • EPISODE 18 – Another Score
  • EPISODE 19 – Tosei’s Real Power
  • EPISODE 20 – Turning the Tables

DISC 2:

  • EPISODE 21 – One More Run
  • EPISODE 22 – Defense!
  • EPISODE 23 – Precisely
  • EPISODE 24 – The End of the Game
  • EPISODE 25 – After One Win
  • EPISODE 26 – The Basics of Basics

Where the last volume of “Big Windup! -Oofuri-” focused on Mihashi and the team development and dynamics, the second volume and the final half of the series focuses on the first round of the summer tournament between Nishiura High and Tosei High.

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.  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.  The English dub does use certain words that some may consider profanity but for the most part, the series is not vulgar, nor is there really anything violent.   It’s just certain words used in the English 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.

I will say that the first part of “Big Windup! -Oofuri-” is more viewer-friendly for those not familiar with baseball.  This second part is now more baseball-driven as the majority of the episodes revolve around the whole nine innings between Nishiura High School and Tosei High School and the strategies involved by the two opposing coaches, making their calls and the players adapting.

Most sports series do not focus on this many episodes on one matchup but “Big Windup! -Oofuri” does.  As a baseball fan, I enjoyed it.  And as a fan of Japanese baseball, I enjoyed it even more, especially how it captures the cheering squad as you hear the theme songs of Pink Lady’s “Southpaw” and other themes being played by the trumpet player and drummer. Personally, I enjoyed the strategy that was featured in this anime series, I don’t think I have seen any sport anime series show the realistic nature in such detail as this anime series.  Needless to say that Asa Higuchi’s research paid off.

But I have to admit, with so many episodes dedicated to the matchup, I was starting to lose my patience because I knew there were only 26 episodes in this series and I was hoping to see more episodes that were not related to the tournament.

But suffice to say, for those who are casual sports fans or a non-sports fan, this second part may not be your cup of tea.  In fact, only the last two episodes are not involved with the first round tournament.  Episode 25 going into the day after and episode 26 focusing on players of Musashino Dai (Ichi High School).  Which was surprising because there was no real conclusion to the series and made me wonder if there were plans like other sports-related anime in having this series going longer than 26-episodes.

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 especially baseball,  “Big Windup!” is absolutely fun and entertaining.

 

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