The Winter 2022 Preview Guide
How would you rate episode 1 of
Tribe Nine ?
Community score: 3.5
What is this?
The year is 20XX. In "Neo Tokyo Country," the youth form "Tribes" to find a place to belong. Conflicts between Tribes intensify and the government passes the "XB Law" so that these conflicts can only be resolved through Extreme Baseball. Players can throw, hit the ball, and each other and the radical sport garners an enthusiastic audience. A bullied boy named Haru Shirokane who wants to become stronger and Taiga, who came from across the sea, meet the strongest XB player and leader of the Minato Tribe, Shun Kamiya. He will lead them against a man who aims to control all the tribes.
How was the first episode?
Tribe Nine dares to answer the question that we've all been too afraid to ask for so many decades: Would baseball be even better if it were ten times as stupid, a hundred times more dangerous, and at least twice as entertaining? The answer, of course, is “Hell yes, you fools. Especially if Kazutaka Kodaka and his crew are involved.”
Could you argue that the characters' looks in Tribe Nine seem just a bit like randomly generated OCs from an amalgam of every Rui Komatsuzaki design from Danganronpa to Akudama Drive? Sure. Could you further make the case that all of their personalities are fairly predictable genre archetypes that don't do much to help Tribe Nine stand apart from other Kazutaka Kodaka stories? Absolutely. Would it be reasonable to assert that Extreme Baseball is a nonsense game that makes no narrative sense and exists merely as a thinly-veiled excuse for a bunch of dumb idiots to get away with a bunch of dumb shit? Without a doubt.
I have a counterargument for you: At one point in this episode, a sleazy corporate Extreme Baseballer dons a freaking Pitch Machine Mech Suit in an attempt to bring Minato Tribe to its knees. In a different scene, Taiga the Ultimate Tuner Fisherman uses his completely irrelevant fishing skills to score a major hit, and everyone just accepts that this is a normal thing to have happened. Shun nearly murders some backalley bullies with nothing more than a bat, an aluminum can, a water tower, and the eldritch power of unadulterated baseballertude. That's a real word now, too, and all of you have to accept it. Tribe Nine demands nothing less.
In short: Tribe Nine is stupid, fun, colorful, and it made me smile a whole lot. This officially makes it a Good Anime That You Should Watch. No further questions at this time.
This one's hard to call. On the surface, and through this whole premiere, Tribe Nine is a wacky and over-the-top sports show with a pretty straightforward character arc to follow. Sure, the sci-fi future Tokyo and ridiculous “Extreme Baseball” premise are a little out there, but change those elements to be mundane and you just have the first episode of any given sports anime. Yet the entire time I was watching this, I couldn't shake the feeling that I wasn't getting the full picture, and that may be on purpose.
Maybe that's just the series' ties to Danganronpa influencing me. Kazutaka Kodaka may not be penning this story himself, but he's a creator who absolutely loves both predicting and messing with audience expectations. Even the more straightforward Akudama Drive had some twists and tricks up its sleeve that it intentionally obfuscated, so it's not outside the realm of possibility that there's something darker and/or weirder lurking behind the goofy cyberpunk baseball premise. The entire setting starts with widespread rioting and gang warfare, and I'm pretty sure I saw a giant floating island at some point, so there's certainly room for all of this to be more than merely ridiculous set dressing.
But for now, this is mostly a pretty solid sports story, introducing us to the timid Haru and brash newcomer Shun as they're drafted into the world of intergang Extreme Baseball. It's a light and breezy premiere overall, doing a good job of getting the characters together, letting them establish a rapport, and then showing off the high-octane spectacle of its sci-fi baseball gimmick. The cast isn't terribly fleshed out yet, but they all have striking looks and seem like fun kids, though the trailers suggest this cast will get much, much bigger with time. The biggest issue though is that it's a bit held back by a clearly modest production, getting by off the strength of the original character designs and striking still shots rather than any noteworthy animation.
So, my sneaking suspicions notwithstanding, this levels out to a solid and quirky little series. If it stays that way, I won't complain, as it's been a while since I had a sports show that really stuck with me. But if things get weirder or darker in the coming episodes, I'll be down for that too.
This anime asks its viewer a simple question: can an anime succeed on style alone? Coming out of the first episode, I'm leaning towards “yes.”
Tribe Nine takes an over-the-top concept and runs with it. What if, in the future, gang wars aren't settled with fists, knives, chains, or lead pipes, but with EXTREME BASEBALL? And what if the baseball field is the city of Tokyo and the rules have been changed to make it so that, not only is touching a player with the ball the only way to get an out, but full contact fighting is allowed as well? Oh, did I mention the use of crazy cyberpunk technology is allowed? That the players' bats can have jet engines or turn into lightsabers and the pitcher can use a Mega-Man-style arm cannon to “throw” the ball? Mix in character designs by Danganronpa's Rui Komatsuzaki (and neon-filled background designs to match), and the whole thing just oozes style.
The big issue is that the animation isn't quite up to the task of showing off EXTREME BASEBALL in all its glory. Character faces and costumes often lack the sharpness they should have—which is to say the animation quality fluctuates wildly. It's still watchable, but if you were hoping for something on par with the last anime to spring from the mind of Danganronpa's Kazutaka Kodaka, Akudama Drive, you're going to feel a bit let down here.
And as for the story, it's almost non-existent at this point. We get introduced to our main cast, get a line or two about each, and watch them play some EXTREME BASEBALL—and honestly, I wouldn't have it any other way. This first episode is 100% style over substance and it's a blast to watch. Now, will said style alone be able to carry the show as it goes on? Probably not. But I'll certainly be watching to find out.
I have seen some weird and silly premises before, but I think Tribe Nine may blow them all out of the water. I feel like the show would take that as a compliment: it's steeped in the ludicrous and embraces that facet of its story wholeheartedly. That doesn't make it good, but I do admire how it leans into it so hard. And that may be enough for some people – the total embrace of its straight-from-the-1990s brand of extreme (or XTREME, if you remember that phase of pop culture) is kind of fun. I'm just that annoying person who likes a touch of logic to my lunacy.
And logic has definitely left the building for this one. The idea that gangs – oops, sorry, tribes can be controlled by giving them a dangerous sport to play in lieu of killing each other would work much better if Extreme Baseball didn't put the casual bystanders at even more risk of injury or death than inter-tribal fights. The game is played not in a stadium, nor on a field, but right in the heart of a city (Minato, in this case), where each base is a landmark blocks away from homebase, balls fly at projectile-weapon speeds, and bats are rocket-powered. Break someone's window and you'll be facing a lot more than paying to replace the glass, even if there's some sort of alert system to warn citizens to stay off the streets.
But more than that, what bothered me the most about this episode was the treatment of Haru. I could get behind Taiga, self-proclaimed “world's best fisherman from abroad,” and his tuna fishing skills being repurposed for extreme baseball, or Shun barfing if he has too much coffee, but Haru just wants to be left alone for most of the episode. He's vocal about the fact that he doesn't want to fight or participate in the game, but the other two have seen his amazing eyesight and coordination, and they're determined to bully him into playing. And I do feel like it is bullying – his new nickname, courtesy of Shun, is “Boring,” his explicit statements are ignored, and everyone keeps feeding him crap about how he has to try his hardest no matter what. To say it raised my hackles would be understating the matter; it completely turned me off the show.
Now, I recognize that this is my button. If it isn't yours, the ludicrous XTREME factor of this could be kind of fun. But the lack of any sort of internal logic and the treatment of Haru – and the pasty complexions that make most of the cast look undead – make this a big “no thanks” for me.
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