Take Me Out

November 20, 2014 § Leave a comment

So apparently there’s anime about sports?

I’m watching Cross Game with a friend right now and I just finished Chihayafuru last week. What struck me about both of them is how well they sell their subjects, neither of which held much appeal for me before I started on them. Don’t ask why I chose them if I wasn’t already interested in baseball or karuta, that’s not why we’re here! Cross Game was even engrossing enough for me to watch three games from the recent World Series, which were fun enough but still a sharp reminder that real life isn’t as expertly plotted as a manga by Adachi Mitsuru.

Tsukishima Aoba from Cross Game

Cross Game and Chihayafuru both let me see how anime can function as an advertisement for sports as procedural generators of narrative. I only gradually grew to pay attention to football when I learned the rules watching a friend play Madden 2008 my senior year of college. Without a video game, for which I’m used to mastering systems, as a vehicle for information about the sport, it never would have caught my attention. Anime works the same way, at least for me. It familiarizes its audience with the characters, assigns them obvious roles within the plot, and then presents the sport, broken down into half-hour chunks, as a means for advancing said plot. It basically repackages the sport into a drama without changing it outright, in the process teaching its audience how to recognize elements of the same drama in the real-life sport. Not every game of baseball or poetry competition is going to be as action-packed as these shows, but the potential is there now for everyone to see.

Ayase Chihaya from Chihayafuru

I’ve always relished surprising connections between subjects of my interests, so it was with pleasure that I watched the World Series for the first time, now that I understood some of the stakes and upsets. I also checked out Peter McMillan’s 2008 translation of the Ogura Hyakunin Isshu from my university library and read its contents with more zeal than I’ve read any poetry since my undergraduate studies. I doubt I’ll become a baseball fan, if only because this city’s enthusiasm for the sport is beyond me, and I lack the language skills to do waka poems justice, but my interest in anime has given me the means to appreciate others’ love of those things. That’s really cool, especially since the last time I spoke of baseball and poetry in the same breath was memorizing “Casey at the Bat” for my sixth-grade talent show.

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