What They Say:
Spring training is over, and it’s time for the real fun to start. Mihashi’s confidence got a huge boost from beating his old school, and now he’s more determined than ever to become his team’s ace. With Abe calling the pitches, the once shell-shocked hurler feels like he can strike out the world.
But things won’t be easy for the Nishiura nine in the big summer tournament. They play the defending champs in the first round, and Mihashi comes down with a bad case of fastball envy when he bumps into Abe’s old pitcher. Playing for fun is fine, but now that the games count – it’s time to win!
The audio presentation for this release is done in the fairly standard format of the original Japanese language being done in stereo encoded at 192kbps while the English track gets the bump up to a 5.1 mix at 448kbps, even if the show doesn’t really have much to do with it. The show is mostly dialogue driven when you get down to it and the sounds of baseball itself isn’t all that strong, since it’s the running, hitting and catching, but it does it nicely enough and hits some good marks. It’s not meant to be an overly strong mix, but it really works nicely with the subtle moments and the overall atmosphere. The English mix doesn’t feel all that much different but it has a bit more clarity and sharpness to it. There isn’t a significant difference in directionality with the English mix from what we sampled, but it’s well done overall. We didn’t have any problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally airing in 2007, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. FUNimation has done this set in their standard form with two discs to cover thirteen episodes in a seven/six format. The show has some really strong animation to it and the transfer really captures it well with hardly any significant problems to it. Outside of some minor noise in a few scenes with some solid colors, Big Windup really looks good here. The quality of the animation really shines through with smooth fluid motions and some very lush colors when it comes to the background designs. This is a very pleasing transfer overall and should make fans of the show very happy.
Big Windup diverges from the usual FUNimation half season set standard where the release has the two DVDs inside a single sized clear keepcase where both discs are layered across each other on the right side. The front cover is not as bright as the first one since it focuses on the ground so much with Mihashi and Abe in the foreground while the rest of the team is behind them further back. The logo is done in an expected font that works really nicely, especially with the shade of blue used. The back cover is given a good clean split as the right side has a blue stripe on which they push the runtime and disc count along with a nice shot of Abe. The left section has a good summary that deals with the premise of the show along with several shots from it that does a decent job of selling the cast. The remainder of the back has the standard production credits in small type and the technical grid. Because it’s a clear keepcase, the reverse side has some really good artwork of several of the characters reaching upwards to try and catch the pop fly ball.
The menus for this release uses the same style as the back cover to nice effect as the white and blue sectionalizing works really well. The sketch work of the baseball field is much more visible here with its blue lines and the character artwork stands out all the more. The logo with its colors and design is very appealing as well, which ties in nicely to the font for the menu navigation selections itself. Submenus, what few there are, load quickly and without problem. Navigation is a breeze and the discs don’t read the players’ language presets as they default to English with no subtitles selected.
The extras are all on the second disc, what little there are, as the only things included are clean verisons of the opening and closing sequences.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The first half of this series really got me interested in it with its straightforward approach to high school baseball and the fact that it was keeping a lot of the usual subplots out of it. There aren’t any really serious romantic entanglements ending up in here nor are there various family issues that intrude to take our time away from the actual game itself. What we got was a show that introduced a good group of guys, not a series of stereotype personalities, and started to forge them together as a good high school freshman team that will do the best they can. And it all centers on the socially awkward Mihashi, a young man with zero confidence in himself and the face of a duck.
For the second half of the show, which is made up of twelve episodes and an OVA at the end, eleven episodes deal with the first big game they have in the official rankings. It’s a rather long set of episodes to deal with a single game, but at the same time I’m hard pressed to complain too much about it because they are focusing on the game, the technical element and really showing what a good team does in trying to learn about their opponents and take them down. While it may be elaborate than you would believe a high school game is like, it has a certain methodical nature to it that is very engaging as weaknesses are teased out from each side in an effort to gain dominance. It does slow down at times because of this and it may get a little too bogged down in details, but whereas so many shows skim over these things it is kind of refreshing to see something look at it this way.
Though they may skip a few moments here and there, it really does feel like we’re seeing every at bat for every inning in this particular game. And that really pushes the strategy side even more to the foreground with its ups and downs and all the emotions of it. So much of it is centered on Mihashi as I expected it to be and he has a hard time handling things because of his personality. His trust in Abe is tested a few times, particularly when he thinks a certain throw will actually hurt him and they made a pact about it, but overall the bonds between both these two young men and the team overall is really strengthened. The encouragement that the team gives to Mihashi is important, but as they note later on, they’re just normal people who are playing a game they love and they want to win, but they’re not over the top fanatical about it. It’s such a change of pace.
With the game and its tension taking up so much of this set of episodes, there’s only two episodes at the end that move on to other territory. The first one, the actual end of the TV broadcast run, does a really nice little post-game wrap-up with some of the guys as they go to Mihashi’s for lunch and Abe tries to ferret out what’s bugging Mihashi so much. The look we get into his mind is one that is really disturbing with how he views himself in relation to others, enough so that you can seriously imagine him being a serial murder someday with how he views the world as it views him. But it’s a good wrap-up that shows how well these guys get together and the kind of odd friendships that form because of it. And it shows how well the team has done when they get a mention on the news with Mihashi called out by name, something that really throws him into a tizzy.
The only odd piece, which does make sense, is the OVA entitled “The Basic of Basics” which is based off of a one-shot that the manga creator did some months before serializing Big Windup. It’s a short story that deals with some members of the team from the Musashino school and how their hopes and dreams have formed and why they’re motivated like they are. It’s a really nicely done character piece, which is definitely needed after all the game material we had in this set, but it does feel out of place unless you know its origins in the manga and that this is a team that Nishiura will face eventually. In the end, this does feel like more of a work of love for the fans of the manga with this OVA than something that’s really going to appeal to those that got into the TV series itself, especially with no more made after this run.
Big Windup is a really unusual series, and one that falls short simply because there’s so much more that’s out there to be done with it. The manga is ongoing as of this writing and it’s easy to imagine that it’s going to run for awhile like Slam Dunk so that it can tell the entire season in these kids life. The fact that the manga sells hundreds of thousands of copies says a lot, but it’s also a title that’s near impossible to imagine ever being released here, which makes the end of the anime bittersweet. We’re teased with something really engaging, beautifully animated and with a great cast of characters just starting to come into their own. It’s definitely a show I can recommend if you’re aware of what the end result will be, because the ride across these twenty-six episodes is simply a lot of fun. I’ve never been big into sports myself, but these kinds of series are highly appealing and Big Windup raises the bar on them. Unfortunately, the show didn’t do so well for FUNimation when it came out and that means we never got the second short season with OVA that came out in 2010. I’m still hopeful for it, especially after revisiting this season again, but it’s pretty much a lost cause. Still, there’s a lot to like here overall and with the SAVE collections out there, you get a lot of bang for your buck and some fun baseball anime.
Content Grade: B
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: B
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B-
Released By: FUNimation
Release Date: September 29th, 2009
Running Time: 325 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 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.