The boundaries are always pushed forward, and in 1920’s Japan, it’s in the field of baseball.
This series contains only the original Japanese language track in its stereo form encoded at 224kbps. The series isn’t one that has a whole lot of stretching to do as it’s mostly dialogue driven and the baseball scenes aren’t presented in a big way. The dialogue aspect of it comes across well since there are several characters on screen and while it generally has a center channel feeling to it, it does play well with them in placement at times and keeping it clear. The baseball scenes itself are done well with a clean feel to it as you can hear the crack of the wood just right and a good bit of the dirt flying as they get into it. It’s not a show that stretches itself but it presents the source material well.
Originally airing in 2009, the transfer for this twelve episode series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. The show is split evenly across two discs with a decent amount of space available to it. With this being a period piece, the backgrounds are done with a very soft palette to it with lots of whites which comes across well. The character animation is where the noise comes into play as you can see a fair bit of movement and noise in a lot of the scenes. It’s not as bad depending on how far away you’re sitting though but once you see it you’re pretty much stuck. The colors in general are pretty well captured and the animation avoids issues like cross coloration and aliasing but the noise within the character animation can be problematic.
Taisho Baseball Girls comes in a standard sized keepcase to hold the two discs and it’s definitely appealing, even if they do have to resort to the pink. The logo runs with a sports font that works while the girls part of it is in cursive and pink to give it a bit of flair. The framing gives us a nice bit of flower petals in shades of pink while the center lets the girls take center stage as they stand around or in the window of the school building in their uniforms with some of the gear. You know what you’re getting from the cover and it has a sense of fun about it. The back cover goes for a more traditional framing, again with pink, but the interior part has some baseball stitching to it that gives it a bit of flavor. The summary is surprisingly dense across the top half with two columns for it that almost feels like it says way too much to keep someones attention. The cast shot through the middle is really nice and the collage of shots below works nicely. The production information and technical grid are all laid out well and are problem free. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.
The menu layout for this runs heavily with the pinks as it uses a lot of baseball themes to it. While there are two paths of stitching across it to simulate a baseball itself, the left half has the logo and a small part of the cast together laughing and being silly. The right side has the individual episode selection done by number and episode title with a baseball as a cursor to move up and down. The numbers are done in a standard sports font while the episode titles themselves are all done in cursive, since it’s more feminine I guess? The discs are pretty minimal besides this since there aren’t any language options and the second disc has only the episodes themselves and nothing else.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on the light novel series by Atsushi Kagurasaka, Taisho Baseball Girls is a historical sports series that plays up the slice of life angle to good effect. Clocking in at twelve episodes, which could be told in a movie form easily enough as an afterschool special of sorts, it’s a very charming, simple piece that really does shine in its own way. A coming of age story at a time when the world was changing gives it all a proper back drop, and while some of it pushes the bounds of believability a bit, it achieves its goals easily enough and really does delight.
The Westernization of Japan at this stage is an interesting period in Japan since it’s very much full of social conflict. Lots of the younger generation see so much ahead of them and lots of options but they’re being held back by some of the previous generation or two who don’t see some of these things as positive changes. The series focuses on a group of junior high school girls who are caught up in the midst of this with Koume as the primary character. She’s your typical good girl who wants to make some of these advances but her father won’t let her wear the school uniform as he wants her to stay traditional with the kimono. It’s a small piece overall, but symbolizes easily some of the issues that many of her age are facing in 1925.
Koume ends up finding herself in an even more difficult position through a friend though. Akiko has decided to start a girls baseball team at the all girls school they attend after a young man she knows, a baseball player at another school, holds the opinion that women should just deal with housework. This just sets her off and she intends to show him up by starting a team that will take him down a peg. Her pleading gets Koume on board rather easily, not that she realizes it at first, and starts them on the path of getting the other seven players they need so they can form a proper team.
What helps everything along is that the school has an American teacher named Anna, owing a bit to the King & I perhaps, who has a good knowledge of baseball and serves as something of an advisor, coach and more to the girls. She’s a breath of Western culture and confidence that throws off others and irritates some teachers in the school, but is also the type to stand up to them and to deal with the principal and others to make sure the girls do eventually get their fair shot at this. While others on the staff, both at Koume’s school and others, have an impact, Anna really is a good standout character here.
While Anna brings in that breath of new, we get the balance of old in the form of Koume’s parents. Her father is certainly more of this role than her mother, but that’s largely because her mother is kept under her father’s designs. With the family owning a restaurant, work is what dominates their lives and Koume’s father deals firmly with it while doing well. He’s very resistant to many of the changes and is intent on keeping things a certain way, which includes setting up a marriage for his daughter with a young man who is interning at his restaurant. This is a background plot overall with the young man, Saburou, but it plays into some key misunderstandings as it progresses and while predictable, does add a bit of charm that fits in with the time. Especially as Koume has hidden her baseball playing from her family since her father would be against it completely.
Naturally, a good part of the show is focused on the baseball itself and we see the girls going through some extensive training in order to go against the junior high school boys. They’re terrible to start, though they do have a lot of talent to work with, and they spend a good deal of time playing against a group of elementary school boys in order to gain experience. It was refreshing to see that angle played and that it takes several months for the show as a whole to tell its tale. It’s not a rushed series of games to be played and the competition between the two schools isn’t an immediate event. Showing the growth of the girls over this period of time gives it a lot more realism and allows it to really avoid that whole after school special feeling it could have taken if it was done as a movie.
While there’s a lot of material to potentially mine here with a series like this, Taisho Baseball Girls doesn’t stretch itself much from what you’d expect it to be. What it does do, it does it very well with appealing characters and a pleasant situation to work with. Only a couple are really given any serious look, as to be expected with a series of this length, and they do avoid making each episode completely about a girl. It’s definitely a team show with its focus on key players and it does a very good job of showing their growth together to becoming real challengers and not a joke. It’s light, fun and moves at a good pace to keep it all interesting. The subplots add some fun moments to it but manage to not detail things. With a straightforward approach, Taisho Baseball Girls hits all the right marks and while it doesn’t stand out as a brilliant piece of work, it achieves all it wants to and does it with a sense of fun. It’s a small commitment overall and one that’s worth making.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English Subtitles
Content Grade: B
Audio Grade: B
Video Grade: B
Packaging Grade: B
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: N/A
Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: November 16th, 2010
Running Time: 300 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70″ LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.