The World Series, Baseball, and Anime

As the World Series arrives, so does anime’s wacky takes on baseball.

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As October looks to finish its final stretch into Halloween, the long and arduous Major League Baseball season is winding down yet again with the crown jewel of the sport: the chance to win the pennant and the World Series! So why in the world is AniB writing about sports on an animation blog? Well, for one, I truly love sports and while the focus of my writing might not be on it primarily, I still avidly root for my teams and follow a great deal of happenings in several leagues. The other reason makes much more sense, that being that several memorable baseball episodes have occurred in some of the anime I’ve watched, and as a result, it might just be quite amusing to see Japan’s take on a sport they really have made their own, despite its Western origins. (Their Little League team won the world championship in Williamsport, PA back in August, and it overall has become an incredibly popular sport there, even producing some MLB stars.) At any rate, we’ll take a look at 3 particularly fun iterations of the game in animation, which we can all partake in, regardless of your feelings (or lack thereof) towards the Astros and Dodgers at the time of this writing. Play ball!

Edo-Period Ballgame? America’s Pastime in Samurai Champloo

Among the many funkier, modern element interwoven into Samurai Champloo, one of the more infamous episodes happens to be this baseball game, in which an American team, comprised of a hilariously overwrought Commodore William Perry and his men, challenge Mugen, Jin and Fu to a exhibition match, presumably to flex off American imperial might and industrial superiority. What ensues is a bizarrely fierce game with the Americans resorting to a number of underhanded tactics against the superior speed and agility of the Champloo crew’s team, and overall, a memorable episode where (brutal) hilarity ensued.

 

 

Challenge Accepted! Assassination Classroom’s Class 3-E against the school’s team

A major theme in Assassination Classroom, which I wrote about here, was the growth of the class collectively in overcoming challenges both individually and as a group, whatever the odds stacked against them- and in this case, the full deck of cards was against them. In a spite-filled exercise, the school’s principal had mandated a game in which the “inferior” 3-E was to have an “exhibition” against the actual baseball team of Kunugigaoka Junior High, and so, behind a highly unorthodox plan of teamwork, their one legit baseball player (who was made a pariah but had skill), and some of that Class 3-E moxie and magic, they have an outing to remember.

(I should note, this is the whole episode, but it’s really very good.)

 

A Battle Between Gods! Dragon Ball Super, episode 70

Our final game is decidedly more absurd than either the supposed largese of the fictional American team in the Edo period, or the improvised tactics of Class 3-E in Assassination Classroom- it’s baseball, Dragon Ball style. That should tell you all you need to know really, but this game is literally issued by a god, and played by Goku and company in an explosive match that predictably, and hilariously, appears to constantly teeter on the brink of disaster despite being billed as a “good will game” between our heros’ Universe 7 and the rivaling Universe 6 (yes, there’s a multiverse in Dragon Ball now, for anyone out of the loop), a fact easily lost between Gods of Destruction, overeager Saiyans, and competitive tensions that run far too high. However, it is the much maligned Yamcha of DBZ misfortune (and Dragon Ball fame) that literally steals the show as the only true baseball player in the motley crew: “taking one for the team” might not be better personified than the beating the poor man takes for victory.

(There’s some slightly better quality clips, but this is the whole game.)

 

As you can clearly see, there’s been quite a few odd, hilarious and offbeat rendition of baseball in anime. Just be thankful it’s not Goku and company playing the World Series, though- or we might be looking at a lot more damage than the runs on the scoreboard. Here’s to an always entertaining World Series, and a few clips that hopefully brought a smile or two.


Like what you see? Are you a big baseball fan? Leave a comment !

 

 

 

 

Review: Assassination Classroom

A quirky, unique anime with a original premise hides a lot more depth than you’d expect.

The Lowdown:

Show: Assassination Classroom

Studio(NA Distrubutor)/Years aired: Lerche (Funimation)/ 2015-2016

AniB’s thoughts: This show’s title is ultimately misleading, but not inaccurate. The basic premise of the show- where a class of misfits at an elite junior high school in Japan are tasked with attempting to kill their new teacher- a strange octopus-like creature named Koro-sensei- sounds janky at first and perhaps even heavy handed, and I won’t lie, I was somewhat skeptical of how the entire production would turn out. As it is, this is a time I’m very glad to have been wrong, because this is a great show overall.

Derived from Shonen Jump, the famed manga publication, as so many other noted anime are, the show does have some of the usual things you might expect- some nods and brief fanservice, and references to other Jump franchises, from Naruto to Fist of the North Star. However, this show is very savvy about this sort of anime-specific craziness, and has a wonderful way of weaving these potential cliche tropes into its narrative, usually to comedic effect, but sometimes, also into a serious moment or plot line, and as result, it doesn’t waste time.

Split into two seasons spanning 47 episodes, Assassination Classroom flows thanks to a lack of filler, interesting, dynamic characters who by the nature of the show’s premise, literally develop as both people and students over the course of the show’s run, while learning quite a bit about themselves…and forging relationships and memories to last a lifetime.

If you can get past the unconventional premise (which the show does a great job of), you’re in for a real treat. Perhaps in a weird way the show resonated strongly with me considering my own circumstances in school (and recent graduation from college), but regardless of that, it’s a blind pick that turned out great.

 


Animation quality: Modern 2-D anime. It’s really very good looking, and the animation enhances the sort of whimsical, yet dramatic storytelling the show seeks to do. Character modes are on point and varied, to say the least, and mostly, the style is used to good effect.  4.75 points.

 

Characterization: The shows focuses on the titular “Assassination Classroom”- formally known as Class 3-E, a group of junior high students outed as misfits, underachievers, oddballs, and potential “late bloomers.” As it is, they need the inspiration of a great teacher to bring out their true potential, and so the mysterious yellow octopus-like creature whom they dub “Koro-sensei” is it. While he is blamed for destroying 70% of Earth’s moon, he also serves another purpose, hence the name of the show: the kids have one year to take him out, or the Earth will be destroyed. Koro-sensei has many fantastic abilities, including regeneration and speed up to Mach-20, but his greatest is that he’s a fantastic teacher- and cares about every one of his students…which seems greatly at odds with his initial reputation.

Nagisa Shiota serves as the show’s main character and protagonist. Slim built and noted for his long blue hair that collectively gives an androgynous vibe, he serves as the show’s narrator in most episodes while trying to discover his own path. Initially billed as weak, Nagisa shows frightening promise and aptitude as an assassin despite his unassuming size and strength, but does that mean the career of an actual hitman is in his future?… He’s noted for his kind disposition and willingness to lend a helping hand to his fellow classmates and anyone else who needs it, but possesses unsettling blood-lust in high pressure situations.

Karma Akabane is the top student in Class 3-E after his transferal from suspension there in the 1st term. Noted for his vivid red hair, seemingly slacker attitude and sharp tongue, Karma possesses genius intellect and hand to hand combat skills, only matched by his latent sadistic side (which is usually more impish on most days). He initially is blood-lusted to “kill his new teacher”  (he had a previous grudge against the one who got him punted down to E-class), but like the other students, Koro-sensei finds a way to win him over.

Kaede Kayano is the other “main character” student, though uniquely between her, Nagisa, and Karma, she plays much more of background/supporting role through most of the series. While her major involvement in the plot is largely unveiled in the second and final season, it would be a massive spoiler to mention it here…pegged as a kind, cheerful, and even somewhat ditzy person, Kayano is the epitome of “don’t judge appearances.”

While there are 28 students in Class 3-E and all of them receive some time in the spotlight, a few play bigger roles than others, and so it would be difficult to talk about every last one of them. I’ll say collectively they are as charming a classroom you’ll ever find in this genre, and for the most part, there’s an organic growth to their relationships as a group and in terms of character development that spans a collective range of emotions unusual to the genre and the sorts of tropes you might expect from a show like Assassination Classroom.

Additionally, other major side characters exist in the show outside of 3-E’s crew, from the rest of the academy they attend, to actual professional assassins, and Defense Corps. people. While each and every one of these characters could have something written about them, in this case, it’s best to discover it for yourself along with the class in the show…and for anyone who’s seen Assassination Classroom, this approach makes plenty of sense. I will commend the show’s ability to juggle a large complex cast rather skillfully as well- all while staying below 50 episodes, which is all very impressive. 4.5/5 points.

 

Story quality: An overarching plot structure with plenty of specific episodic bits sprinkled in, especially in season 1, but no filler. Given the unconventionally simply premise of the show, Assassination Classroom possesses a great deal more depth than initially meets the eye; while its humor might be slightly more geared in mind with seasoned anime fans (which is to say, it’s still decent for anyone), its drama hits all the right points at key moments and the story flow is excellent. 4.25/5 points.

 

Themes:  Incredibly enough, this show’s about growing up, seeking out one’s own potential and the capacity to learn in the school called “life.” It’s a quirky twist that in a show that features the idea of assassination in its name and core premise, it’s much more about the value of life and what you take from it, the relationships you make, and the lessons you learn from the trials one endures. 4.25/5 points.

 

Don’t insult the viewer: Surprisingly tricky to nail down the exact grade here. They do the occasionally cringeworthy thing…and then somehow parlay back into the main narrative seamlessly rather than as a one-off gag, and I’m not sure I’ve seen that before. It’s got a pretty solid dub as well…I’m not too high on the openings, but they still have a weird quirky charm if you watch them enough. 4.75/5 points.

 

Total Score: 22.5/25 (90%). A surprisingly great show with a unique premise, a fresh take on the tired high school tropes in anime, and a dynamic cast of characters, Assassination Classroom succeeds in hitting both humor and serious drama while being savvy to tropes and references. A must watch.


Like what you see? Have you seen this show before? Leave a comment!

The Return of the Critic: AniB’s End of Semester Blowout!

Hey everyone,

It’s been a while since I’ve regularly posted, and while I’ve slipped in a few articles here and there (see the Easter special, or the revised top 10 list), I haven’t had a new review or “thought piece” for a while. So, with my final semester of undergraduate work finishing up, I have a big week of reviews and material I’m looking forward to sharing with everyone! Here’s the schedule:

5/21: Review: Samurai Jack (the final season will end the night before!)

5/23: Review: Assassination Classroom (Ansatsu Kyoushitsu)

5/25: Random Episode Ramblings #1: “Not What He Seems” (Gravity Falls)

5/26: Review: Steins;Gate

5/27: Review: The Huckleberry Hound Show

There’ll be plenty of other material again going forward, but after finishing school and taking a self-imposed hiatus, I’m very excited to get writing again! (And don’t worry- part 3 of the Hunter x Hunter comparison series is coming still!) I’ll also look to potentially slip something else in before the schedule officially kicks off.


Excited to read some new material? Like any of these shows? Curious about any you haven’t seen? Leave a comment!