Summer Koshien & Rekindling My Desire for Sports Anime & Manga

The 96th summer Japanese high school baseball tournament (better known as Summer Koshien) began last week on August 11th and I’ve occasionally watching games online in the evenings, which is when they occur in my time zone. (Here’s the schedule and results so far for this year’s competition, as compiled on Yakyu Baka.)

I watch a fair amount of sport each year, sometimes in person but mostly through broadcasts. My primary pro-level focuses at the moment are Major League Baseball (the regular season ends in about six weeks) and European club football (England’s Premier League action kicked off last weekend while Germany’s Bundesliga begins this coming weekend). Part of my attraction to watching sports is that they’re live, unscripted events where passion, determination, athletic ability and other factors in displayed in public arenas.

Summer Koshien is a special thing to watch and an experience for those involved. The schools’ pep bands and cheering sections chant their support throughout games. Since it’s a single-elimination tournament, the winning team in each match-up proceeds to the next round while the loser goes home. For the third-year players on the defeated squads, it’s their last appearance at the hallowed competition in their high-school careers so it’s not out of the ordinary to see tears or sad looks on their faces. The players give it their all, sometimes diving head-first on a close play at first base.

There was an hour-long documentary film about the tournament and Japanese high school baseball in general called Kokoyakyu. I remember liking when I saw it a few years ago and it’s currently available on Hulu and Vimeo.

Koshien wasn’t my only inspiration for writing this post - it’s also a partial reaction to some anime blog posts published last month. Author wrote about his previous attempts to find a good sports anime series and omo put up two consecutive posts: the first on what he feels most sports anime currently are about and the second about what they should focus on.

In March 2012, I wrote a post about my love of sports and my related interest in sports anime and manga. Some high-profile sports anime series have debuted since then including Kuroko no Basket, Free!, Yowamushi Pedal, Ace of Diamond, Ping Pong and Haikyu!! and I’ve sampled each of those along with a few others as they’ve come out but have fallen behind on them for various reasons. I’m still interesting in catching up and finishing them, though that might be a slow process as I don’t marathon shows often.

Since that post, I’ve also presented panels at conventions in recent years (Fanime 2012, Otakon 2012 & Fanime 2014), mainly about the variety and history of sports manga. The main reason I gave those presentations and want to continue to do them every so often is to try exposing the variety of non-major sports that are subjects of mainly manga and sometimes anime.

However, one problem with that approach is many of the manga I mention in panels aren’t translated into English (legally or otherwise) so I feel like I’m doing the audience a disservice by talking about series they can’t easily read. Also, not being fluent in Japanese myself makes it difficult to explain some of the series’ premises or storylines aside from stating, for example, “Kaori Saki’s Shuttle Princess is about badminton”.

I’m glad that there are more sports manga adaptations into anime so there’s more overall exposure for the genre and the sporting activities being featured. In the case of bicycling series Yowamushi Pedal, it has reportedly inspired more Japanese women to take up cycling. Now if we could just get more sports manga to be translated by publishers, even as digital-only releases like Viz did with Cross Manage (though that particular series was helped by serialized in Shonen Jump and lasting only 5 volumes).

This is probably the second or third time I’ve attempted to re-dedicate myself toward reading and watching sports series so… I’m not going to guarantee frequent posts on them but I’ll try to say something about whatever I manage to finish, whether it’s here or on Twitter.

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Space Dandy Season 1: More Hit Than Miss

I finally finished watching Space Dandy‘s first season over the weekend. I came to like many of the latter episodes (such as the colorful and plant-focused #9, the reconnecting-with-family #10, and the Toh Enjoe-written #11) more than some of the earlier ones like the zombie-centric #4. It helped that the episode endings trended away from having Dandy and friends perish or the entire universe becoming affected by whatever phenomenon was featured that week.

The way the series is being produced – different episode directors and scriptwriters each week – gives some episodes a distinct visual and pacing tone. The rotating contributing staff roles paralleled the Aloha Oe crew visiting and experiencing different planets/areas each episode. There were bound to be a few installments that didn’t stack up to the rest in terms of plot - I’m thinking of the clothing wars in #6 - but the animation continued to look nice and flow well to make up for it.

QT remains my favorite main character with his attempts to keep the crew focused on their missions while sometimes straying in humorous ways, like a sudden passion for fishing in #12. #13 showed off a softer side of the character who had found a companion of sorts after dealing with a human and a Beltegeusian for so long.

I’m looking forward to starting season 2 relatively soon, especially since a Masaaki Yuasa-helmed episode aired last night. Maybe I’ll keep pace with it on a weekly basis again!

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Halfway Through 2014 Check-In Post


I’ve fallen out of touch with the currently airing anime and probably won’t check out that much from the summer season aside from Ai Mai Mi’s and Yama no Susume’s second seasons, Zankyou no Terror, and maybe Rail Wars & Space Dandy’s 2nd season (once I catch up on the first iteration from winter).

Despite feeling disconnected with what’s new and shiny, I did watch some things over the first six months of this year.
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The History of Sports Manga & Anime Panel I Presented at Fanime 2014

This past Sunday at FanimeCon in San Jose, I gave a 50-minute panel about the history of sports manga and anime. It was held in the smallest of the four available panel rooms at the convention but the room looked full when I started speaking so that was good.

I combined my own recorded audio & panel slides into a video for people who couldn’t attend as well as those who were there but missed some parts of it. I’d like to hear feedback and corrections of what I might have gotten wrong (for example, saying Mix takes place in the same high school as H2 when it’s actually Touch) so I can make adjustments for a possible future installment of such a panel.
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Fanime 2014 Preview: Highlighting Some Panels

a VTA light rail with Fanime wrap-around

Fanime is probably my favorite California convention - it’s certainly my most frequented - partly due to the fan panels (not something unique to major cons) and also because San Jose is close enough for me to make a reasonable driving trip to attend. This year’s event is next weekend and I’m excited to be going back as a panelist & general attendee after taking 2013 off.

The convention schedule itself isn’t out yet (UPDATE 5/21: schedule is now out) but the panel descriptions with times are so I figured I would compile a list of which panels I’m interested in, even though I will only be there Sunday and Monday. (My panel - History of Sports Manga & Anime - will be on Sunday at 7pm in Panels 4, by the way.)

Friday:
5pm-6pm, Panels 3 – Anime (and Manga) for Parents
7pm-8pm, Panels 2 – The Dark Side of Magical Girls
8pm-9pm, Panels 3 – Intro to Kantai Collection (16+)
9pm-10pm, Panels 4 – Visually Stunning Anime

Saturday:
5pm-6pm, Panels 3 – Introducing Studio Trigger (16+)
6pm-7pm, Panels 3 – Yokai: The Kappa

Sunday:
10am-11am, Panels 2 – Beautiful Backgrounds of Anime
1pm-2pm, Panels 2 – Most Hilarious Bootlegs (16+)
2pm-3pm, Panels 3 – Tokyo on the Cheap

Monday:
10am-11am, Panels 1 - The Changing Faces of Anime
10am-12pm, Panels 3 – Philosophy in Anime (16+)
12pm-2pm, Panels 2 – Osaka: Comedy, Tragedy & Drama

Notes:
Evan Minto of Ani-Gamers has 3 different panels planned: Beautiful Backgrounds of Anime, Changing Faces of Anime, and Introducing Studio Trigger (16+).

Gilles Poitras returns as a Guest of Honor and is hosting his usual Anime (and Manga) for Parents along with Tokyo on the Cheap and Yokai: The Kappa.

Kantai Collection has boomed in popularity in the past couple years so it’s only natural that there would be an “Intro to” panel about the franchise with KanColle’s anime adaptation expected to debut this July.

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In addition to checking out panels, I usually cruise through Artists’ Alley and the Dealer’s Hall at least once just to see what it’s in either exhibition space but I don’t have any particular person or vendor I’m looking forward to seeing there.

If you’re attending Fanime next weekend, let me know what happenings you’re interested in!

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