Taishou Baseball Girls (Taishou Yakyuu Musume) is one of those anime that at first seem pretty ordinary, due to their awfully cute design and the girls’ young age, but have an interesting premise; could baseball be an empowering activity for women who wished to gain independence in early 20th Century Japan. Fortunately, this is a case where our curiosity and interest for such stories led us to discover a great, sweet and thoughtful story.
Chapter One: First Impressions
The best way for an anime to grab the viewer’s eye is a strong opening track. In my opinion, Taishou Baseball Girls‘ opening is exactly what it should have been. The main theme is a positive song with an upbeat tune, which actually encouraged me to keep on with the series, hoping that there’d be no bad ending for such a story.
The first episode’s introduction puts us in one of Koume’s dreams, a truly genius approach to put a viewer into the story. In the funniest way we learn about everything that surrounds her world and, more importantly, that she does not feel 100% comfortable in the enviroment she lives. Koume is a girl who wants to run, dress in sailor uniforms and achieve her own goals -things that, according to the series, were not accepted in Japan of that era. She gets scolded when seen running, her father does not let her wear the uniform that she wants and she is told that a girl would not be allowed by her parents to play baseball. In that setting her classmate, Ogasawara Akiko, sets forward a challenge; she wants to play baseball, to prove that women can be as good as men -in every single thing. And thus, a wonderful adventure begins.
Chapter Two: Through Thick and Thin
One of the things I love is how clear the contradictions of that society appear. From the conservative parents who sent their kids to a somewhat progressive school that represents Westernization, to the mix of traditional and modern clothing, it is obvious that the Japan of Taishou Baseball Girls is a culturally divided country. For every man and woman, young and old, there is a different approach to this situation.
The story is based on light comedy and it usually succeeds, even though there were moments like in episode 7, “Girlish Pranks in the Streets of Azabu”, where I was not sure if I should laugh or drown in my facepalm. Aside from a few exceptions, I can’t say there was much development to the cast’s personalities. The anime adds a great variety of stereotypes that, thankfully, are not boring. To the contrary, the interactions between the girls work amazingly well and offered me many moments of laughter. I was also glad that, in the face of Kyouko and Tomoe I found a yuri couple to ship. I am still going doki-doki for Kyouko’s eternally clumsy attempts to win over Tomoe’s approval.
Chapter Three: Does it shine after all?
On the negative side of things, I read in many reviews that the story suffered from a series of anachronisms. Unfortunately, being neither a historian or someone of Japanese origin I cannot confirm this without research but, there is a very important reason why I don’t want to do that research now. I believe that Taishou Baseball Girls should be judged not on historical accuracy but on the value of its message.
It takes effort and a whole lot of struggle to manage to gain respect. It takes even more courage to make the first step towards progress, especially if you have to face people who may be important to you. In reality, you are going to always need allies, be it people like yourself or others who help through indirect means, to manage to achieve that progress. In the end, consistency and effort are the proof of your worth.
The only thing that saddened me when the series was over, was the thought that these girls will grow up to be adults who, like the generations before, will question or hinder progress the same way their parents did. It may not be a given for everyone but that is what, according to my experience, happens to most people. It’s a circle that just goes on and on.
But that is exactly what I loved about Taishou Baseball Girls; even if you can’t change everything and even though there is no gurantee you will succeed, no one can tell you it’s not going to happen, except yourself. There were so many women who dedicated their lives to earn independence, the power to make their own lives, that such stories cannot but be considered a tribute to them.