The high school baseball anime Big Windup! comes to a satisfying but incomplete end in its Part Two DVD set. Collecting the final 13 episodes of the series, this set is not quite as good as the first. It goes to some extraordinary lengths to fill its remaining episodes. However, it remains compelling throughout and will make you hope that more will be made.
The show continues right where it left off at the end of the previous DVD set. The upstart Nishiura High School baseball team is playing in their very first summer tournament. The team has drawn Tosei High School, the winner of the previous year's tournament, as their first-round opponent.
The two teams are a study in contrasts. Nishiura's team is entirely made up of Freshmen while many of Tosei's players are Seniors. Tosei has a full roster compared to Nishiura's squad of only 10 players. Even the cheering sections are radically different. Tosei's section not only has a full band but also a chorus of players who didn't make the roster. Nishiura's cheer squad consists of just three guys with a drummer.
The setting of the game is far from ideal. The conditions are dreary with a constant light rain that could stop the game the minute it gets heavier. The team's catcher Abe is worried about the condition of their talented but nerve-wracked pitcher Mihashi. Both teams are anxious and eager to play as they each have their own stakes on the line.
The fighting anime Dragon Ball Z is notorious among anime fans for the way it could drag out a single fight for episodes on end. The makers of Big Windup! took a page out of their book in the way they handle Nishiura's game against Tosei. Eleven of the thirteen episodes on the Part Two DVD set are devoted to that game. Eleven. In comparison, it only took five episodes to cover Nishiura's practice game against Mihoshi Academy on the Part One DVD set.
The episodes on the first DVD set did a good job of showing the skill and strategy involved in the game of baseball. This continues on the second set and it is what keeps the show entertaining even as the pacing slows considerably. Every pitch and every at-bat crackles with drama as we see and hear things from both teams' perspectives. Small things like the condition of the dirt in front of home plate take on huge importance in the context of the game.
The makers do an excellent job at keeping up the intensity without making it seem like no progress has been made. They also keep things from feeling monotonous by also showing the perspective of the family in the stands. We get to see the mothers of the Nishiura boys bonding as they cheer them on and the cheer squad keeping the fans in high spirits even as they have some doubts.
The show also hasn't lost its sense of humor. Drama takes center stage for the most part but there's little bits of humor to be found. For example, a Tosei player is seen having a bit of a crush on Nishiura's female coach. Also, there's a very subtle running gag involving Mihashi that harkens back to the show's earliest episodes.
The first episode after the conclusion of the game is all about the characters as Mihashi invites members of the team over for lunch at his house. It offers an interesting take on Mihashi and Abe's relationship in addition to how much (and how little) Mihashi has changed in his time at Nishiura. The final episode is a side story featuring none of the main characters that deals with a pitcher who has lost the will to continue playing baseball.
Once again, the extras are pretty minimal on this set. They only consists of textless versions of the show's new opening and ending and some trailers. The DVDs contain both English and Japanese audio (with English subtitles) and the English dub continues to be very good. The nature of the episodes on this set brings out some strong performances from the voice actors. The only real misstep is the dub of the final episode. It's a little stiff compared to the other episodes but it makes sense because all of the characters are new.
The Part Two DVD set of Big Windup! ends things but doesn't bring them to a close. At the end of this set, Nishiura has played one game of a summer tournament. We are left hanging as to what happens next. We don't get to see them potentially play other teams or play regular season baseball. We don't get to see the characters continue to develop or get much more backstory.
Because the original manga runs in a monthly anthology, there simply wasn't enough story to support more episodes at the time this show was made. If more Western anime fans embrace the show, there is the possibility that a new season could be made. The popularity of some anime overseas has led to new adaptations in the past.
Whether or not more of it gets made, Big Windup! leaves an impression. It's a wonderful show that gives you a greater appreciation for the sport of baseball. It's a shining example of a genre of anime that rarely makes it to the West. Funimation Entertainment took a gamble on releasing this show and hopefully, more sports anime gets licensed as a result. The Part Two DVD set makes it clear that this is one of better anime shows available and that it's definitely worth your time.