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Gurazeni – 01

OP Sequence

OP: 「メリゴ」 (Merry-Go) by Cypress Ueno & Roberto Yoshino feat. SKY-HI

 

Intial Impressions

Baseball is not a familiar subject for me, and I don’t have any sort of attachment to the sport. It’s non-existent in the UK, and I barely pay any attention to technical details in sports anime. Admittedly, most of my baseball knowledge comes from Wii Sports. But Gurazeni hits a really charming spot that no other sports anime has touched, and if you’re curious about giving this a chance, I think it’s definitely worth a shot.

Bonda Takanosuke (Ochiai Fukushi), a 26 year old relief pitcher, provides a unique perspective that is rarely explored. We follow a journeyman in his prime, who doesn’t dream about being the greatest, and simply wants to earn enough money for a comfortable retirement. I loved listening to his inner monologues, which aggressively compared contracts and salaries, while expressing a highly pragmatic life philosophy. He thoroughly understands his specific role, which is to provide unfavourable matchups for opposing left handed batters, a rare niche that allows him to make an unlikely career out of baseball.

Most of all, I appreciated how he didn’t mince his words, when it came to talking about the cutthroat nature of competitive sports. A right handed batsman has an advantageous matchup, against a left-handed pitcher. If one is not able to handle left-handed pitches, it will create a lasting stigma in his career, that he wouldn’t even have a chance of handling the pitch of a right-handed ace. Knowing that the rookie would likely be demoted and put on a meagre salary, Bonda chases after the bunt and catches it. He frames it as selfishly raising his standing, at the expense of a young family, who were depending on their father to put food on the table. I don’t blame him for doing what was best for himself in a professional capacity, but it stings to see the situation put into that kind of perspective.

On the other side, we have Natsunosuke Tokunoga (Namikawa Daisuke), an ex-player turned commentator who is also Bonda’s sempai. We actually hear from Bonda that he doesn’t think Natsunosuke deserves his gig. Despite his popularity in the dressing room, Natsunosuke was never a successful pitcher and earned comparatively little from his career. That said, he lived out a frivolous life, resulting in a precarious financial situation. However, his charismatic personality translates well into commentary, and although it pays much less, he seeks to steady the boat with it.

Unfortunately, his ratings on TV haven’t been great, and his job might be on the line. To that end, I liked the bait and switch, where it seemed like Natsunosuke researched a particular individual for naught. Then the starting pitcher turned out to be Bonda – who he knows inside out. Cue an enlightening commentary that sets his commentary career back on track. Through an incredible performance, Bonda raises his standings as a pitcher, while bailing out his senpai.

Concluding Thoughts

Gurazeni seems like it will be a story of the side character’s struggle, and I find this kind of viewpoint to be very refreshing. While there is less action compared to traditional sports anime, you wouldn’t think that the characters were genetically engineered superhumans exceeding any realm of logic, adding a strong element of realism to the show. Judging by next week’s preview, Bonda will be going up against a higher value batsman, which will definitely come as an opportunity to raise his stock. Natsunosuke might even get a chance to further his career, if Bonda does well.

My recommendations? For starters, you’ll want to avoid this show if you absolutely hate sports, or struggle to keep up with extensive monologues. There’s going to be a lot of both. However, Gurazeni also provides a breath of fresh air from the generic rabble we typically get every season. If you love sports, or are seeking something that greatly deviates from industry conventions, I wholeheartedly encourage you to try your hand with this show!

 
ED Sequence

ED: 「Shadow Monster」by Toki Asako

Preview

April 8, 2018 at 1:42 pm
6 comments »
  • April 8, 2018 at 3:10 pmgoukenslay

    they making this old ass manga’s in this time is so unfitting seeing as how the art is too lacking

    • April 8, 2018 at 3:13 pmZaiden

      Personally, I don’t have that sort of problem if the story is good. Akagi and Kaiji are adapted from old ass mangas, with dated art styles, but the underlying premise is no less fantastic.

      Of course, there can come a point in 3DCGI where it becomes totally unbearable – Berserk, Souten no Ken ReGeensis. However, where traditional animation is concerned, I’m more than willing to give odd things a try. Otherwise, you’ll end up missing incredible gems i.e. Legends of the Galactic Heroes, The Rose of Versailles, etc.

  • April 8, 2018 at 3:25 pmPuffles

    Found this weirdly fascinating, and I don’t even watch baseball. I like that the MC isn’t am ace who shatters entire batting line-ups single-handedly but isn’t a hard-luck underdog either. He’s a middling guy with a useful set of abilities. I also like that the show is frank and blunt about money and career pitfalls, but doesn’t come off as cynical or mean-spirited. I think it has an old-school vibe to it under the modern techniques as well.

    • April 8, 2018 at 4:13 pmZaiden

      You’ve pretty much articulated everything in a concise way. I’m in a similar boat here, and will definitely give this show a few more episodes, though consistent coverage will have to be a no, because there’s a show coming out next Friday that I’m looking to cover no matter what.

  • April 8, 2018 at 10:54 pmET

    Professional athletes are already overpaid in real life, and now there’s an anime about one who whines that he’s not getting paid enough and wants more?

    • April 9, 2018 at 2:42 amZaiden

      Hey ET! The extent of commercialisation in Western sport cannot be compared to Japan, where the athletes typically earn far less, especially a mediocre one like Bonda. You also have to remember that Bonda is at the peak of his career. Most likely, this’ll be the highest he earns, and his earnings also need to sustain him for the rest of his life.

      The cost of living is also extremely high in Tokyo, and owing to the time value of currency in economics, money now is worth less than money earned in the future. Bonda’s cost of living will continue to rise, but the wages he’s sitting on won’t, and they’ll in fact further devalue when the Japanese economy bounces back from its triple dip recession.

      Finally, I hardly think that Bonda whines. He doesn’t complain about earning less money, rather he wants to work harder, so that he deserves to earn more money.

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