Gurazeni: Money Pitch – Mid Season Anime Review
Synopsis: Bonda Natsunosuke (26, single), is a left-handed relief pitcher for the professional baseball team, the Jingu Spiders. He became a pro right after high school and now in his 8th year makes 18 million yen a year, and is not what you’d call a “first rate player.” “I don’t know how many years I’ve got left to play after 30.” “Only a few can become coaches or commentators after they retire.” “Pro baseball players need to make their money while before they retire!” Despite the harsh realities, Bonda always repeats the same phrase: “There’s money buried in the grounds.” (Official Crunchyroll Synopsis)
Mid Season (6 Episodes) Review (Warning: Minor Spoilers to Follow):
Linny: Gurazeni continues to reinforce its appeal as a show for older anime audiences with devotion to highlighting the drama and tension in the pro baseball world, examining the inequalities and bad luck that life can hand you. While it deals with the world of baseball, it’s less about the sports and more about the ups and downs that come hand in hand with any professional and competitive sports league. It does a nice job of conveying the extreme unpredictability of the sport and explaining our protagonist’s, Bonda, obsession with earning more thanks to his own explanations and via the stories of other players, such as a young, aspiring player who goes from being a major league up and coming star to a merchandise stall salesman in the blink of an eye due to a career ending injury.
Tom: What’s interesting about Gurazeni is just how atypical it is of sports anime. It’s much more a slice of life/day in the life of a baseball athlete and the turmoil/struggle brought about by such a money-driven industry. Despite this, perhaps ‘darker’, depiction, episodes are generally of a light and fluffy nature, depicting the dog eat dog world of professional sports with a more jovial, lighter flair, keeping the series planted in an almost satirical approach. It’s only when we get to Episode 6 that we get anything like other sports based anime, with a riveting match up between our underdog pitcher, Bonda and a far more popular, if not talented batter. It’s rare and stands out in a series otherwise obsessed with the inner-workings of the pro leagues.
Linny: While the show makes sure to return focus to Bonda, a LOT of the episodes are one off tales spent exploring the lives and careers of people around him, from ex-teammates to rival players. In fact, episode 4 is more the story of a completely different team as the viewer watches how a team owner’s bias towards one player can lead to hardship for everyone else, player or not. And then in episode 5, we follow Bonda’s interactions with a budding mangaka who wishes to write an atypical baseball manga. (Meta much?) This helps to keep the show feeling fresh by introducing new material and not just fixating on Bonda’s tunnel vision of increasing his own contract value.
Tom: Bonda might not always be the true focus of the series but when he is, he’s a great underdog lead who is just self-deprecating enough that you can’t help but root for him and eagerly hope that he gains the confidence he needs in order to succeed. While most other episodes are focused on one off, exploratory characters designed to showcase other aspects of the pro baseball world, the series features ending credits animation that showcases a character who hasn’t even made a single appearance yet! It’s one thing to feature upcoming characters, but she’s the entire focus of the ending credits. It leads you to believe she has some major role in the series, but six episodes in and we can’t but ask the same question every time the credits start to roll:
Linny: The gag character designs combined with vaguely comedic reactions to events helps Gurazeni maintain a more lighthearted tone even though a lot of its material is pretty depressing if given any deeper thought. This could potentially be an issue with viewers who may dislike the imbalance and mismatch but for many others, likely to help keep the show engaging and avoiding making it seem like too depressing a tale despite all the harsh truths it contains.
Tom: Ultimately it’s a shame that Gurazeni seems to be flying under everyone’s radar, although maybe that fits with Bonda’s underdog nature. It’s a great little show offering a light satirical take on major league baseball in Japan and stands apart from more popular sports themed anime, making it a fun departure from the tried and true. It’s going to be something I think older audiences, disillusioned with the pomp and glamour of typical sports themed anime, will truly appreciate for offering something that stands out as unique.
Linny: Gurazeni is most definitely not your average sports anime. It’s an adult look at the less glamorous and highly stressful side of being in a career that’s always thirsty for new blood, new talent and careers that can end in a flash thanks to injuries or even just a bad performance or two. It’s a show that should resonate with older viewers seeking a story with some real life depth, mixing comic reactions and character designs to dole out tales of underdog accomplishments and harsh truths of the sporting world.
Gurazeni: Money Pitch is available for streaming via Crunchyroll.