Princess Nine episodes 1–4: Out of the park

[Screenshot]This one appeared on Anime Network VOD, probably by accident. It doesn’t conform to their usual standards (one episode per VOD item and not obviously a DVD rip), it’s subtitled instead of dubbed, and it doesn’t appear on their schedule. Oh well, I’ll still take it, and be glad I did.

Now, this sort of thing is (I am given to understand) why the Japanese comic market is booming while American comics are dying a slow death. It seems like whenever the two are compared, the Japanese are conceded to win on medium-marketing (the B&W mini-volumes with real plots instead of monthly pamphlets of decompressed story) and on “diversity”. In this context, “diversity” is almost always “they have sports comics and we don’t”. Never mind that there are a number of genres and themes explored by manga that American comics don’t scratch: sports is usually the first one mentioned in these discussions. Of course, Princess Nine is anime, not manga, but the two keep pretty close company, and the state of American animation is nearly as dire as the state of American sequential-art, so the comments translate well.

Anyways, as that little screed implied, Princess Nine is a sports story. As a rule, I don’t much go in for sports: I’ll sit in front of a TV showing a game if I have my crochet and I’m hanging out with people who are watching, but I don’t seek it out. So knowing that this series was about baseball originally left me feeling underwhelmed. I was surprised to find it absolutely delightful. To start with, baseball is a framing device, not the main thrust of the story. Whole episodes go by without anybody playing baseball, which is fine with me. So that leaves us with plot, which there isn’t too much of so far, and characterization, which is where P9 shines.

We start with Ryo, who is a charming enough character that even if the others were shoddy this would still be worth watching. She’s optimistic, perky, clever, and has enough conflicts to not be nauseating. And she’s well-drawn with a good voice-actor too. Really, there’s nothing not to love, from a sympathy point of view. In terms of verisimillitude, the one flaw is that she’s perhaps too with it: both junior-high-schoolers and anime girls are traditionally terrible angst-monkeys, and it’s kind of weird to see a basically well-adjusted specimen of both groups. THe other characters get less screen time, and aren’t too well developed so far, except for the infuriating charmer Hiroki, but they show promise. I saw an intense drama-storm brewing from pretty much the first 10 minutes where the Nice Guy and Ryo share awkward hint-dropping about their feelings for each other, but I guess that’ll get better elucidated on in, oh, say, 5 episodes or so. Anyways, the characters seem to exhibit thoughtful design, and good voice-acting helps a lot (academically, this is one of the few anime series I’ve seen recently in sub rather than dub. That helps). The artwork aside from the characters is sort of minimally functional: it works, but it’s not going to win any prizes. But I’ve enjoyed the character interplay. Lamentably, AOD seems not to be airing the next 5 volumes, so I may have to actually rent or buy. I could live with that.

See also: ADV Films Website, IMDB, Wikipedia, Anime News Network, AniDB.

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About Jake
I'm a mathematics professor at the University of Louisville, and a geek.

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