Most of the time I fall decidedly into the camp of “serious business” anime viewers, the sort who would list Miyazaki, Kon, and Oshii in top ten lists, attend pretentious film festival screenings of various animated works, and wax eloquent on the stylistic affectations taken by various directors (all while swirling around a pinot noir or some other high-class alcoholic beverage. Unfortunately, anime of the “srs bzns” sort is decidedly rarer compared to say – K-ON, Saki, Lucky Star, Miname-ke, Hidamari Sketch, etc., etc. – essentially, the formula “Group of girls engage in loveable hijinks based around a certain activity/school”
Certainly I would not call them bad, but as my taste in anime goes I’m positively diabetic (In particular, this makes me somewhat unique compared to the other authors on this blog). Sure, I can watch a show here and there but inevitably moe fatigue seems to develop. Character types and designs feel like they start to blend together, and for some series more than others every move seems positively calculated for the maximum pandering value (K-ON feels particularly guilty of this). Consequently, it’s a genre I rarely appreciate.
It’s interesting then that I’ve recently picked up a couple of exemplars that have melted my heart, or at least the cold barrier of cynicism regarding this genre.
Maybe it’s because of the 1920s Taisho era setting, or perhaps the heartwarming opening, but Taisho Yakyuu Musume (lit. Taisho Era Baseball Girls) so far feels rather sincere. In terms of historical authenticity it is perhaps a trifle dodgy (some elements feel more 1950s rather than 1920s, such as the usage of distinctively modern looking equipment), but there is a refreshing lack of pandering so far. Taisho Yakyuu Musume follows the exploits of a group of middle school girls as they attempt to form their own baseball team (with the mentorship of a foreign teacher) during the Taisho Era Japan – not exactly a bastion of progressive thought regarding gender roles. There are certainly ways in which I wish the story would more fully exploit the potential of the premise, but the show is still quite the breath of fresh air.
Based on the title alone, Tweeny Witches is the last anime I would ever have picked up. I am glad that I paid less attention to the name than to the studio behind it; Studio 4°C. I even hesitate to give it a genre; while Taisho Yakyuu Musume certainly does fit within the paradigm of “girls doing lovable hijinks together”, Tweeny Witches just blows you away with the quality of the animation a dazzling, Burtonesque world, and a thematic focus on self-confidence and acceptance. Although the cuts at time feel rather disjointed, and often a viewer will be struggling to simply keep up with the current train of thought, there is a vivacity and intensity to the animation that I have seen few shows match.
Both of these shows certainly stand out from the rest of the genre, mostly on the basis of theme and setting. They’re certainly more ambitious, and perhaps a bit “heavier” – while still overall light-hearted, both shows invite the viewer to take a moment and reflect on the underlying themes.