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First Impressions: Baby Steps

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Tennis with a side of OCD

I really wish I was good at tennis. It's really the only professional sport that I have a lot of familiarity with, since my Mom often watched professional tournaments on TV dating back to when I was very young. I remember seeing Michael Chang score his famous, around-the-net Match Point in...what was it? 1995? Wow, I feel old, let's move on.

I've tried playing, but I just don't seem to be cut out for it. There's something wonky with my depth perception or something, so I always stick out my racket to where I think the ball is, only to be wrong and miss entirely. I don't know, maybe this is a correctable problem and I'm just too lazy to put in the requisite practice, but I've pretty much given up on ever playing seriously at this point. Now, with Baby Steps, I can explore the possibility of a world where I was not too lazy to learn how to hit that darn ball properly, and it's pretty neat.

Yaaay notes

Eiichirou Maruo is a good student with OCD; the show never calls it OCD point blank, but trust me, it's OCD.

See?

See?

He's called "Ei-chan" by his classmates since he always gets As, and his meticulously organized notebooks are legendary. However, since he's 14-going-on-45, he's concerned about all those long hours at the study desk leading to an out-of-shape physique, so he's interested in picking up a sport. He doesn't want to win a tournament, become the best in the world, or anything grand like that; he just wants to keep in shape for his health.

Ei-chan is a refreshingly quirky protagonist for a sports show; in fact, he has a lot in common with Yowapeda's Onoda. They're both sweet guys who never saw themselves as athletes, yet get drawn into their sports from a kind of oblique angle. I'm getting ahead of myself, but chances are, if you like Yowapeda, you'll like this too -- it has a similar tone to that show's early episode. I can only hope that, unlike a certain cycling series, Baby Steps will be able to keep its breezy, fun pace and light-hearted humor throughout the show and not get too bogged down in athletic melodrama.

Serious Tennis Business (not really)

Perhaps more importantly though, the show does a great job of capturing the appeal of tennis. That satisfying "THWOCK" sound when the ball is struck perfectly, the graceful yet powerful motion of serving, the excitement of watching someone dive halfway across the court to try to get to a tough ball; it's all there. So far, the animation is up to the task of making the tennis look good, but I would be lying if I said I was confident that the show will continue to look this fluid throughout its run. Plus, the character designs are actually kind of ugly (though not Flowers of Evil-level ugly), which will definitely take away from the show's visual appeal for some viewers.

Why am I the only cute one?

On the plus side though, the kind of dull character designs actually make Takasaki, the tennis-obsessed "School Idol," stand out for once. Usually in anime, the girl who everyone in school is crushing on doesn't look any more attractive than anyone else, so it's kind of nice that you can actually see it on this show. I like Takasaki as a character, too; instead of just being there as "the love interest," her single-minded devotion to tennis is clearly meant to contrast with Ei-chan's complexity.

In any case, I'm definitely interested in seeing how Ei-chan and his legendary note-taking skills take on the world of tennis, but remember; I already like tennis. I'm not sure if this show will appeal much to people who aren't that interested in the sport, but it's competently done and even charming at times, so I think it's certainly worth a try. Also, don't ever forget to:

BELIEVE

 

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Karen Mead
Karen MeadContributor   gamer profile

Hi, I'm a former newspaper journalist who got tired of having a front row seat to the death of print. There probably could be some interesting story there about a disenchanted reporter moving on ... more + disclosures


 


 


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