Thursday, October 08, 2009

DVD Review: Big Windup! – Part One (Episodes 1-13)

The new anime series Big Windup! is one of the select few sports-related anime series to ever get released in America. Based on the manga by Asa Higuchi, the show is now available on DVD in a Part One set collecting the first 13 episodes. This drama about a fledgling high school baseball team is filled with appealing characters, good sports action, and strong character development. Whether you're an anime fan, a sports fan, or neither, Big Windup! certainly entertains.

The story begins with Ren Mihashi, a student who has transferred from the private Mihoshi Academy (which his grandfather owns) to the public Nishiura High School. As the ace pitcher for Mihoshi's baseball team in middle school, he was blamed by the team for their losing record. Many felt that nepotism was the only reason Mihashi was the ace in the first place.

Mihashi is a character you will either feel sorry for or hate with a passion. He's a bit of a mess who startles easily, acts awkward around others, and is prone to crying. When he's recruited for Nishiura's new baseball team, he's paired with the team's catcher, Takaya Abe. Abe is pretty much the complete opposite of Mihashi. An intelligent, confident player, Abe is easily annoyed by Mihashi's quirks. However, he's also the one who realizes the true extent of Mihashi's talent.

One of the major strengths of Big Windup! is the way it handles its characters. The first major arc of the series, where the team takes on Mihashi's former teammates at Mihoshi Academy in a practice game, is a good example of this. The show doesn't take the easy way out and completely vilify the Mihoshi team. Instead, it shows things from both teams' perspectives. It lets us get inside the characters' heads and find out their thoughts. As a result, the arc's ending has a bit more resonance than just simply a win or a loss.

Fortunately, the show is not too serious for its own good. There is a good amount of humor, much of it coming from the awkward relationship between Mihashi and Abe. They clash, as one character notes, “like an old married couple.” There are also some homoerotic undertones that produce both intentional and unintentional laughs. Things don't get too silly as to disrupt the drama, though.

This DVD set contains both English and Japanese language tracks (with available English subtitles). The English dub is quite good and the voice actors are well cast in their roles. Listening to the show in English makes some of the more technical scenes easier to digest. The extras on the set are few, consisting only of textless versions of the opening and ending along with some trailers.

Watching Big Windup! makes you wonder why more sports-themed anime aren't brought over. It makes the sport of baseball appealing in a way that's not unrealistic or over-the-top. It also gives non-fans and casual fans a good idea of how much effort really goes into the game. This Part One set definitely leaves you wanting more and with the Part Two set also available, you don't have to wait long.

If you're interested in checking out the show without buying the DVD set, the first four episodes of the show are available to view on a number of sites including Hulu, YouTube, Anime News Network, and

[Note: Look for the review of the Part Two DVD set to appear on Blogcritics very soon.]

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