The Spring 2021 Preview Guide
Farewell, My Dear Cramer
by The Anime News Network Editorial Team,
How would you rate episode 1 of
Farewell, My Dear Cramer ?
What is this?
Sumire Suō is 15 years old. She has passion for soccer, but can't seem to grasp victory. The short-haired girl shows overwhelming power at a soccer game, and makes a great shot from a dribble during a counter, but the match ends when a girl with pigtails named Midori Soshizaki blocks her. The two end up going to a regular high school instead of one that prides itself in athletics, and decide to work together as a team.
How was the first episode?
You know, I was pretty down on Naoshi Arakawa before I read Sayonara, Football, the prequel to Farewell, My Dear Cramer. While Your Lie in April was so frustrating to me that I wrote a 1500-word article about it elsewhere on the internet, Sayonara, Football won me over with how it discussed the physiological changes of puberty that made it so few women could compete equally to men, without ever being disrespectful to its female protagonist or reducing her skill level. Naturally, I was excited for the anime of Farewell, My Dear Cramer, and I know I wasn't alone in this.
Well, dearest readers, I have good news and bad news.
The good news is that this looks like a strong follow-up to Sayonara, Football, thematically, plot-wise, and character-wise. The show opens with doom-and-gloom news about the state of women's soccer in Japan, and how the national team struggles to gain the attention and the respect of soccer fans. Even Nozomi, who struggled so badly to keep up with the boys, doesn't have a kind word to say about women's soccer. Although the national team started performing well shortly after the manga first debuted, it still reflects the sad state of how little respect women's sports are afforded compared to the men.
Anime about girls' sports teams that treat them with the same gravity as men's sports without turning into a gazey fanservice fest are unbelievably rare; in fact, I can't think of any that don't have at least the occasional leery shot, at least among those that are widely available in the US. Farewell, My Dear Cramer has zero interest in its characters' developing bodies, thank god, and what's more, takes the team as seriously as they take themselves. Sure, the story beats are pretty standard for sports series, but for girls' sports series, they're practically revolutionary. The team of scrappy underdogs, the rival-turned-teammate, the talented player who was resented by her teammates before but now has a team that will stand by her… if you love sports anime, you'll love this.
Now for the bad news: it kind of looks like butt. LIDEN FILMS has always been hit or miss when it comes to animation production, and I'm afraid this one is a big miss, especially compared to the sumptuous production Your Lie in April received five years ago. The colors are flat, the frame compositions awkward, and the character animation stiff and awkward. This alone bodes poorly for a sports series, where the storytelling and tension can live or die on how well-realized the action is. Some of Arakawa's stylistic quirks have translated poorly to animation as well, such as their weirdly fish-lipped appearance,
Please let Farewell, My Dear Cramer be good. Please, please, please. I'm so tired of being let down and disappointed. I can deal with the subpar animation. I just want a scrappy team of female underdogs to experience the epic highs and lows of high school soccer without being sexualized, and to experience it myself by proxy. That's all.
It's funny—despite having very few kind words for Naoshi Arakawa's Your Lie in April, I was super excited for this adaptation of his latest manga. A big part of that is the relative rarity of a girls' sports anime compared to series starring plucky boys. There's a whole wide world of sports stories to be explored that just doesn't get attention, and half of the time when it does it's partly an excuse for cheesecake. So getting an honest, earnest sports drama like this is a real treat.
The show also seems aware of its status, opening on a star player opining on the declining public interest in women's soccer, and her hopes to spark new passion through the national team's victory. Our lead, Nozomi, initially wanted to attend a high school in the hopes of playing on a boys' team so as not to, in her words, “waste” her talent on an under-supported girls' team. Several other members of our eventual team are the sole strong players in their respective middle schools, discouraged and isolated on teams with uninterested coaches. It's hard to say where the series might go with this idea, but if nothing else it's encouraging that this will take the characters' competition seriously.
Speaking of those characters, they make for a pretty endearing bunch so far. The hardest to read right now is presumed protagonist Nozomi, who gets very little focus this episode. I imagine this is a casualty of the prequel movie, originally planned to release alongside this premiere, being delayed by COVID. Thankfully the rest of the cast more than make up for it with a broad variety of personalities. My favorite is probably Sumire, the awkward and quiet one who's nonetheless intensely serious about beating her rival/friend Midori. But just about everyone we see on the field this episode has an infectious passion for soccer that makes it hard to dislike any of them. Okay maybe the ojou-sama one. She could stand to be taken down a peg. But everyone else is great.
Sadly the actual soccer portions of this episode aren't as promising. They largely get by on good timing and posing, but the animation is noticeably stiff outside of a few key shots. It's not enough to ruin things – and soccer is ironically one of the contact sports that can get by without a ton of on-screen movement – but it's still a shame this couldn't get the attention it deserves. It would be nice to have sakuga that was more than functional, but considering how Tamayomi wound up last year, sometimes functional is still a blessing. That caveat aside, this premiere is solid and does its job well.
What's the best thing about Farewell, My Dear Cramer? For my money it's that this appears to be a sports show about a girls' team that is neither cutesy, sexualized, nor dumbed down. The characters are all soccer players who happen to be girls, and that's something that's been a long time coming. Perhaps that's not entirely surprising when you consider that this is based on the manga of the same name by the creator of Your Lie in April, as well as the two-volume girls' soccer manga Sayonara, Football, but whatever the reason behind it, it's just really nice to see.
The first episode's issues are largely those that we find in almost any show involving a large group – namely that we're introduced to too many named characters all at once. Fortunately almost all of them come with built-in friend groups, so it's possible to sort them out that way, and the episode does a decent job of showing us who the most central figures are likely to be. At the top of that list are three high school first-years who all come from different schools and circumstances. Nozomi has been playing soccer for a long time, but only with boys, something that's given her a general disregard for girls' teams because she perceives them as playing at a lower level. Whether this is true or not (and it's looking like not), what's important is that she's internalized the sexist things said about her own gender and sports, and she's actively searching for a high school where she can play on the boys' team until her coach talks her out of it. Meanwhile Sumire has been living what Nozomi fears – she's the only serious player on her middle school team, losing game after game because of her teammates. In an effort to change that, she and a rival from another school, Midori, decide to go to the same high school and play together, but Sumire's got a lot of baggage to get rid of, perhaps more than Nozomi, who only needs to see Sumire and Midori play to realize that her fears were unfounded. Backing all of them up is the requisite young coach, Nomi, a player on the national women's soccer team returning to her alma matter to try to help raise up new players.
In many ways, there isn't anything all that remarkable here, especially for a sports show. Its strengths lie in the fact that it IS just like any other (serious) sports show except for the gender of its team. That's not to say that there isn't a lot of potential for the characters to develop; Nozomi in particular has an interesting path ahead of her, especially given that three of her former middle school teammates are also attending her high school, just playing on the boys' team. There is one hideously annoying character with a voice that made my hair stand on end and an oh-ho-ho laugh and eyes that I personally found unsettling, but I think this has a lot of potential, even if it's only in proving that a girls' sports show doesn't need fanservice to be good.
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