Changes come when people push the envelope of what’s acceptable. When Westernization of Japan began in the 1920’s, we see how young women started making their inroads.
What They Say:
1925. Six years since the end of the Great War, four years since women were allowed to join political associations, and one year since Emperor Hirohito assumed the throne. Japan is a nation re-inventing itself, swept by wave after wave of wars, disasters and political unrest. War looms in China, males over the age of 24 are about to receive the right to vote, and a strange new type of school uniform called the “sailor suit” is being introduced. But at least the national pastime, baseball, remains bound by tradition, the exclusive realm of men and boys – until now.
When a local player arrogantly states that girls should become housewives instead of going to school, teenage firebrands Koume and Akiko respond by forming their own baseball team. It’s shocking. It’s scandalous. And yet, in a nation in which almost anything seems suddenly possible, it may just be the start of something greater than any nine girls can imagine.
Contains episodes 1-12.
Similar to the previous DVD edition of the series, we only get the original Japanese language track here, albeit one that gets a solid increase with a lossless DTS-HD MA codec that helps to improve everything across the board. 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, but we get a better sounding opening and closing sequence and a bit more warmth and overall presence to the track. 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 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The show is spread across two discs with nine on the first and three on the second. 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 from what we’ve seen before but it definitely has a cleaner and stronger look here than the recently watched DVD version. There are a few areas that feel more off than others, especially that re-used bit of the guy calling out nattou sales, but the rest of it really is an improvement overall. Everything has a far more solid feeling to it and the colors are warmer and richer without the vibrancy being popped up. The show uses a good bit rate to it and really utilizes it well to bring out the best of the materials, but it’s not a high end glossy show so it’s hard to really see the shine in it. It really comes down to being a very good improvement over the DVD release with the way it’s cleaned up and stronger in terms of the solid colors.
The release comes in a standard sized Blu-ray case where the two discs are held against the interior walls. The artwork for it uses the same as the DVD release from before and it’s surprising how well it works with the blue of the case as framing with the pinks and other soft palette colors. 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 character shot through the middle is decent and the collaThe menu design for this release ge 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 design for this release is really nicely done and themed out in a big way. The background is done as the soft pink baseball design that covers the whole screen and gives it a good feeling just in atmosphere alone. With that as the background, the foreground gives us a trio of images of different character combinations which is really appealing as it’s all so vibrant and full of pop that it stands out beautifully, especially with the logo coming into the middle on along the bottom as one of the bases. The right side has the navigation menu which uses cherry blossoms, pink, blue and white to bring out the episodes by number and title. The numbers are done in a sports font which looks great while the text is done with blue cursive that provides some great contrast but feels very appropriate, especially when brought up as the pop-up menu. Everything moves quickly and smooth and is simply easy to navigate and use.
Unlike the previous DVD release, we do get some extras here in the form of the clean opening and closing.
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 backdrop, 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.
Even having watched this a few months ago before it was announced for Blu-ray, it was fun revisiting the girls here and seeing the challenges they faced. It’s not a show that really stretches itself since you can see the familiar tropes and the like, but it does work the material well to give us a fun story that fits the context of the time. It a show that keeps from getting deep into most of the girls with their stories and instead just focuses on a couple of them in order to give us the proper context of how life is for girls in this time period. 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. The release also makes out really well with the high definition aspect of it giving us an improvement in both the audio and video that definitely will be a positive for upgrading, especially if you’re a fan of the show. And you can gift your DVD to someone else and give them the joy of baseball girls.
Japanese DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closing
Content Grade: B
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B+
Extras Grade: B-
Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: January 14th, 2014
Running Time: 300 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 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.