Anime and manga dealing with sports are quite popular in Japan.
That may sound a little strange to people here in the States, after all
our comics are just about all devoted to super-heroes and our cartoons
to children's entertainment, but it make a lot of sense. Sports are
popular and they have built in conflict and drama, so it's natural that
there would be a lot of good stories you could write about a sports team.
While there are many in Japan, there have only been a small number of these
types of shows released here in the US, but just about all of them have
done well and been very entertaining. The latest sports based anime
to hit the US shores is Hoop Days, a very enjoyable show about a
high school basketball team.
Kazuhiko Aikawa is the new kid who just transferred to Mizuho High School.
He's a cheerful guy who talks a lot and wants to be everybody's friend.
If you went solely on first impressions, you'd think he's a happy-go-lucky
idiot. He's also really interested in joining the basketball team.
There's a problem with that though: the team is all but dissolved.
They were suspended from playing other teams for a year after one of their
players, Fujiwara, hit their coach in front of some reporters. The
coach transferred to another school, and all of the players slowly quit.
Now there is only Fujiwara, a very talented player, and his three best
friends on the team, and you need five men to play.
Aikawa sees this as only a minor setback though since when he joins
the team there'll be five players. He rallies Fujiwara and his friends
and gets them back on the court. You see Aikawa is an excellent player
himself. He led his old school, Tendoji High, to the city championship
last year and became a minor celebraty in the process. Why he left
is still unclear, but he didn't make any friends doing it.
In this volume Aikawa gets the Misuho team back together. Their
coach, who also coaches the girls basketball team, gets them a practice
game with a cross town school. The school that their old coach transferred
to. The old coach has it in for Fujiwara and the whole Mizuho team,
and hopes to crush them in this game and demoralize the team so much that
they disband. Will Aikawa and Fujiwara be able to rise to the challenge?
I'm not a big sports fan, but ironic as it seems, I do enjoy sports
based anime. The stories are generally stronger, and they have the
built in drama of the game. Like Fighting
Spirit and Princess
Nine, this show has strong characters that are easy to like.
Always cast as the underdogs, it's easy to cheer for Mizuho High and get
caught up in their games. The first couple of episodes get you firmly
in their corner, and seeing how they've gone through some hard times really
makes you pull for them.
In a show like this the story has to be pretty good and engaging since
there aren't any cool mecha battles or magic duels to make you over look
the rough parts. The plot to Hoop Days isn't complicated,
but it is strong and well developed. The problems that the team has
had in the past are well known, but there is also a bit of mystery too.
Why did Aikawa quit his old team, and what did his sister have to do with
his transfer to Mizuho? There's also the romantic interest between
members of the girls basketball team and some of the boys team which rounds
out the show nicely.
While the story is good, the animation is just so-so. The characters
move alright but the ball doesn't seem to follow the laws of gravity.
When someone is dribbling, the ball will often stay up in the person's
palm longer than it should. Also, when someone dunks the ball, the
ball falls to the court faster than the person who dunked it. I guess
universal acceleration doesn't affect basketballs.
They also put in as little motion as possible, especially during the
games themselves. There are a lot of pans across still images
and close ups on the players faces. They do a good job of creating
the illusion of action though.
They use a lot of 3D computer animation that just doesn't mesh well
with the rest of the show. When the ball is in someone's hands, it's
regular 2D animation, but as soon as the ball is shot or passed, they substitute
a CGI animated ball. This one has more texture and movement than
the cell animated basketball and the transition is a little jarring.
They do the same thing with the net and the floor of the court. When
they cut between the two animation styles it's really noticeable and takes
your mind off of the story.
The ending credits roll to a rap song with the singer (live action)
dancing for the camera. I found it really obnoxious, but it's easy
to chapter skip past it.
This disc contains the first five episodes and comes in a black keepcase
with no insert.
This DVD offers viewer the choice between surround sound stereo tracks
in both Japanese and English. I alternated between tracks while watching
this show and enjoyed them both. They both make good use of the front
soundstage especially during the games. The sounds of the shoes squeaking
against the court and the ball bouncing against the floor are clear and
strong giving the show a nice aural quality. A 5.1 track would have
been nice, but this is a good sounding disc.
The full screen image is pretty good, though there are a couple of minor
problems. The colors are bright and the lines are pretty sharp.
There is some aliasing especially around the fine lines on the court and
people's uniforms. The red colors tend to bleed a little bit too,
running into the surrounding areas. The latter is a minor problem
while the aliasing is a little more troublesome. Even with these
defects, the show looks nice.
This disc also includes a textless opening and closing, and a series
This would be a good show to check out if you've never seen a sports
anime before. The program is surprisingly engaging and you'll soon
find yourself cheering for the good guys to win. While the animation
isn't the greatest the story is so fun it's easy to over look that.
A very high Recommendation.