Princess Nine – episodes one to sixteen

May 13, 2004 on 7:01 pm | In Princess Nine | Comments Off on Princess Nine – episodes one to sixteen

Given my fondness for over dramatics, sepia, fiery passion and skilled use of genre hallmarks, and coupling that with my complete ignorance of the workings of baseball, it’s no surprise that I like Princess Nine, the baseball anime about the chairwoman who dared to dream!

Kisaragi Girls High School Chairwoman Himuro Keiko wants to start a baseball team at the girls high school that she chairs, but she needs a team to prove that girls can compete in a male dominated sport. Her star choice is Hayakawa Ryo, daughter of one of the greatest high school baseball players in Japanese history (who is of course now deceased). Ryo is reluctant to accept a scholarship, as she wanted to be able to help her mother run the family Oden bar.
Upon learning that her father went to Koshien, the stadium of the Japanese high school major league, and with the insistence of her mother, she is persuaded to take on the role as pitcher for the team and receive a high school education.

It’s clear from the beginning that Ryo is going to accept her destiny as Japan’s number one pitcher and that there will be many tears along the way, but that’s good. It’s the set up for a classical sports anime saga, and baseball is one of the most romantic of Japanese sports. Princess Nine is given exactly the right treatment, and shows all the right types and scenarios. The thing about sports anime is that it’s the journey that is important. That’s not to say that they never have surprising endings; look at Tomorrow’s Joe, that classic of boxing anime. That manga’s ending was so surprising that it was postponed so that another season of the anime could be made.
Heck, even Pokémon had Ash lose the Pokémon League.
In fact, because of the almost foregone ending, the genre has to come up with spectacular complications along the way. It’s the great adversity that has to be overcome; inspiration is what it’s all about.
And, of course, Princess Nine has been shown to have quite enough of this.

Princess Nine is also highly addictive anime. I started writing this article at episode one, for instance, and now I’m up to episode fifteen (now sixteen!) … it’s very easy to get lost in the series, even if you don’t know quite how baseball works; sports anime has an ability to rise up above the mere sports that they represent, infusing them with humanity and drama. It’s enough to make the most sedentary of viewers want to run out and hit a ball, before they realise that the reason they don’t like sports is because they’re not very good at them.
This series has much going for it: two potential love triangles, although the drama doesn’t focus on romance, bitter rivalries that are tempered by respect, evil authority figures, ganguro girls who are afraid of catching the ball when it’s hit to them …
All of the characters have something going for them, and they all fit as a “type” without being too obtrusive about it.

It’s another series where the actors in each language approach the characters differently, so it’s naturally divisive. Nagasawa Miki is passionate and kind as Ryo, Kingetsu Mami is cold and almost cruel as Izumi, and Koyasu Takehito is his usual golden smooth self as Takasugi. A stand out among the nine girls is Yajima Akiko as Hotta Koharu, who is very strong and against her standard type of meek or pacifist characters. Because the nine come from all throughout Japan there are regional accents all around, and Nagasawa Naomi boasts the weirdest Kansai accent I’ve ever heard, but she grows on you.

The animation in the early episodes is odd. Sometimes characters’ mouths keep on going after they’ve stopped talking. Sometimes the perspective seems a little off. On at least two occasions, the animators forgot to colour Ryo’s pupils. After about two or three episodes, no one looks weird anymore. The series is hypnotic, and the flashback sequences are particularly well handled. In one the characters have lines over their movements, as if they’re part of a photo. The sepia; oh, the sepia.
The score is performed by the Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra, which means that the music can be as dramatic as it damn well pleases. It’s marvellous, generally.

Admittedly for the first ten episodes the baseball team isn’t even complete; the “real” games are different to the rest of the program, as it’s no longer about building, it’s about surviving. And everyone wants to tear the team apart … but there’s never any lag. The editing is brilliant; director Mochizuki knows precisely when to stop for maximum suspense. The anime is altogether highly compelling.

Princess Nine doesn’t lack originality; its devotion to the genre, to the sport and to the characters is a delicious stew, a metaphor embraced within the series itself. It’s certainly not the prettiest of anime at times, but it doesn’t matter! Sports anime represents a triumph of the will, which is why it’s great to watch regardless of one’s knowledge of the sport.

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