Monday, January 30, 2017

REVIEW: Big Windup! 2 (anime TV series)

Big Windup! 2 is the second season of Big Windup!, a baseball anime. Although the first season was licensed by Funimation, it apparently didn’t sell well enough for them to license the second season. Instead, Right Stuf licensed the second season and released it only a couple months ago.

Review:

This second season picks up right where the first one left off - the game between Tosei and Nishiura ended only a few hours prior. Nishiura plays against Sakitama in the first half of the season, and against Bijou in the second half. There are also a few prominent themes and storylines: Bijou’s assistant coach, an ex-Tosei player who wants to win so badly that he encourages a Bijou player to cheat and to injure other players; Abe and his efforts to properly communicate with Mihashi; and Mihashi’s blind obedience to Abe.

I’ve now seen this season twice, and while I definitely enjoyed it, I didn’t think it was as good as the first. A large part of the problem was that I didn’t like Roka, Bijou’s assistant coach, and was mostly uninterested in the storyline dealing with him. A lot of time and effort was put into making Roka this big and menacing figure, and yet nothing ever really came of that. It was clear that he’d used a Bijou player to cheat in the past, but, in terms of what viewers got to see, it was all just talk - Bijou didn’t cheat against Nishiura, and the entire cheating scheme petered out into nothing.

The stuff about life after high school baseball was somewhat interesting, but this didn’t feel like the right time to be showing it. I mean, yes, Kawai (Tosei’s captain) had to do some hard thinking about his future, and there had been vaguely bittersweet mentions, in the first season, of how quickly the three years of high school baseball would go by, but the Nishiura team was the series’ main focus, and they were just getting started.

One thing that Roka did highlight for me was how much I generally loved the adults in this series, because he was the exception to the rule. For the most part, the adults in both the first and second season were wonderful, supportive, and excited to see high school baseball players improving and enjoying themselves. Bijou’s head coach actually enjoyed his job, unlike Roka, and while Momoe wanted Nishiura to win, she also wanted them to grow. For example, she purposely put Hanai in a position that she knew would put pressure on him because it was what he needed to improve as a player, but she also kept an eye on him in case she was pushing him too hard.

Then there were the parents, who clearly loved helping their kids out. I liked that this season finally introduced us to Mihashi and Abe’s dads. Mihashi’s dad was adorable, and Abe’s dad seemed gruff and scary at first but turned out to be extremely perceptive and kind. After meeting Mihashi only once, he immediately figured out a large part of what was going on between Abe and Mihashi and tried to make Abe aware of it, while also taking care not to trample on Abe’s feelings too much.

Now on to the games themselves, which were just as riveting as the ones in the first season.

The outcome of the Sakitama game was fairly easy to predict, since even the team’s captain didn’t expect them to be able to beat Nishiura. Still, it was fun seeing how Nishiura would deal with Sakitama’s incredible cleanup hitter. Also, I enjoyed watching Sakitama’s terrible and inexperienced battery stumble along - Abe and Mihashi’s mental commentary about them amused me.

Bijou’s team switched between multiple pitchers, and only one of them really got a chance to show off his personality a bit. It was kind of nice, seeing the catcher gradually figure out how to properly work with him, but mostly the Bijou game was about Nishiura dealing with something like the Tosei game, only with the tables turned - Bijou using data they’d collected about Nishiura against them. Despite the annoying interruptions for quick peeks at Roka, the Bijou game was nerve-wracking and exciting. It was well worth watching, if only for Mihashi’s epiphany about his reliance on Abe’s signs.

That said, I wish the season had continued for at least one more game past the Bijou match. I needed the series to end on a higher note than it did. I appreciated Mihashi and Tajima’s conversation when they biked home together, and Mihashi and Abe’s conversation at Abe’s house, I really did. I just wanted more.

Despite my dissatisfaction with the Roka storyline and the end of this season, I’d still recommend it to fans of the first season. The games were a lot of fun, Abe's efforts to have proper conversations with Mihashi and to listen to him more patiently were hilarious, and overall it was just nice to see all the Nishiura players again.

Additional Comments:

Whereas Funimation used white subtitles for both foreground and background dialogue, Right Stuf used yellow subtitles for foreground dialogue and white subtitles for background. This made busier scenes a lot easier to follow. On the minus side, I think I noticed slightly more typos in Right Stuf’s subtitling than in Funimation’s, mostly near the end of the season. I can’t comment on the accuracy of either company’s subtitles.

Extras:

A cleaning opening, clean closing, and this season's trailer - just like Funimation, bare bones stuff. Since I'm not much of a real-life baseball fan, I would have loved extras that explained, in greater depth, some of the things that happened in the two games in this season. Also, profiles of a few real-life pitchers and catchers might have been nice.

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