Can you count a full handful of sports anime featuring an all-female cast? Can you even name three? I could, maybe, if I stretched the category to include table top games like mahjong or survival games like air soft or paintball, but the atmospheres are wholly different from sports anime with all-male teams like Daiya no Ace, Kuroko no Basket, or Cross Game. This unbalance is a shame, because from my own experience and those of my friends and role models, female athletes are every bit as tenacious and competitive as guys, and sometimes even more so.
Taishou Yakyuu Musume. tackles the topic of sports and all its expectations using baseball as the setting. Combined with the time period, the show addresses sex and age discrimination all while featuring familiar tropes of sports, romance, and high school life. Set in 1925, main character, Koume, and her best friend, Akiko, aim to start Touhou Seika Female Academy’s, and likely the nation’s, first female baseball team.
The sport is not only newly introduced to Japan, but its existing teams all consist of boys. Despite the growing western influence, Koume’s society still expects women to fill a supportive role. They can be involved in sports like track where they only compete against fellow females, but should not pick up activities like baseball that supposedly require a stronger male physique. They can attain education up to the high school level, but are expected to forgo college in favor of marriage. The disparity sounds stifling, but my description is actually misleading from the show’s initial atmosphere.
At the start, the anime looks to simply be a period piece revolving around cute high school girls whose biggest dilemmas are convincing parents to accept the newly popular sailor uniforms instead of kimono. This is actually a great way to softly introduce the obstacles our characters will face in the future. The insistence on kimono clings to notions of tradition, culture, and modesty. As much as I support the preservation of the world’s cultures and traditions, in no way do I mean for society to stay fixated in the past. Koume’s father represents that struggle of balance with his opposition to change, as do Akiko’s parents and fiance with their expectations for her future. The possibilities are frighteningly foreign. Akiko’s determination starts as a personal vendetta to form her baseball team and beat her fiance in his own sport, and grows into a gathering of many goals by her teammates: to hit a home run, to support and grow closer to their friends, and to find a place to call theirs.
The show goes another step further in the girls’ journey to not only confront the discrimination they face, but to also highlight their own unintended hypocrisy. In the process of growing stronger, they realize that the best way to prepare for the real thing is to go through practice games. Unfortunately, no one wants to run the risk of losing or encouraging them, and they get no takers to their multiple invitations. But when one of the girls brings the team a group of grade school boys, most of them are quick to scoff at the age gap. They treat the kids exactly how they do not want to be treated. When forced to face that reality, they accept the match-up and in return learn much more effectively than they had before.
It’s an honest encounter like this that I love so much about sports anime. There are plenty of other typical scenarios like this in Taishou Yakyuu Musume., but the anime condenses them down to a more edible length. Training segments don’t take multi-episode arcs, and mock games aren’t stretched with each inning. We aren’t made to sit through multiple seasons for a resolution to the story. Another sports staple included in this show is the initial failure; our girls play a game against the older boys early on and are handily crushed, both physically and mentally. While spirits run low and members leave, it isn’t long before their determination strengthens and they set their bar much higher with experience as their seasoning.
There are also sprinklings of romance throughout the show, but it never eclipses the main goal. The affection, confusion, and frustration experienced add to the depths of their characters. The more overt signs of care are demonstrated by the girls: Akiko and Koume, Koume and Tomoe, and Tomoe and Kyouko. The levels range from friendship to a surprising amount of passion. Then there are the more hidden emotions lying underneath the engagement of Akiko and Sousuke, and the almost familial interactions between Koume and Saburou. In Akiko’s case, a deep divide in their outlooks on gender roles prevents them from facing each other as equals. For Koume, the relationship of give and take is so natural that the two suffer more from miscommunication than anything else.
I didn’t expect much out of this series in the beginning, but was quickly won over by its simultaneously strong and gentle approach. With baseball as the canvas, our characters, female and male, confront the expectations of their society and hold them up against their own desires and dreams. Even though this story takes place in a fictional past, the lessons they all learn are still applicable today: perseverance, self worth, accountability and more.
Rating: 2 dango
- 0 dango – average and forgettable.
- 1 dango – very good in its category.
- 2 dango – excellent show that is worth a try.
- 3 dango – exceptional show one must watch.