Friday, October 18, 2002

Princess Nine

Genre: Sports
Parental Guidance Recommended
Original Japanese © Kensai Date / Phoenix / NEP21
English Release © 2001 - 2002 A.D. Vision, Inc.

Princess Nine DVDs
Princess Nine Art Books & Manga
Princess Nine Music

Kyubi Kitsune's Description:
Though Ryo Hayakawa's father died when she was very young he taught her one important thing -- how to throw a mean fastball. Nowadays the fifteen year old is a sensational cleanup pitcher in the local sandlot league. Yet someone has higher plans for the girl. It is during one game where she catches the eye Keiko Himuro, the powerful Chairwoman of the Kisaragi Girls High School. Keiko is known for challenging the system and wants to start the first girl's baseball team in Japan with the goal of winning the High School Baseball Championship, Koshien, with Ryo as the team's centerpiece. But there are other reasons behind her desire to do this as well. It is up to Ryo and eight other girls to use this opportunity to rise to the occasion and seize their dreams.

(26 episodes)

Quite good. Makes baseball interesting >>> by Kyubi Kitsune

If there is one thing that plagues the sports genre in general, it would be that most entries in it suffer from half-ass writing that utilizes the same tiresome clichés and formula. It gets to the point where you can predict the entire plot and characters from just looking to see if it is in the sports genre. Princess Nine is the exception, and proves getting there is half the fun.

Princess Nine's storyline reads like a cross between two of the better American baseball films, A League of Their Own and The Natural, but has some distinct differences to it. Immediately the girls versus boys element is noticeable. It also utilizes the ever popular exceedingly complicated high school love triangle found in a lot of anime set in high school. Another is that it is full of twist and turns uncommon with the sports genre. The story uses most of the genres convention's, but it fleshes them out to make something seemingly original. Aside from these, Princess Nine also gives a well crafted critique of the inherent sexism found within Japanese society.

Like the story the characters initially seem to be stock, but it is through good writing that gives these characters life and chemistry between them that make them interesting. At the center of this is the tomboyish, emotionally naïve, and very talented Ryo; her rival on and off field, the chairwoman's daughter, and equally talented Izumi; and Hiroki the genius batter for Kisaragi High School who is at the center of Ryo and Izumi's rivalry and feelings. The rest of the girls' team is made up of the ever energetic Hikaru, a former Junior High Softball MVP from Osaka; Yuki, a seemingly catatonic yet talented left fielder who finds strength in her doll Fifi, whom she believes is an alien; Hokaru, the backwoods talent from the fishing village of Tosa in Okinawa who has a devastating swing refined through fishing; Seira, an ex-track and field star turned juvenile delinquent; Yoko, who sees the team as a means to an end to attain idol status, but instead draws Seira's ire; Mao, a big and soft-spoken type who is the only one who can catch Ryo's fastballs; and Kanako, a talented shortstop and the principal's, who is a fervent opponent to the team, daughter who plays behind his back. The team's manager is Nene, who believes all she needs to know about baseball she read through manga, and the ever drunk Coach Kido round out the team. The supporting characters include Ryo's mom and her childhood friend, Seishiro, who provide her support throughout the series.

The biggest problem with the series is with its animation. In the first third of the series an astute viewer will notice the animation is wildly inconsistent in certain episodes, and the show gives the impression that it had a low animation budget. Regardless, the animation makes due with its low budget and provides a nice sense style during baseball games, skillfully reuses some footage, and cleverly utilizes animation shortcuts. Character designs are plain but good regardless.

Princess Nine's music is mostly orchestral, and is some of the best background music you will hear in recent anime because it captures the mood of the scenes very well. Unfortunately it also appears there was a limited music budget and some songs are generously reused.

Voice acting is good on both sides. The dub adds in a little bit of minor profanity and localization, but is highlighted by strong performances, especially with Hilary Haag as Ryo.

Princess Nine is highly recommended. Regardless of its animation problems, it provides a refreshingly enjoyable take on a tired genre while providing an uplifting and motivational message.

Individual Rating: Art/Animation 7; Story 9; Characters 10; Sounds 9

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