Since I’ve been
frustrated waiting for Daiya no A‘s Sawamura Eijun to get the ace number, I thought I should just watch another baseball series to sate my hunger for a protagonist who actually bears one. So, I started this series entitled Ookiku Furikabutte.
Ookiku Furikabutte (Big Windup!), also known as Oofuri, is a series written by Higuchi Asa. The manga has been published by Kodansha and serialized in the seinen magazine called Monthly Afternoon since 2003. Currently, it has 27 volumes and has been on hiatus since October 2016. It is said that she will be back this coming July. The long break is because the mangaka took a maternity leave for the birth of her 2nd baby. (Congratulations to her for their second baby!) Anyway, the first season of the anime aired during Spring 2007.
Mihashi Ren is the quirky ace pitcher of Nishiura high school’s newly formed baseball team. He, however, has hit rock-bottom in terms of confidence and self-belief, thanks to a traumatic three years in his middle school – Mihoshi academy – and switched to Nishiura just to get away from it all. The team’s catcher, Abe Takaya, thinks otherwise and believes that Mihashi has the control and skill required, and with his lead, could take them all the way to Koshien.
Guided by an enterprising coach and an innovative mentor, the team slowly gel as a unit and train hard to make a mark in the upcoming summer tournament. (Source: AniDB)
Oofuri is similar with some anime series in a sense that the baseball club is just recently formed and, like in other sports anime, they are also aiming to play in the Nationals. The charm of this anime lies on the way their journey to that goal is shown as well as on the characters and their relationship between and among one another.
First, the story. In a span of 25 episodes, there are only two games covered to which only one is an official game. Most of these episodes are for these two said games while the others are about the preparations done and the post-games happenings. I thought it was nice to show how Nishiura, a newly established team comprised of first years, prepared both physically and mentally. As we can see on other sports anime shows, there are rigorous training camps they attend to prepare. They did go to a training camp, but they also showed how they conditioned themselves mentally and emotionally to be ready for the upcoming games. At first, I was kinda baffled by the episode where their advisor was talking about hormones, but I realized that it was a good addition for the narrative.
Moreover, when they are on a game, there’s a detailed analysis of the situation coming from both the teams’ coaches and players themselves which leads to the different kind of plays they pull off. The strategies they formulate during games makes the viewer anticipate what will happen as they execute it. There are no flashy plays here. Everything is as much grounded to reality as any tree out there. Even the most talented players of the teams make mistake. Even so, it’s interesting because it still keeps one on their toes. Anyway, we don’t necessarily need super plays just to make a sports anime catchy. Even us in the reality are kept into toes by real plays (like some games in NBA or Olympics). Thinking about it, all this may be because it’s a seinen series, which means the target is adolescent men.
Moving on, another noteworthy thing is the characters and their relationships. With the main characters’ team, Nishiura, having only 10 members, it’s easy to remember them all. The character design for each one of them is different enough to distinguish one from another, though it’s quite challenging when they wear their caps. Anyhow, there are only two other teams shown, plus some notable characters which may be seen again on the next season (Natsu no Taika-hen). There are actually no antagonist in the series. Just plain rivals of the main team.
The main protagonist is Mihashi Ren. This cutie is a pitcher with low self-esteem. I like the contrast of him being low in self-esteem yet possesses a great desire to continue pitching to the point that he doesn’t want to give up the mound. The whole series shows how he copes up with the new team and plays with them. Some may find it irritating how he constantly cries out because of small things. I know because at the beginning, I was kind of irritated by it. Eventually, I just learned to laugh it off and to enjoy his awkwardness. I even found him adorable. To me, it’s important how his social anxiety is tackled here. It’s such a slow change, however, that many may not like it. But there’s still more on the second season so I’m hanging on that!
His battery mate is Abe Takaya. He is a bit quick-tempered but he is able to manage it fairly well. I like the way he’s thinking and analysing things even outside baseball, particularly whenever he’s dealing with a teary-eyed Mihashi, so his actions are not just out of emotions most of the time. As a catcher, he has leadership qualities which is acknowledged by his teammates. He also has a good relationship with them, which is vital for leading them. Though he has this difficulty handling Mihashi, he’s still facing him properly and is making an effort to close the gap.
If one has an eye for BL, they may love these two. And probably the rest of the guys, too. There is just much closeness built up between and among each one of them that there’s some, um, skinship that fujoshi may enjoy.
Anyway, Tajima Yuuichiro is one of my favorite characters here. He is undoubtedly the most talented out of them all, the one with the best baseball sense. He is a good friend and support to the others, too. He is the mood-maker of the team. Loud and cheerful, he’s also able to cleverly solve problems in daily life situations, such as Mihashi’s tendency to be paranoid about getting the ace number stripped off of him. He’s a comedic character, too, what with his being a pervert. And he’s so vocal about his desires it’s up to his friends to shut him up. (Really. That one scene from the start of episode 2 startled me.)
These are some of the other notable characters to me: Izumi (far left) who’s quite a consistent batter and a good runner. His teasing Hamada, the cheer leader, is amusing. Hanai (tallest guy), their reliable captain who is able to control his emotions; and Sakaeguchi (far right) who is one of the first people Mihashi warmed up to.
There’s also their coach Momoe. She’s a young woman who must not be underestimated because of her sex and age. She makes clever decisions on games and knows how to motivate the players. She’s passionate about the sport and willingly works part-time jobs to earn money for the club.
I also feel the need to mention the mothers of the Nishiura players. They are a wonderful addition. Even without real character development and they were only there to cheer for their children, it feels refreshing to watch the interactions of these supportive mothers. It’s different from that feeling of seeing Eijun’s parents and grandpa (Daiya no A) watch their matches, since they really had little screen time.
Or of seeing Akiteru and Saeko (Haikyuu!!) come watch and cheer for their siblings, though it’s really undeniably adorable for these older siblings to do. Natsu, Hinata’s younger sister, has some screen time, too, which shows the siblings cute relationship,
Or of Onoda’s mother (YowaPeda) accidentally coming to watch and cheer for her son during their race.
The mothers here have more interaction and has more participation in the children’s lives. They remind me that this isn’t just a sports anime. It has slice of life elements, too. I think they were able to balance it out well.
Oofuri is animated by A-1 Pictures (Gin no Saji, Magi; The Labyrinth/Kingdom of Magic, Sword Art Online). This anime is from 2007 and I guess watching this and knowing that it’s the one responsible for the titles above that I mentioned proves that they improved. The shot that I especially liked and probably won’t forget is that long shot of when Hanai threw the ball back to home plate and the scene is the view of the ball itself. Anyway, it’s not that bad, but it’s not all that impressive, either. (But it looks like there’s much more effort done here to animate than if I compare it to Baby Steps‘.)
And I’d like to mention that there’s a lot of my beloved seiyuu here: Nakamura Yuuichi, Fukuyama Jun, Shimono Hiro, and Suzuki Chihiro. Hino Satoshi and Kimura Ryohei have small roles, too!
With regards to sound and music, I thought the background music are able to enhance the scenes well. It served its purpose of creating the mood. There are two OPs and two EDs and both failed to hook me to it so I ended up skipping them almost all the time. The lyrics speak of Nishiura and their story, however.
I enjoyed watching this and I’m looking forward to seeing more of Mihashi and the Nishiura boys. I hope to see more of Rio, too! He’s one of their rivals who’s voiced by Miyano Mamoru. All those game analysis and strategies made me want to rest for a bit, though. Anyway, it was all worth it so I hope more will try watching this.