The Spring 2022 Preview Guide
Birdie Wing -Golf Girls' Story-
How would you rate episode 1 of
Birdie Wing -Golf Girls' Story- ?
Community score: 4.0
What is this?
A youth story centering on two young women golfers named Eve and Aoi Amawashi. The two come from completely different backgrounds, with completely opposite play styles, and together they will shake the world of golf.
How was the first episode?
People who have been reading my preview guide entries (and maybe premiere reviews for other sites before that) over the last few years are well familiar with how I've been opining that the lack of serious girls' sports anime is a travesty. Most of them are moe-fests about the power of friendship that aim to portray cuteness over athleticism, or jiggly fanservice delivery devices. I wanted the equivalent of Haikyu!! or Run with the Wind: stories that portray the characters as serious competitors, scrappy underdogs scraping by through hard training and camaraderie. That's what I thought I wanted.
But now that I've seen Birdie Wing, I've seen the light. I didn't need a serious story about overcoming the odds and rising through the ranks. I needed a shonen story full of hotblooded rivalry and ridiculously over-the-top superpowered moves, but minus the obsession with bouncing tits. What I needed… was Birdie Wing.
Oh, I was skeptical at first. Like many others who grew up before everyone had their own personal devices, I was tormented by my dad hogging the TV all day on weekends to watch his excruciatingly boring gold matches. I could not have cared less who Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods, or Vijay Singh were, but I learned nonetheless. I thought the trailer for Birdie Wing looked good and the character designs were appealing, but I wasn't sure if that could cut through the trauma of all those weekend afternoons I was forced to read instead of watch syndicated sitcoms.
By the time the ending credits rolled, I was more than ready to take back my misgivings. I wasn't sure how I felt about what I had just watched, but it certainly wasn't boring. And as I processed it, I finally arrived at how I felt: I loved it. It's not particularly well-animated or coherent, but it's wildly off-the-wall in the best possible way, constantly throwing things at the wall to see what sticks without rhyme or reason, and it is incredibly fun. Playing basically the world's most intense game of mini-golf but with actual trains instead of the archetypical windmill and your opponent is a clown mask? Sure. Hitting a tree branch in your way so hard it breaks without the ball completely losing its velocity? Why not! And don't forget the insert song full of black-and-white images of the protagonist Eve posing angstily against graffitied walls in slums that do nothing to advance the story.
It's so much. So much what, you ask? Just… so much. It's stuffed to the gills with the kind of anime bullshit that draw people to the medium, gleefully weird and energetic. It's not going to be a hole in one for everyone, but if you're looking for something that's not just par for the course, this is worth taking a look at.
Birdie Wing is a sports anime that dares to break eons of tradition and ask the question that everyone has been to afraid to utter: “What if golf…was actually really cool?” That isn't to imply that golf isn't fun, or interesting, or a worthwhile athletic challenge; of all the less prolific sports for an anime to cover, I'm actually pretty happy to see one that's about golf at all. But I don't think even the hardest of the hardcore devotees of 18-Hole Pilgrimage would ever be shocked to hear me say that golf usually isn't considered one of the “cool” sports. For many folks, golf resides firmly within the realm of middle-aged white men donned in khaki shorts and matching visors who are probably just using a trip out to the greens as an excuse to get day drunk with all of their recently divorced friends.
Birdie Wing, instead, gives us a world of golf where the rich geezers are outnumbered by flashy anime gals and mysterious clown women that all treat golf as nothing less than existential blood sport. This cartoon's version of America is a dichotomy of disparity, where the most desperate and destitute live in the shadow of the wealthy elite (so…basically the exact same thing as the real America, come to think of it). Our scrappy heroine Eve is the equivalent of a jaded ronin for hire, except her katana is a golf club, and instead of bathing in the blood of her enemies, she revels in the meager riches she can accrue for her gal pals and the orphans they're helping to raise. Eve looks like a the frontwoman of a punk band and wields borderline supernatural skills on the links, and her companion Lily is all too happy to patiently explain to their opponents all of the ways in which they are viscerally screwed. Lily also loves Gunpla, which naturally makes here almost as cool as Eve.
Is this an utterly ridiculous premise for a golf anime to tackle? Yes, but damn it, that's what makes it cool. It's like when Calvin and Hobbes put on those dark shades and just stood around, doing nothing. The best sports shows are the ones that take the everyday thrills of athletic achievement and gild them in a shiny layer of Glorious Anime Bullshit, without so much as an ounce of shame. Y'all can keep your “Cute Girls Gently Sharing Common Hobbies,” I'd like to order a double serving of “Vagrant Women Engaging in Spiritual Combat with Suggestive Sports Metaphors,” and pile on the extra cheese if you please.
My only complaint about Birdie Wing is that its modest productions values and flat direction don't always do the funny premise and genuinely likeable characters justice. This is the kind of series that only becomes funnier the more ironically impressive it looks, and some more sakuga would go a long way towards bringing the whole experience together. Still, Birdie Wing is an awful lot of fun, and I'm excited to see where these golf girls go in future episodes.
I have to hand it to Birdie Wing – it has managed to make one of the most stultifying sports to watch interesting. That's due to a combination of some very nice animation and shot framing and a premise that I can get behind, which is one that stands to challenge the exclusivity of what can be a very snooty sport. (At least in my experience; it's kind of a summer person sport where I'm from.) For Eve and her sister Lily, golf isn't just about winning prestigious tournaments, it's about having money to keep their found family together, because they're all living what appears to be a very precarious life in the slums, and while the oldest sister does her best, it's leveraging Eve's golf skills that keeps body and soul together – or at least that's the implication.
That's something that the episode does a remarkable job of showing us without any clunky exposition. We see a corrupt cop shaking down the family for protection money, we see that Eve's earnings go directly to food, and we see that Eve only plays with three clubs, instead of the vast array that other players have in their bags. When Eve is filling in for an injured player, her caddy is surprised to see her choose what she deems inappropriate clubs for a shot; later we realize that Eve's using the only clubs she's used to playing with – the others just aren't comfortable for her because she's not had the opportunity to use them very often, if ever. When Helene, a girl her age who plays in tournaments, notes that Eve only has the three clubs, it drives home the point without ever explicitly saying, “She's poor and these clubs are all she can afford.”
The episode also takes its time to establish Eve and Lily as characters before bringing us into the fateful meeting that stands to shape Eve's future. It's not until the end of the episode that Eve and Aoi, her probable rival/friend, even meet. We see just enough of Aoi to get the impression that she's intensely competitive and living in a totally different world than Eve – again, through context clues rather than being flat-out told – and it isn't until she approaches Eve that we start to get an idea of how they'll affect each other. Aoi calls golf “sacred;” Eve says that she only plays for money, which is something that Eve can't possibly understand. While I don't give a damn about golf, seeing where this relationship goes looks like it'll be worth putting up with the spectacularly cheesy background music. Both Eve and Aoi have things that could benefit each other. How they'll develop should be worth watching.
I think golf is pretty much the most boring sport in the world to watch. But as I've said before, sports anime live or die on their characters—the sport itself is nothing more than a catalyst for the show's interpersonal drama. And let me tell you, Birdie Wing has learned this lesson well. Instead of being set around a high school sports team or being about a newbie learning the sport for the first time, Birdie Wing follows Eve, a golf hustler who makes her money by winning underground matches against rich amateurs and moonlighting on the pro-circuit in disguise.
Honestly, it's a welcome change of pace—especially as Eve is a highly sympathetic character. Living in the slums, making money to keep a room over the head of orphans, it's impossible not to root for her as she pockets the money of the rich despite owning only three clubs herself. She's basically the Robin Hood of golf. It also helps that while Eve is no doubt talented, much of her skill comes from countless hours of hard work—despite rarely getting to play on anything as nice as an actual course. It looks like watching her rise to stardom will be a cathartic experience to say the least.
On the visual side of things, the anime looks great. From the shots of the dirty slums and vibrant golf courses to the surreal animation of Eve's Prince of Tennis-style special moves, everything is clear and detailed. (And did anyone else notice that Eve and Aoi look a lot like the transformation scene versions of Panty and Stocking? No? Just me? Okay.) Then we have the music. From surprise Eurobeat to a heartfelt ballad, it was fantastic throughout. It's a score I'd expect in an idol anime, not a sports one.
All in all, it's safe to say that Birdie Wing caught me completely off guard. It is easily the best sport anime we've seen so far this season and with its Megalobox meets Carole & Tuesday vibes, I am 100% here for it.
Let me say up top that you're best off going into this show with as little foreknowledge as possible. If you're at all curious about this series, or were planning to check it out if the reviews were good, or just have 30 minutes to kill, do yourself a favor: go in blind and let this premiere wash over you. That's what I did, and I'm confident saying that's the best way to experience whatever the hell Birdie Wing is doing.
Really, going into this with just a short preview and a key image, I was fully expecting a standard sports anime. Sure there was the novelty of it being a rather rare girls' sports show, but I've been here before. I knew what I was getting into. Then 90 seconds in our heroine peeled off a Lupin-style rubber mask to reveal she was a secret underground golfer who makes her living betting on games against pros and occasionally impersonating other golfers to help them place in tournaments. Then I learned she does all this to support her found family of undocumented immigrants who run a dive bar and take care of three orphaned children. THEN she went off to play a midnight, high-stakes golf match against a woman in a clown mask on a golf course built on top of active train tracks. And right about there I realized I had no clue where this show was going, but I needed to find out.
It's the kind a pure-hearted anime bullshit that gets talked about a lot, but only occasionally pops up for real, and I ate it right up. Every couple of minutes this premiere found some new idea or element to blindside me with, and it pulled me through the entire episode in record time. A moody music video interlude of Eve looking solemnly over the slums of her home town? Osamu Dezaki-esque postcard memories to punctuate our heroine's cool lines about golf? Her rival striking an Obari Pose before showing off her absurdly long driver that powers he own cartoony style of golf? All of that and far more, to the point where it legitimately started to feel like this wasn't a real show, but an elaborate prank laser targeted at me and my online friend circle.
The only real hangup is that I don't know how long this show can keep that kind of energy up. It's already showing some strains in its production, and while the golf sections are conceptually creative, they struggle to deliver that energy in motion. Sk8 the Infinity, this show's closest cousin, managed its bawdy mix of skateboarding and pro-wrestling with fantastic visuals and pulse-pounding races, and I don't think this series has that in its cards. This could all very well fall apart in a few episodes once it runs out of ideas or the drawings start melting, and that would be a huge bummer.
But those are problems for Future Nick to worry about. In the here and now, this was an absolute blast to watch from start to finish. God knows I never expected to say that about a golf anime. If you were coming here looking for a serious and down-to-earth girls' sports show, I'm sorry. There's nothing for you here. But if you're at all intrigued by this nonsense I've been rambling out, give it a shot.
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