One Outs was a baseball manga written by Kaitani Shinobu. It was adapted into an anime by our old friends at Madhouse, who brought us such classics as Black Lagoon, Petshop of Horrors and Rideback. Unfortunately, they’ve also been behind some of the worst anime I’ve ever seen such as Highschool of the Dead and Devil Hunter Yohko. I’m honestly not predicting their best work this time around, although a lot of that is more to do with the subject matter than anything else. I am not a person who cares about sports in the slightest. So, let’s look at One Outs and see if it holds up in spite of my own apathy towards the material.
Our story opens with some minor league players at a training camp. After an injury destroys their pitcher’s ability to throw balls at a guy with a stick, two of them go on a search for a new one. At this point they get lured to a gambling arena where people bet on whether or not a guy can hit a ball with a stick. The two lose a large amount of money and their friend, Kojima, who has won a bunch of awards with names that are meaningless to me, returns to challenge the pitcher who beat them, Tokuchi. He loses, but returns for a rematch, if he loses he’ll retire, if he wins he’ll take Tokuchi’s hand so that he can never gamble using baseball again. Because a game that requires people to hit a ball with a stick and run in a square is serious business and not some kind of game.
In spite of a rather serious hand injury, Kojima wins, but instead of inflicting violence to take Tokuchi’s hand, he recruits him as a pitcher to help his team, the Lycaons, win the championship. So, the basic plot is that a low ranking team aims for the championship? I haven’t seen that plot since… every piece of sports media ever made, I think. To be fair, One Outs isn’t typical in its execution. It uses Tokuchi’s unusual contract with the game’s owner as the primary source of tension instead of whether or not the team will win the big game. It also puts the focus, not on whether or not the Lycaons will win since basic pattern recognition gives it away, but on how they’re going to win. Which is more interesting than it sounds since Tokuchi uses a lot of psychological manipulation and has to think of ways to outsmart his opponents while thwarting the owner’s attempts to sabotage him.
The strategic aspects are pretty well handled in this anime, in spite of the rather trite plot. The series is also good at keeping the viewer’s attention with various new elements and twists as well. However, the story telling isn’t perfect. The biggest problem is the narrator. His entire job seems to be to give exposition. Which isn’t so bad when it’s used as a tool to skip through the boring bits, but it’s also pretty unnecessary. You could cut out the dialogue for almost all of these scenes and lose nothing. There’s also the issue of the plot itself. Even if the execution is unique, just about everyone knows exactly where it’s going to go which does limit how much tension the series can have.
The characters of One Outs are mixed. Tokuchi is a pretty interesting “magnificent bastard” type of character. The Lycaons’ owner makes for a compelling antagonist as well. Ideguchi and Kojima are two-dimensional characters. They get some personality and develop a bit, but not a whole lot. The rest of the characters are pretty one-note. They’re around and you might remember their names, but there isn’t anything that really makes them unique or compelling. They’re just “that guy who runs fast” or “that guy with glasses.”
One thing of note is that a lot of the antagonistic teams that Tokuchi and the Lycaons have to face are shown to have foreigners as their big guns. I’m not sure whether it’s a demonstration of Xenophobia in which the great all-Japanese team has to face off against those foreign players who came from some unspecified location or it’s just a coincidence. That being said, they do make it a point to bring the foreign players to the viewer’s attention so the former seems more likely.
The art is pretty good, overall. The character designs are distinctive. The backgrounds are nicely detailed as well. That being said, there are some questionable art decisions. There are some ridiculously exaggerated expressions. For example, a “shocked” character might just open their mouth so wide they could fit their own head in there. Tokuchi also has an absurd hairstyle that makes him look like he’s gone half super saiyan. I know, an anime with silly hair what an original concept.
The acting in this is okay. It doesn’t stand out in any way, but it’s passable. The music is really effective when it comes to atmosphere. The tense moments have a score that perfectly emphasises the tension as do the victorious moments.
There is none in this series. 1/10.
In some ways, One Outs is a typical piece of sports media. Underdog team pushing for victory. In others, it’s not at all typical. The battle of wits aspect works pretty effectively and the main protagonist is an interesting character, even if most of the side characters are really flat. Still, it has quite a bit of intrigue and I do recommend checking it out for the battle of wits, if you don’t mind watching grown men act like hitting a ball with a stick is a pastime of dire importance. Final rating, 6/10. Next week I’ll look at Shining Tears x Wind.