Gurazeni – Episode 1 [First Impressions]
The one thing Gurazeni wants to make sure the viewer gets is that the world of baseball is a harsh and unforgiving one. I got interested in this show for various reasons: I like baseball anime shows, the characters are adults and the whole setup of a player’s standing being dictated by their annual salary and their salary depending on their performance i the season. This creates a highly competitive environment for players that may remind adult viewers of the harsh reality of employment in certain fields. So far Gurazeni feels very different to the baseball anime I’ve watched before because, first off, it didn’t focus that much on baseball itself during the episode and second, it has an adult main character.
We meet Bonda Natsunosuke right away, he’s a 26 years old south paw relief pitcher with an 18 million yearly contract, and boy are these contract amounts very important! There’s a strict hierarchy based on the amount of money a player gets and there’s constant comparison among them and they all obsess over it. The explanation for this is done as expository narration from the main character. He has some sort of introspection going on at almost all times, but I find this very charming, personally. The character designs are old-fashioned and nostalgic, but they still have modern flair. The mixture of 2D traditional animation and CGI is a bit unfortunate at times, they even have some of it on the opening credits sequence, though it doesn’t bother me.
This episode was split into two parts and both had a sort of introductory feel. In the first part Bonda is called to relief the pitcher for a south paw pinch hitter. The pinch hitter gets a sub who is right-handed, a combination that puts Bonda at a disadvantage. Bonda explains a little bit the background of this new batter, emphasizing his contract. During this scene we learn the meaning of Gurazeni. It’s a shortening of a phrase that often gets repeated in the baseball world, “There’s money under the pitching ground”. So basically, even in the title there’s emphasis on the importance of money here. Bonda ends up striking up the batter and Doi loses his contact. One thing I found interesting here was that I thought Bonda was going to get a better contract right away, but no! The situation actually just puts in display how meager his contract is and how that represents his worth as an opponent.
In the second part of the episode there’s a little bit of an intro again, with Bonda introducing himself, etc. It made me wonder if this will always be a sort of two-parter with a ‘situation of the week’ on each part, but that remains to be seen in the next few episodes. Anyway, Bonda is in a tricky situation where he’s called to relief the pitcher against a 200 million-worth batter. In this part it becomes more obvious that the focus won’t be much on the sport because the situation is resolved quickly, but the aftermath of it leads to a meeting with another character, Toku. Toku is a retired pro baseball player who played with Bonda before and they’re friends. They go eat together and talk about Toku’s work as a commentator. It turns out they also have strict standards of numbers they have to pull in order to be recognized and well-paid.
Toku is in a slump and needs a bit of a push in a better direction, but he’s not about to tell Bonda this, so instead he asks for some insider info in the next game, but Bonda doesn’t let up. I found this bit nice because it showed some negotiation for information that can be a tricky thing to portray, but it was done nicely. In the next few days Toku is frantic trying to prepare for his upcoming job as a commentator on a game and at the same time, we have Bonda thinking about the options for retirement that pro baseball players have. In that sense this show is very much aimed at adults in my opinion, 18 million a year may sound like a lot of money, but like it’s discussed in the show, retirement happens at a young age and if you cannot secure enough income and don’t have any way of finding employment later, a certain lifestyle will be impossible to maintain. Toku is presented as an example of someone who seemed to have squandered his money and now has to grasp at straws.
In the end we have a nice breakthrough for Toku and Bonda ends up being the chosen starting pitcher, so Toku can make some accurate predictions and change his commentary style in a way that gets him some nice feedback from his manager. The cynic in me thought that Toku wasn’t going to be that lucky every time, so I hope they show him later and that he’s made more advancing in his career or something. The cast seemed pretty big in the opening sequences too, so I’m curious to meet some more of them and see how they fit into this charming little world. I have positive impressions of this episode, I liked the humorous mood, the light-hearted music and colors, the animation was decent enough for my standards and even the sort of darker side of it is delivered with a ‘can’t be helped’ atmosphere that makes me curious how it’ll go from now on. The one downside I have concerns about is the possibility of it being very repetitive. I guess I’ll find out later on!
Possibility of watching: It’s going to happen
Possibility of blogging: High