Hello folks, and welcome back to Wrong Every Time! Today I’m eager to get back to a property that’s lain dormant for far too long, the intriguing baseball drama Big Windup! Though my initial excitement for this property was centered on Tsutomu Mizushima’s presence as the director, Big Windup!’s first episode proved the core material being adapted is already brimming with punchy, narrative-friendly ideas. Rather than focusing on a team of idealists all trying to Do Their Best, Big Windup! has so far been driven by the whims of Abe, a psychological mastermind determined to manipulate his team into greatness. Abe’s perspective offers a unique tactical twist on the sports drama standard, and the show’s already promising some intriguing tension between his and captain Momoe’s perspectives. Beyond that, it’s too early to tell where this series may lead, so let’s get right to business then. Onward to Big Windup!
This time through, along with the clear emphasis on the open sky, hazy heat, and other stereotypically “summery” aesthetic touchstones, I also notice how the OP has far less of a focus on striving or victory than most sports shows – instead, it’s all nervous energy, with the players generally looking sweaty, anxious, and exhausted. The OP seems to be deliberately announcing that these are not epic warriors of baseball
Opening on a shot promising intrigue, as we stare down the edge of a skyscraper. Momoe is wiping windows to earn money for a pitching machine
Unsurprisingly, the first episode’s nervous childhood friend has announced her desire to be the team manager. Team managers basically always being girls in these shows feels like a funny quirk of narrative necessity; the social dynamics are more interesting if some girls are playing a central role, but if your story is focused on a gender-divided sport, the team is obviously going to be all boys. Thus, you fit female characters into the most prominent adjacent role – the manager, as well as the coach, in this case
My own favorite baseball manga Cross Game has the main character living next to a family of four sisters, which also shores up the standard gender disparity pretty handily
This situation also neatly reiterates Momoe’s fearlessness, as she pumps her fists over their upcoming training camp while suspended hundreds of feet in the air
“Aw shit, I forgot to masturbate last night!” Quite a line
While Abe waves off Hanai’s insinuations about his manipulation from last episode, Mihashi is getting motion sickness in the bus. He’s like a baby bird they all have to take care of
“If you get motion sickness, you should have taken the medicine before you got on.” I thoroughly relate to Abe’s blunt appraisals of basically every situation. I generally don’t play team games, because I know from experience that I personally get overly frustrated when people fail to make smart choices, and get even more frustrated when those choices impact my own fortunes. Charitable takes are something I have to reach for – my default reaction to others’ failure is generally exasperation
“The coach says if I don’t change my personality, I won’t get to pitch.” Mihashi has been freaking out over those words for days, unsurprisingly. Momoe is clearly a frank, tough-love sort of leader, but Mihashi is too fragile to do anything but wilt in the face of that. Abe, who doesn’t actually care about his feelings, but knows precisely how to coddle his fragility, is far more capable of manipulating him to greatness
Haha, yep. Abe just grimly assessing him, thinking “alright, his personality is hopeless, but I still need him”
Abe and Mihashi get their own separate training regime. Baseball’s inherent focus on the “battery” pair of a pitcher and catcher makes it very narrative-friendly, as you’ve already got a preset lead pair within the team roles (who are often complimented with a star batter)
The difference in Momoe and Abe’s methods is made immediately clear, as Momoe mocks his top speed, then Abe tries to build him back up. It’s an intriguing dynamic; Momoe is the one who actually wants him to grow as a person, but Abe’s the one in his corner, hoping to manage his weak-willed current self
Momoe attacks the problem directly, informing Mihashi that his great control is a direct reflection of his poor top speed. Rather than simply work with what she has, she truly believes she can turn Mihashi into a genuinely well-rounded pitcher. He’d actually get “worse” for a while following her instructions, and with his weak will that might prompt him to quit entirely, but Momoe is making a long-term bet on him
In contrast, Abe is actually annoyed to see Momoe attempting to improve him. If Mihashi embraces this strength training, he’ll lose the precision Abe values – and what’s worse, he might even gain the confidence to stop following Abe’s orders! Love this little Machiavelli
“You don’t understand the catcher’s role.” Momoe is already wise to his scheme
Oh, fantastic. Momoe’s set up a practice match against the freshmen that formerly played with Mihashi. Not only is this another natural reflection of her “tough love” approach and underlying faith in Mihashi (“I know, I’ll build his confidence by having him fight his demons!”), it also simply provides a perfect narrative hook for us in the audience
All of Abe’s fears have come to pass: not only is Mihashi determined to improve his speed, he won’t even listen to Abe’s commands anymore
One of the team elders explains the hormones involved in hyping yourself up, maintaining focus, and maintaining a positive drive. Mihashi is predictably discouraged by this conversation, as he’s consistently lacking in all these qualities
“Believe you can do it, concentrate on doing it, and be satisfied when you complete it.” Momoe believes in Mihashi, but her tough love can only go so far. With Abe also clearly not interested in improving Mihashi’s mental state, it apparently falls to this guy to offer him the psychological guidance he needs to find a more productive attitude
Interesting. So this guy specifically has them gather plants and cook themselves, in order to center their focus on the meal, and thus practice going through productive mental cycles that also apply to baseball. Does this actually work? I’m well out of my depth here science-wise, but it’s certainly an interesting concept
It also fits very well for this particular show. The central character conflict is more about psychology than physical training, so of course the team’s overall training structure would also include a major mental training component. I love that! The title “Big Windup!” really doesn’t do much to convey this series’ actual appeal though, huh?
This sequence helps illustrate the psychological purpose of exercises like the team coming together for a big cheer before a game, beyond just affirming the camaraderie between players. You can trick your body into performing more effectively, and this team is determined to hone that trickery to a science
Ah, I see. “That guy” is Shiga, a math teacher, thus presumably their faculty advisor. It’s interesting how this story’s unique focus on psychology and growth, rather than the personal goals of the players, means we actually get to know the coach and manager before most of the actual team. The drama is driven by their thoughtful training schemes, whereas sports dramas are more frequently driven by the aspirations and dramatic rivalries within the players themselves, while their coaches are more of an afterthought
We get this episode’s first major sequence of fluid animation as the team erupt into a pillow fight. This production is pretty conservative on the whole, but there’s some nice fluid character animation here, with a particularly impressive focus on the shifting folds of the characters’ baggy sleeping clothes
Unsurprisingly, Abe had some negative past experience with a pitcher, which goes some distance to explaining his current frustration, and also offers us a future pitching rival!
“We can’t win with just one or two gifted kids. We can’t be like other teams.” Abe’s perspective has a certain logic, but he’s driven largely by bitterness and distrust, and his dreams are short-sighted. Momoe wants to build a genuine team, and that requires more work and more faith than Abe’s currently willing to offer
“There are various types of catchers. I think you and I are aiming for different types.” God, he’s so recognizable that I feel a little embarrassed for my former self. He’s clearly been obsessing over her critique, and this is the way he’s found to rationalize it away
And so, after this earnest display and expression of faith from Momoe, Abe at last sets his pride aside, and asks what he needs to do. A huge step!
Her first ask is simple: stop treating Mihashi like an infant, and tell him you actually believe in him
And so the team grows even stronger! That was an excellent followup to Windup’s debut, offering plenty more of the fun psychological focus that makes this franchise so unique. I was happy to learn that Momoe is clearly the manipulative equal of Abe, simply with a kinder and more ambitious perspective. Having already sniffed out Abe’s goals, she responded with a counter-program designed to improve both Mihashi’s fundamentals and confidence, and then worked hard to win Abe’s actual trust. I’ll be a little sad to see Abe’s cynical manipulation recede, but I’m also eager to see how he can apply his clear intelligence to improving the team as a whole. Big Windup! remains a distinctive and fascinating sports drama!