Ookiku Furikabutte is one of the best anime I have ever seen for a very simple reason – 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 genre 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, the satisfying payoff. Never does the anime distract itself from its chosen subject. But it does all this while avoiding the easy temptations of dramatic entertainment focused on sports. There are no ace player, no homerun hitters, and no villainous opposing teams. Just realistic players and realistic baseball games.
First, the characters. Furikabutte has a good grasp on teenagers and all the characters here feel very realistic. Unlike a lot of other anime, there are no star players on the team, no “aces” that everyone depends on. 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 know their distinct personalities. The viewer forms such a deep investment in these characters because of the fact that they seem so real, 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. We get to see a team go from being strangers to working together and achieving victories, and it’s very enjoyable indeed.
And the games themselves? Absolutely captivating. So captivating that I finished the final ten episodes in the same day. And I’m a person who had never had the slightest interest in baseball until about a month ago. Keep in mind that the games here are not like those in other anime. An anime like Cross Game 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. We don’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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