Ookiku Furikabutte is a series with a very straightforward goal – it picks one specific subject and genre and then delivers a finely crafted story which exposes all the best possible aspects of this genre in one concise and captivating package. In this case, the subject is high school baseball. From there, Furikabutte shows viewers all the nuances and details of what high school baseball can possibly be – the friendships formed, the camaraderie developed, the aching losses, the glorious victories, the hard work, and the satisfying payoff. Never does the anime distract itself from its chosen subject and rarely does it wander anywhere that is unconnected to either the game or the team. Yet it does all this while also avoiding the easy temptations of dramatic entertainment focused on sports. There are no ace players, no homerun hitters, and no villainous opposing teams. Its’ only tools are realistic games and realistic players, and using them it manages to appeal even to those with no inherent love for sports series – such as myself.
Furikabutte has a good grasp on teenagers and the down-to-earth realism of most of the cast is one of its strong points. Unlike a lot of other anime, there are no star players on the team, no “aces” that everyone depends on to save the day. Everyone gets a moment to shine, and that is one aspect in which Furikabutte really has a lead on other anime where all players apart from the main ones sometimes fade into the distance. By the end of the series I could name and recognize basically the players on the team and recognize their distinct personalities. The viewer forms a significant investment in these characters because of the fact that they seem like people you recognize from your own high school days, and thus you feel as excited during their games and as satisfied for their wins as they do. The viewers get to see a team go from being strangers to working together and achieving victories, and that is a quite satisfying journey.
The games themselves are also extremely captivating. So captivating that I found myself marathoning the final ten episodes in the same day. Keep in mind that the games here are not like those in most other series. An anime like Cross Game, for example, mixes in baseball episodes with slice-of-life episodes in a balance. The majority of Furikabutte, on the other hand, is about baseball matches. One match lasts ten entire episodes. It doesn’t skip over innings or rush through any aspect – the anime meticulously covers every individual play, both the strategy behind them as well as their results. And if you think that no anime can pull off this level of detail and still be interesting or entertaining, then you’re wrong. Furikabutte held my interest extremely well – after every episode I immediately wanted to watch the next. And luckily, I could, and I can only feel sorry for those who had to wait an entire week between episodes when it was airing.
But what if you don’t like baseball? The appeal of Furikabutte transcends the specific sport it focuses on. I would say watching for the friendships alone would be worth it. At the same time, I do think that some mild knowledge of baseball will improve your enjoyment of the series, because there are some very interesting plays that occur in the series, and while you don’t have to be a pro to understand them, they may fly over the heads of those with absolutely no baseball knowledge.
One aspect that I really enjoyed about the series is that it doesn’t leave the opponents as nameless villains that need to be conquered. In most scenes, we can hear the thoughts of the opponents as they face our characters and listen as they develop their own tactics to respond to the tactics that our characters had just developed. One of my favourite scenes involved the opposing team immediately after their loss. The anime, while allowing us to celebrate with our characters, doesn’t allow us to forget that the “enemy” team is in many ways similar to ours, and that for every win in a baseball tournament, there is a team that has to lose who may have been just as deserving.
Ookiku Furikabutte is a unique sports series. It tries something new by giving us a cast of mostly average players and then showing us, play by play, inning by inning, how this team comes together to play and win games. People have complained that Cross Game took three episodes to finish one game – they may have a heart attack with the pace with which Furikabutte moves during its games. There are no moments where the main characters have bursts of inspiration and then hit grand slams, winning the game. Nor does any character have superhuman traits which can rear up at perfect times to conveniently solve problems. Every game is won is a long and arduous road, but that simply makes every victory all the more rewarding. This is a believable story about baseball and all the nuances that come with it. Beyond the friendships and teamwork, we even get closer looks into the parents, the cheering squads, and, as I mentioned, the opponents. Furikabutte can heartwarming, heartwrenching, riveting, and always satisfying. It is certainly the best portrayal of baseball I’ve ever seen and one of the most wonderful depictions of youth and competition. It has more than earned its spot in my favourites.
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