The new anime series Big Windup! is one of the select few sports-related anime series to ever get released in America. Based on the manga by Asa Higuchi, the show is now available on DVD in a Part One set collecting the first 13 episodes. This drama about a fledgling high school baseball team is filled with appealing characters, good sports action, and strong character development. Whether you're an anime fan, a sports fan, or neither, Big Windup! certainly entertains.
The story begins with Ren Mihashi, a student who has transferred from the private Mihoshi Academy (which his grandfather owns) to the public Nishiura High School. As the ace pitcher for Mihoshi's baseball team in middle school, he was blamed by the team for their losing record. Many felt that nepotism was the only reason Mihashi was the ace in the first place.
Mihashi is a character you will either feel sorry for or hate with a passion. He's a bit of a mess who startles easily, acts awkward around others, and is prone to crying. When he's recruited for Nishiura's new baseball team, he's paired with the team's catcher, Takaya Abe. Abe is pretty much the complete opposite of Mihashi. An intelligent, confident player, Abe is easily annoyed by Mihashi's quirks. However, he's also the one who realizes the true extent of Mihashi's talent.
One of the major strengths of Big Windup! is the way it handles its characters. The first major arc of the series, where the team takes on Mihashi's former teammates at Mihoshi Academy in a practice game, is a good example of this. The show doesn't take the easy way out and completely vilify the Mihoshi team. Instead, it shows things from both teams' perspectives. It lets us get inside the characters' heads and find out their thoughts. As a result, the arc's ending has a bit more resonance than just simply a win or a loss.