I can’t claim to know much about sports anime in general since the Major series is my only experience but, in my opinion, not only is this an excellent sports anime, but it’s an excellent anime full stop. Major’s plot throughout is not just satisfying, butthrilling; it goes beyond setting some guy against a bunch of better guys with Rocky-style training montages in between, and instead adds layers of deep characterisation and heart-wrenching back story.
The idea is essentially about Goro Honda trying desperately to follow in his father’s footsteps, but it is the intense positivity and gusto with which the plot pushes forward that makes this anime stand out from the rest. The greatness of Major is that it teaches us not just how to overcome obstacles in the way of our ambitions, but to leap over personal hurdles too; often, lessons learned during baseball matches or training can be transplanted onto life problems and vice versa. Naturally, there is not one problem Goro overcomes that doesn’t allow him to grow as a person as well.
As for the sport itself, I have never had any interest in baseball whatsoever, let alone Little League baseball. I’ve always considered it a glorified version of rounders and it would be an exaggeration to say Major has suddenly made me want to pick up a bat (although I confess I have since traded in my girly throwing style for a manly over-the-head one). However, when watching the series, you suddenly find yourself paying attention to the rules, the abilities of certain players, the order of the batters, you watch the umpire like a hawk as he hesitatingly decides whether it’s an out or a safe, and you cheer or rant despite yourself depending on the result. You also enjoy the fact that you know about these things, and for 24 minutes you care about nothing else but the game. Of course there are times when the series flashes its artistic licence, but on the whole Majorfeels very well researched; it is real enough to make you believe whilst adding that little bit extra to hold your attention.
On top of all this, given the nature of the anime, one would assume that it lacked rewatchability. That assumption would be wrong, for Major carries intricacies of ‘lessons’ and characterisation that can be picked up again and again.
This and character development are really where Major shines the brightest. I was a firm believer that all sport animes had little-to-no storyline.. I was wrong.. big time. Major has one of the most gratifying, depressing, deep and dramatic storylines i’ve seen recently, and for a sport anime, this blew my mind.
Major‘s animation isn’t outstanding because it isn’t meant to be eye candy, but when compared to its more recent counterpart, it seems to have remained quite undated because of this. It has enough detail to make each character look unique, and it’s well-funded enough to ensure movement is smooth and well timed. The most effort has obviously gone towards game sequences because they have to look stylish and exciting, however, even I wasn’t prepared for the realism of movement when it came to fielding, batting, and especially pitching. There’s no leaping fifteen feet in the air or flying silly distances, and if Goro is wounded he will limp. I could easily imagine animators watching countless videos of real-life games, capturing all the different movements. It made for edge-of-the-seat action.
Major has a really catchy opening theme and ending themes for the anime start and end each episode nicely, although you’ll learn to hate the ending theme because of it reminding you that you’re ever closer to the end of the series. The seiyuu are all well chosen and seem to fit their anime counterparts like a glove. The talented Motoko Kumai voices the confident Goro. She also voices Ginta in the recent adaptation of the MAR manga.
I will definetly rewatch this series some day, although I already know the results of the baseball matches, which spoils it’s rewatchability slightly. This is, in my opinion, the best thing to come from the sport anime genre since Hajime no Ippo, and probably even surpasses that.