The Spring 2018 Anime Preview Guide MAJOR 2nd
How would you rate episode 1 of
Major 2nd ?
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How was the first episode?
This season's second baseball-centric series arrived, and it couldn't be more different from the first. Whereas Gurazeni was focused on the cynical, salary-focused professional end of baseball, Major 2nd drags us all the way back to childhood, where the young Daigo Shigeno is being inspired by his father's thrilling baseball career. Unfortunately, it turns out young Daigo isn't actually very talented. He spends his fourth grade baseball career sitting on the bench, and when his one at-bat results in total failure, he puts away his glove for the next two years.
That's pretty much all we get out of this first episode, a relatively by-the-books sports drama setup that ends on the hinting of a partnership between Daigo and the son of his father's old teammate, Hikaru Satou. The storytelling here is all pretty straightforward stuff, and the dialogue is mostly just functional, with Daigo's frustration coming off as understandable, but not really deeply felt. There's certainly room for compelling drama in focusing on a character without talent growing up in a family where talent is assumed, but this episode didn't really lean into that; there's only a few minutes where Daigo loses hope entirely, and given the implications of the finale, it seems likely we'll be heading into a more conventional genre direction from here.
Aesthetically, Major 2nd is a very bare-bones production. The animation is severely limited, the character designs are all pretty generic, and the backgrounds are very dull. There were some occasional nice sunset shots, and a couple striking compositions to accompany Daigo's lowest point, but on the whole, Major 2nd is definitely not much to look at.
All in all, Major 2nd feels like the functional skeleton of a sports drama. It works as a narrative, but there's no real flair in terms of either storytelling or aesthetic execution, leaving me with little motivation to continue. If you're a big fan of sports shows, this season is looking a little lean, so maybe give it a glance. If not, there's no real hook here worth watching for.
Of the two baseball-centric shows we've gotten so far this season, Major 2nd is clearly the superior product. Even as someone who has never watched the original series, catching up with the lives of Goro Shigeno, his son Daigo, and the rest of the clan was a quick and easy process. After all, even a sports-phobic nerd like me can understand the pressure and self-doubt that comes along with trying to live up to a parent's legacy and expectations, and that strong emotional core is what makes Major 2nd work so well. The Shigeno clan is close-knit and passionate about baseball, and it is incredibly hard not to root for young Daigo as he pursues his dreams of becoming a major league star just like his father. Coupled with the support he has from his mother and the friendly rivalry his sister provides, Daigo's got a lot of potential, and watching an aspiring young kid take on a shot at the big leagues is infinitely more entertaining than the way Gurazeni's professional protagonist constantly complained about not making enough money.
This also makes Daigo's failure sting all the more when he has to confront his shortcomings early in the episode. There are many stories out there that see their heroes pull through purely on the strength of their own tenacity, so its refreshing to see a children's show tackle failure so directly. Daigo practices his pitching, his catching, and his batting; he wants to succeed more than anything in the world, but at the end of the day he simply isn't as skilled as he needs to be. I have no doubt that he will eventually find some manner of success (this is still a sports anime after all), but I think it's a good message to send to the kids watching Major 2nd, that disappointment and failure is just part of life.
Now, quitting the sport you love for two whole years and shrugging off your studies certainly isn't the ideal approach to encountering such failure, but I'm sure that's a lesson Daigo will learn in the coming weeks, especially since he's met his de facto rival, the infinitely more confident son of Goro Shigeno's teammate from years ago. The character interactions in this first episode were well-written and charming enough, so I imagine that as the cast gets more development, their interactions on and off the field will be a strength of the series. I also appreciate the Shigeno family dynamics, and I will be interested to see how Goro's lengthy absences or Izumi's own baseball prowess will impact Daigo's baseball journey.
Overall this is shaping up to be a perfectly pleasant little coming-of-age story, and while it isn't the most riveting or visually ambitious show premiering this week, Major 2nd has got heart all the same. Plus, its more earnest approach to baseball will likely scratch that sports anime itch for viewers who weren't satisfied by Gurazeni's more cynical take on the subject matter. Whether you're a longtime fan of the original Major series or a newbie like me, Major 2nd is worth checking out.
Major 2nd makes some interesting decisions in its first episode, sacrificing some pure entertainment value to set up a good narrative foundation. Watching an enthusiastic young kid fall flat on his face and quit the sport he loves isn't exactly fun, but it has the potential to be compelling in the long run. Rather than casting Daigo as the invincible son of a famous baseball player, the show gives him a much more modest amount of talent and a heaping helping of issue to sort through. As someone who played baseball as a kid but was never particularly good at it, I can see a lot of younger viewers relating to his story.
Crucially, Daigo's struggles feel accurate to the kind of pressure that weighs on young players who are expected to do well. I was friends with several “coach's kids” in grade school: sons and daughters of parents who took little league a little too seriously and expected their children to be the star players on their teams. When those ambitions don't pan out, it makes perfect sense for a nine or ten-year-old to feel terrible about it and want to quit. The fact that Daigo experiences this failure right out of the gate sets up this series to be a comeback story, which could certainly be more satisfying in the long term than a simple “talented boy does well” arc. For now, though, it does have the unfortunate side effect of making this episode a bit of a downer.
That narrative structure also means that we don't get much of a chance to see how well Major 2nd handles its baseball scenes. There's plenty of practice, but precious little time spent in actual games. That makes it tough to judge how well this show will fare once Daigo finally commits to the sport; good writing can only do so much if the action can't keep up. The visuals in this episode aren't terribly impressive, so my hopes aren't overly high on that front.
Major 2nd looks like it will skew a little too young for a lot of viewers, but I think it has the potential to do well as a children's sports series. The themes it's working with are certainly relevant to that demographic, and the messaging so far has been encouraging. I don't know how well it stacks up against the original series, but it seems like a decent genre title on its own merits.
You don't need to have read the 78 volumes of Takuya Mitsuda's original Major manga, which follows the father of Major 2nd's protagonist from kindergarten through his pro baseball career, in order to get into this show. One of Major 2nd's greatest strengths out of the gate is that it gives you all you need to know to understand where Daigo is coming from without it feeling like excessive recapping or info-dumping: dad Goro is a professional player with an impressive record, big sister Izumi is likewise awesome, and Daigo is absolutely certain that he will be just as good as they are. Except that he's not.
That's hardly a revolutionary twist in children's writing. The child who aspires to be like their amazing parent and can't quite get there is a staple in kiddy lit, but where Major 2nd succeeds is in not harping on Daigo's depression that he can't do it immediately or making him an instant hard-working paragon. Instead Daigo has a very believable trajectory – he's thrilled and positive, then he starts to crumble under the censorious eyes of his peers, which makes him mess up, and he immediately quits in humiliation. Not a mature decision, but the kid's in the fourth grade, making him about nine years old. That's pretty much how kids act at that age, and the one person who might have been able to talk him out of quitting is off playing for the Taiwanese league.
The lack of his father in his life is never explicitly stated to be a factor in Daigo's feelings, but the episode does a good job of implying that that's the case. Before he leaves, Goro gives his son a new glove and suggests that they compete to see who can become a team regular first. While Goro clearly doesn't mean any harm by that, and presumably is just trying to encourage his son, Daigo internalizes it as the last thing Dad says before he leaves. Therefore when he can't fulfill his end of the deal, he feels doubly like a failure, especially since all of his new teammates are expecting him to be the same sort of prodigy his sister was before she aged out of this particular team. There's simply too much pressure on this poor kid; of course he's going to crack under it. When he throws away his glove and quits the sport, it's because he feels he doesn't deserve to play…and when two years later Dad's still in Taiwan with very little time at home, there's nothing to tell Daigo otherwise, because at this point, only his father can fix the situation.
Things are setting up to make this less of a downer in the next episode, luckily. Hikaru, son of Goro's old partner, is likely to understand what Daigo's going through, or at least be able to point out the errors in his thinking. Major 2nd looks like it's setting up to be more about how Daigo comes to understand that there's no one way to be good at something and that he can enjoy baseball without being his dad's carbon copy. That could be a story worth following, and the simple aesthetics make this feel like a good way to wake up on a Saturday with a bowl of cereal. There are character cameos that will make this more of a treat for those familiar with Major, but even if you aren't and just want a nice baseball story, this looks like a good bet.
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