Reviewby George Phillips
DVD 1: First Inning
Led by a hot-shot young "natural", nine young women defy the male-dominated tradition of Japanese sports, not to create a League of their own, but to take on the boys on their own artificial turf and prove there's nothing a man can do that a woman can't do just as well!
The hallowed stadiums of Japanese baseball become a battlefield as the bats crack, the sweat flies and every hard-earned run becomes another step in the long road-trip to victory! Sizzling sports action and gripping drama intertwine as nine young women come together in the heat of athletic competition to become the Princess Nine!
Ryo Hayakawa is an energetic 15-year old with a talent for baseball. Her father was a skilled pitcher, one who made it to the National Championship at Koushien Stadium. Unfortunately, he passes away only a few years later, leaving only his legacy, his wife, and a daughter with incredible baseball skills behind. Ryo's mother works at the family Oden bar and Ryo helps waitress at night. Ryo wants to do more for her mother, and so she plans to begin working full-time at the Oden Bar after her middle school graduation.
One day, as Ryo is coming home from school, a player from an amateur baseball team drives up in a van and tells her to come quickly! Her team, the Wild Cats, are playing against the Dolphins and are going to lose without her help. Her mother tosses down her baseball glove, and she drives off to relieve the tired Wild Cats pitcher.
She arrives, still clad in her school uniform, and sizes up the situation. The Dolphins are batting, with bases loaded. With 2 outs, the Wild Cats are up by 1 point and only need to strike out one batter to win. After three loopy "warm up" pitches, Ryo proceeds to strike out the Dolphin's batter. This would've been a normal game, except that we see a mysterious woman watching the match.
This mysterious observer is, in fact, the Chairwoman of Kisaragi Girls' High School. As we learn quickly, she plans to create the first girl's baseball team in all of Japan. In addition, she plans to have her team play in Koushien Stadium within three years. Even in modern Japan, a girl's team playing in Koushien stadium is scoffed at and easily discarded. Chairwoman Himuro isn't so easily dissuaded, and begins forming the team after a public news conference...
ADV has struck gold with this title! Although almost unheard of in the fan community, Princess Nine is an emotional and visual marvel to behold, with realistic characters, emotions, and themes.
In a Japan where women still only hold a small, tenuous foothold in society, Director Mochizuki created a very strong positive anime about women. Using sports as the medium, Mochizuki uses Princess Nine to encourage young women to be unafraid of life, and to believe in themselves. A strong sense of value is placed on family in this series; both Ryo and a teammate, Koharu, want to support their families, and even argue against joining the baseball team. However, Mochizuki skillfully weaves the story around the characters and creates an amazing blend of compassion and friendship which lead them to follow their dreams.
The animation quality of Princess Nine is excellent. Although the "middle school girl" character designs may have been better suited for college-aged women, all of the characters are well-drawn. Likewise, the backgrounds are rich and detailed, making the world very believable and realistic.
Music is another strength of this series. While the opening and ending theme songs are okay, Princess Nine's forte lies in its background music. Much of the background music is performed by the Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra. In most modern anime series, most composers opt for synthesizers, and it's relaxing to hear classical instruments carrying much of the show. The soft classical music enhances the emotion carried throughout the series.
Even the English dub is well-done. Hilary Haag provides a steady performance as Ryo, although her character looks much too old to be a middle-school kid. Her voice fits the "rough-yet-sweet" Ryo well. Her fellow actresses perform remarkably, too. Kelly Manison, the low, sultry voice of Chairwoman Himuro, lands her part perfectly. Although it's still a little early to decide how well some of the other voices are, these two main characters are already well-defined in the English dub.
Princess Nine has eye-catches that list player statistics, favorite foods, and hobbies. Although they're still between the episodes, ADV has also placed the first five in the extras menu for easier perusal. A clean/creditless opening and ending are included as extras, too.
This show is simply nothing short of astounding. Not only is the show a solid shoujo series, but it is a powerful sports title, too. ADV has taken great care to ensure this series receives a wide release in America. I highly recommend Princess Nine!
Overall (dub) : A
+ Excellent production quality, beautiful music, and real, emotional characters
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