It’s been a while since I’ve watched a sports anime – the last one I completed a season of was the first Hajime no Ippo, so it’s been a while. I do enjoy them to a certain degree, and I’ve decided to blog Baby Steps this season. I have not read the manga, but I am aware that it is highly regarded so I believe this is a good choice. Other than finding the main character’s hairstyle a little irritating, the first episode didn’t put me off in any way, so it’s off to a better start than most anime I’ve seen this week. I can’t deny I didn’t get a fleeting glimpse of Inui from Prince of Tennis during the prologue, however I have faith in all the people saying this is NOT THAT KIND OF STORY.
As far as first episodes go, it was a pretty standard one. We get introduced to our main character Maruo Eiichirou (better known as Ei-chan due to his consistency in always getting an A in all his classes). Diligent and organized to a level dangerously close to mania, he’s the “go to guy” for any sort of notes that anyone in the class needs for studying. He’s a nice guy, and being overprotective of his original notes he goes to the extent of copying (I assume photocopying, otherwise he really is mad) all his notes for anyone who wants to borrow them.
Then we have the eventual romantic interest Takasaki Natsu, a hugely popular girl from another class in the same year. Such meetings are obviously fated to be accompanied by some sort of event that ensures the characters notice and acknowledge each other. In this particular case, Takasaki just happens to borrow Maruo’s original notes (referred by her friend) to study for a test coming up (of course he ran out of copies just then!), and proceeds to walk straight into a desk while reading them. Since it’s lunch time, there would understandably be a obentou on that desk, which would go on to spill onto the notebook. Takasaki brushes it off, quite literally, with a simple apology to both Ei-chan and the boy who’s lunch she ruined and walks off, leaving Ei-chan in a state of shock. The rest of the guys were more than happy to reassure her that all was fine.
So what does any of this have to do with sports? Well I’m getting to it. Highly organized Ei-chan reveals that he may not be doing enough exercise to keep fit, and he has Wednesday evenings free in his tight schedule built all around his meticulous study habits. His friend Kageyama Kojirou (surprisingly a member of the shogi club) remarks that Ei-chan is behaving like a middle aged man with such a rigorous timetable and questions him about whether he enjoys doing this. At this point, it appears that Ei-chan does not really have anything that particularly drives him. He doesn’t really consider the effort he puts into his studies as something he wants to do, but rather just as something that needs to be done. It’s pretty clear that this willingness to put in effort, added to something that really motivates him, is what’s going to get him to improve at tennis. How the writers go about showing this though, that’s where this show has the opportunity to do some good stuff. I’ll quickly lose interest if his road is easy, or just “convenient enough”.
This episode doesn’t go wrong in that aspect. Ei-chan goes to check out a local tennis club, where he finds Takasaki is a member, and is really good. Members ranged from adults to elementary school kids, all passionate about tennis. Completely clueless and untrained Ei-chan is unable to keep up with an elementary school kid in the warm up, forget trying his hand at a game. A stubbornness streak ensures that he embarrassingly passes out when he overexerts himself trying to catch up to one particularly snarky kid. When he comes to, he decides to try and sneak out, but is intercepted by Takasaki. He tells her that he doesn’t think he can put so much effort into a hobby like her, to which she responds saying that she aims to go pro. This is no hobby, she wants to go pro playing the sport that she loves. For some unknown reason this is supposed to be a secret. Apparently she let this “secret” slip to someone she barely knows for more than a few hours? These guys are so going to be involved in a never ending romantic tease, I’m so sure of it.
Animation wise, there’s nothing special here. I did not find it bothering me in any way, but it’s not incredible either. I’m not going to fault it, and unless you are a stickler for awesome animation, you really shouldn’t have a problem with it so far. Sounds were decent as well. I don’t think one episode is enough to make judgements on the characters, so I’ll leave that for now. The young elementary school kid was a bit annoying (but that was the idea) and I’m a little worried about Kageyama in particular, but frankly, I can’t really say anything. All in all, a solid episode, and I look forward to next week.