Ok, so a short tale-I came across this series way back in 2006 when I owned the Evangelion Platinum Collection. It was one of the trailers featured at the start of one of the discs. Well, I happened to be watching it in my folks’ upstairs office room as that was the only room I could watch anime back then. Anyway, when it got to the trailer, my dad who was sitting in the office at his computer turned briefly to look at and scoffed at it under his breath saying something to the effect ‘Oh that’s ridiculous’. I overheard and sheepishly shrugged back in response. Then I didn’t hear again about this show until 2014 when Nozomi Entertainment released the series on their Youtube channel and so that spring I spent a bit of time watching it. I planned to do a review on it, but it didn’t quite gel with me personally. I had to spend some time mulling it over, but now I feel confident in doing a review of this wonderful show:
Princess Nine (1998 TV Series)
Director: Tomomi Mochizuki
Writers: Hiro Maruyama, Hiroaki Kitajima and Takao Kawaguchi
Studio: Phoenix Entertainment
Ryo Hayakawa, a recent high schooler, on the side does baseball for the local team as a ‘secret weapon’. One day, Keiko Himoru comes to her with a proposal to join a girls’ baseball team she is forming at the Kisaragi Girls School, with an old friend of Ryo’s dad being the coach no less. At first, Ryo is hesitant due to her single mother running a noodle shop by herself. But she is egged on by Takasugi, a male student at the nearby boys’ school as well as Izumi, Keiko’s daughter, top tennis ace and initially against the plan. Over time, Ryo and the coach assemble the team and aim for a pretty lofty goal to make it to Koshien, the premiere high school baseball event in Japan. With great heart and determination, Ryo and her team seek to attain the impossible.
Now, Princess Nine at first comes off as completely ridiculous. I mean the idea of a team of girls facing off against boys seems inherently unfair (let’s not get into the strawman feminist position) and not something lost on those opposed to Keiko’s plan, particularly the male principal and vice principal. But despite that, the team is formed, with Coach Kido (who wouldn’t be out of place as the coach of the Bad News Bears heh) picking some talented girls not just from related sports (track and softball) but from some unexpected places as well. One thing I love about Princess Nine is how the girls interact, not just getting along at first but over time developing into friends learning the prime lesson of most sports fiction regarding the power of teamwork. But what gets the detractors’ attention is when they beat boys’ teams in exhibition style games, showing that actions always speak louder than words. Of course, the story takes on some very gripping drama that threw me for a loop but felt natural for the characters. I got to really feel for these girls and their admirable goal in the face of such tremendous adversity.
So the groundwork has this show set up for a possible masterpiece, and yet Princess Nine falls just short.
Especially in the last stretch where the sports team storyline come to the forefront: training and preparing for the big qualifying games, only to end in a way that wasn’t expected. That because, spoiler alert, Ryo and her team lose the big match, barely. And the reason is due to contrived relationship drama between Takasugi, Ryo, and Izumi, because yeah it’s high school-centric story so of course there has to be relationship melodrama, which at best feels forced and worst not entirely needed. Granted, I can see what they might have been going with the finale, the thematic notion of the journey being more important than the destination, which at some cases I can get behind, but considering how anti-climatic the finale is, makes the journey not as masterful as one thought. Still, the journey is interesting and compelling enough that when the ultimate destination isn’t quite achieved, another lesson comes up: Sometimes the impossible is just that, and to accept that despite your best effort is worth it in the end if only so you can do better the next time.
Now, the English dub for this is noteworthy, mainly down to the director/producer/writer of it: Matt Greenfield. Princess Nine came out with a dub from October 2001-October 2002, right at the tail end of the era of ADV/Houston dubbing where he served as the leader for. I got to say, it is one of his best dubs. He assembled a great cast, including Hilary Haag, Monica Rial, Vic Mignogna, Cynthia Martinez, Kira Vincent Davis, Tiffany Grant, Andy McAvin among many others. The dub is strong both on a writing and vocal performance standpoints, a strong component in Greenfield dubs I have found. I begrudge using the phrase ‘they don’t make them like this anymore’ but that’s the feeling I get coming away from watching the English dub.
In the end, Princess Nine is a Great Anime, but unfortunately just short of a masterpiece. It’s such a shame because it comes oh so close and yet not quite get there. But the journey taken up to that point is well worth your time. I mean, after all, this is no A League of Their Own. There’s no crying in baseball for these girls, there is only hard work, determination, and teamwork that wins out in the end. To me at least, it’s quite admirable.
Princess Nine is available on Youtube via Nozomi Entertainment Channel (insert link) as well as on DVD from them. It did get released in singles and the full set from ADV Films, but considering how long ago it has been those are likely either hard to find or extremely overpriced. In any case, I highly recommend this series.
So well my next post for the month will be a special entry, with my next actual review not coming in until May. But trust me, it will be worth the wait.
‘Til next time, dear readers…..