The Spring 2020 Anime Preview Guide
Tamayomi: The Baseball Girls
How would you rate episode 1 of
Tamayomi: The Baseball Girls ?
What is this?
Tamaki and Yomi, who often played catch together as little kids, both ended up playing baseball in middle school even though they went their separate ways, with Yomi becoming a pitcher and Tamaki a catcher. Reunited at Shin Koshigaya High School, Tamaki quickly proves that she can do something that Yomi's middle school pitcher could not: catch the Magic Pitch (a breaking ball with a crazy amount of movement) Yomi had demonstrated when they were kids and has now perfected for hardball. With the encouragement of Tamaki and twin baseball enthusiasts Yoshino and Ibuki, Yomi begins to rethink her decision to quit playing baseball. If only the school still had an active baseball club. . .
How was the first episode?
Sports anime have never been my chief interest as an anime fan, though I thought the preview art made Tamayomi: The Baseball Girls seem slightly more intriguing, as I read some romantic undertones in the dynamic between its two leads, Yomi and Tamaki (Fun Fact: Cheesy anime romance is the quick and cheap hook that can get me into many stories I might otherwise not naturally seek out on my own). Having watched its first episode, I don't quite know what to make of this show. It wasn't bad, but it lacks that certain spark of life that a premiere needs to hit the ground running.
Ironically, my main issue with this episode stems in the relationship between Yomi and Tamaki. Forget any romantic subtext for a moment; I simply didn't find either of them to be very interesting characters, full stop. Yomi's past failures in her junior-high baseball leagues sow the seeds for some interesting drama, and it contrasts well with Tamaki's more competitive experiences, but there's just a certain flatness about the flashbacks, the dialogue, and the way the two leads are characterized. It's hard to put into words without resorting to unhelpfully broad descriptors like “boring”, but this was one of those episodes that had me checking my phone way more often than usual. There's a lot of potential for the story in the future, and the very idea that Tamaki is the only girl capable of catching Yomi's pitches is admittedly pretty cute (and I can't be the only person who caught on to the heaps of innuendo there, either). A premiere is supposed to hook its audience, though, and Tamayomi definitely did not hook me.
Perhaps its just a matter of maladjusted expectations on my part. I came into Tamayomi expecting either a starry-eyed sports drama or a low-key teenage love story, but it ended up feeling like a laid back slice-of-life story that just so happens to be about girls playing baseball. It's the kind of show that I would give at least one more episode to fully establish itself, but I wouldn't expect it to blow up as the next big thing of the season, or anything.
There are sports series that focus seriously on the sport, ones that use the sport merely as a backdrop for bigger drama, and ones that are basically Cute Girls Do Sports. Based on the first episode, this seinen manga adaptation looks like the last option. That doesn't mean that there isn't some dedication to the mechanics of the sport going on here, but this is definitely not in the same category as, say, Hanebado!
The essential premise here is a combination of two common ones in sports anime: a talented player has decided to drop the sport for Reasons but gets convinced to rethink her decision by both friends and enthusiasts of the sport, and the talented player is attending a school where the club for that sport either doesn't exist or is on hiatus (and so the team will have to be reformed from scratch). In Yomi's case the Reasons are less a personal failing and more a case of her being disillusioned by middle school teammates who lacked her commitment, thus resulting in them losing early in their last tournament. Not yet even hinted at is why the baseball club at Shin Koshigaya is on hiatus, but the first episode is fully invested in establishing the relationship of the titular characters and starting the team-building ball rolling, so presumably this will be detailed in upcoming episodes.
The series is being animated by Studio A-Cat, which mostly specializes in CG animation support but ironically uses little to none of it here. This is also not the first baseball title for director Toshinori Fukushima; he previously directed a couple of the OVA follow-ups for the Major franchise. That experience shows in the attention to detail on Yomi's pitching form, which gets the episode's most detailed animation. The series also won't fall short on the attractiveness of its character designs, and while the emphasis is more on cute factor than making the girls look convincingly athletic, Tama and Yomi are both credible enough on the latter point. The artistic concern so far is that quality control already seems a bit shaky, especially with staying on-model.
I am not a fan of sports series in general, and especially don't care for ones where the protagonist is dependent on a gimmick move, so I can't see myself following this one. Still, if you're into CGDCT series and don't mind a sports twist on the concept then this one might be worthwhile.
If I could have given this a 2.75, I would have. It comes awfully close to being worthy of a 3, but it just isn't quite there, in large part because the reunion between Tamaki and Yomi just isn't as emotional as it needs to be. Part of this may come from the confusion of the episode beginning in a flash-forward, where we clearly see the two girls playing on the same team; given that we previously saw them playing baseball together as little kids, my first assumption was that this was a game in middle school and that they'd been playing as a duo right along. To then suddenly be told that Yomi was giving up baseball in high school because of bad past experiences made it seem as though she and Tamaki had a falling out in junior high rather than that they lost touch when Tamaki moved away before those three years even started. All of this robs their reunion of the impact I'd have liked to see it have, because even without the title being a combination of their two names, it's clear that their work as pitcher and catcher is going to be the cornerstone of the story.
It's doubly too bad because the little flashbacks we get to Yomi's middle school experiences are quite well done. From the moment she says with credible disbelief “You mean I can throw it?” we know that something bad happened since the days she played with Tamaki, and the reveal that her middle school team didn't really care about baseball at all is almost a physical blow – both to Yomi and to the viewer. The selfish self-righteousness of her catcher, who clearly doesn't understand, or care, that Yomi really loves the game is well done, focusing on a few scenes that feel relatively understated rather than making her a more typical “villain” figure. Yomi decides to stop playing in high school not because she doesn't love baseball but because she feels defeated by three years of being told that she's something of a freak for actually caring about it.
Unfortunately for the episode, this is the only truly striking thing about it, apart from the very welcome fact that there's a lack of egregious fanservice. (I'm always looking for a show about a girls' sports team that doesn't rely on fanservice to sell itself.) Twins Ibuki and Yoshino are kind of annoying, especially Yoshino with her hand fetish, and the art isn't terrific; it feels really odd that the girls all have very muscular (or at least thicker) legs and scrawny anime-girl arms in a show where two of them have been playing a sport that requires both arms and legs intensely. The character designs feel kind of bland otherwise, and while there are some nice images, it isn't enough to really sell the show.
There's a good chance that this will grow into itself, and it does look like more than a CGDCT series if that's not your thing. A second episode may be a safer bet for seeing if it has any real promise.
As a show about high school girls forming a baseball baseball team, my biggest question coming into Tamayomi was whether it would proceed more as a propulsive sports drama, or more like a slice of life show with baseball flavoring. The show is clearly trying to straddle both these genres' appeals, and as of the first episode, I'm happy to report Tamayomi is so far doing a fine job of balancing its base components. Tamayomi is not likely to dazzle you, but it's a fine sports drama/slice of life blend. Likely the strongest point in Tamayomi's favor is that it opens with a fair portion of the eventual team already established, and already deeply invested in baseball. Protagonist Yomi Takeda spent her middle school years working on a deadly breaking ball - so deadly, in fact, that her indifferent catcher was actually incapable of catching it. It's thus only in high school, when she's reunited with childhood friend Tamaki, that she finds a catcher worthy of her pitch.
Along with Yomi and Tama, this episode also introduces us to the Kawaguchi twins, Yoshino and Ibuki. All four are already committed baseball enthusiasts, meaning this episode is able to stay light on exposition, and instead focus on a mix of lighthearted conversations and actual throwing practice. The show's dialogue hits a reasonable balance of relatable characterization and fluffy charm; these characters are lightly drawn, but seem well-positioned for the show's intended mix of warm slice of life exchanges and competitive striving.
On the visual front, there's unfortunately not much to praise. Tamayomi's character designs are generic, and its animation is limited as well; there were basically no fluid cuts of character movement in this episode, which is a concerning issue for both slice of life and sports shows. Additionally, the background designs are all flat CG stages, and there's not really any engaging storyboarding to speak of, either. On the whole, Tamayomi's first episode was visually functional, but did not give me much hope that the show has genuinely exciting sports sequences ahead of us.
Overall, Tamayomi serves as an unexceptional but perfectly watchable first salvo of the spring season, and likely deserves a watch from any dedicated slice of life enthusiasts. Its lack of visual distinction makes me hesitant to give it a general recommendation, but Tamayomi is still a charming enough production.
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