I finally finished watching Princess Nine (and for those of you here for posts about real live baseball, I think you might want to skip ahead to Dave’s fine post), and… I liked it, but I didn’t like it as much as I thought I would at the start. I have some problems with it, and it’s not so much “Koharu can’t have a Wave Motion Swing! Only the Yamato has Wave Motion anything!” but more…
—[SPOILER WARNING: SOME SPOILERS IN THIS CHUNK]—
- Yoko’s amazingly annoying until she displays any kind of talent, and then remains annoying
- There’s a multi-episode plot involving what you think is schizophrenia but turns out to be extra-terrestrials (or, alternately, a physical manifestation of schizophrenia) that makes little sense
- The animators seem increasingly unable to draw Ryo the same twice later in the series, sometimes making her perfectly normal and then grossly distorting her facial features in exactly the way that people who make fun of Japanese animation describe it
- Ryo is abused like a star high school pitcher in Texas, and is expected to get over that through spirit
- Ryo must pitch a complete games every time because the team has no one else that can pitch, despite obviously having players with the arm strength who could relieve her when she’s pitching (say) hurt
- The love story thing takes over more and more of the series rather than being an amusing sideline
- The coach has a story line where he pretends to be inept but is really ept, but if you pay attention, he actually is inept on a whole other level they’re not looking at
- The coach’s other story line goes nowhere either
- A multi-episode story line revolves around her dad and the gambling scandal that cost him his career, which threatens to get Ryo tossed from school (because she’s an embarassment) and the whole team disbanded, but Ryo decides to believe in him, it’s suggested that her dad was framed, and then it’s considered resolved and never brought up again. If your dad was, say, Shoeless Joe Jackson, wouldn’t that just be the begining of your troubles?
- At the end of the series, they reflect that the team will have two more years to win the tournament. No, they won’t. A) Ryo’s arm will fall off, B) With only nine players, no matter how good, any injury ever means they lose all their games…
The real hero of the series (as Hermione Granger in the Potter books) is not Ryo at all, it’s Izumi. Ryo’s a natural on the mound, and gets a scholarship to pitch, thus honoring her dead dad, a former star pitcher. In taking up baseball, she goes to school, gets into a relationship with the “genius slugger” at their brother school, and finds fufillment.
Izumi is the daughter of the school’s chairwoman. Her dad is also mysteriously absent, and her mother (unlike Ryo’s) is unavailable and distant. Izumi’s a tennis prodigy who is almost guaranteed to go on to a lucrative pro career. She abandons tennis to play baseball, cuts her long hair, and becomes Ryo’s rival, making Ryo better. Izumi studies baseball relentlessly, taking batting practice and fielding grounders until her hands bleed, never complaining, until she is a great hitter and fielder. The love of her life, who she’s been friends with through childhood, starts chasing Ryo around. When Ryo is in the hospital dying, it’s Izumi who has to (in a sort of ludicrous development) hike in the rain to get to her and help bring her out of a coma. Uncomplaining Izumi, who constantly drives the team to work harder and quit whining, is passed up for team captain in favor of Ryo, but Izumi says nothing.
—[HUGE SPOILERS AGAIN]—
In the finale, when Ryo has brutally and utterly failed the team, it’s Izumi who comforts her on the mound. Izumi gave everything she could to the baseball team and still is able to offer Ryo a shoulder.
—[END HUGE SPOILER]—
And what’s worse (to me, anyway) is that while Izumi’s a complicated character, on ADV’s site she’s pegged as the one who writes the season highlights, which make her out to be the worst kind of arrogant, stuck-up…. rrrrr, even though there’s no evidence in the series that she’d write like that at all.
Overall, I liked Princess Nine a lot, and if you can watch animated shows (and I say that because I know there are those who can’t/won’t) check it out this off-season, or next.
And now, I’d like to drag my wife into this for a second. For all the good clean baseball fun Princess Nine offers, it suffers from many of the same Japanese animation shortcuts. There is, for instance, a character who looks like this:
There’s a scene in the show where Ryo, having heard startling revelations about her dad, has.. um, something happens, and Ryo ends up in the hospital and may die. The team and everyone shows up, waiting… oretty tense stuff. I was on the couch, watching, and my wife enters and says “Hey, her hair has built-in cupholders.”
Update: I just found out someone out there has a quiz to see “Which Princess Nine player are you?” Sooo, taking the quiz now… fudging a little because I’m a guy and it doesn’t always… well, I sort of expected this:
Boy, that’s weirdly embarassing. I swear I had no idea when I wrote this post the first time that there was a quiz or that’s how it would turn out.
Well, the results of the Maels Rodriguez tryout are in. Good luck getting through the agent double talk, though. He didn’t get above 90, but this apparently proves he’s healthy in the mind of Henry Villar. I’ve only touched briefly on Rodriguez on the blog, but here’s my basic stance:
1. There are maybe three relievers in the game who are worth between $8-10 million in a particular season. Wagner, Gagne, Rivera. Thats it. I’m almost always against giving large contracts to relievers. They are too inconsistent and easily replaced. Giving a multiyear contract to a reliever is even worse. Inconsistencies are the expectation, not the exception, and locking yourself into paying a reliever 3 years down the line is just not a good idea.
2. Maels Rodriguez is, by all reports, a two-pitch pitcher when he’s going well. Fastball with velocity and a vicious slider. We really don’t have any idea what his command is like, how well he sets up hitters, how he changes speeds, or his ability to locate his fastball. These are the things that seperate an arm from a pitcher. Colt Griffin was paid a lot of money because he threw 100 as an 18-year-old. Two years later, and he’s been a below average pitcher in A ball, getting banged around by hitters far inferior to anything he’ll ever face in the majors. Maels Rodriguez comes with the same assurances, assuming his velocity ever returns. Investing in Rodriguez is essentially like paying a whole heck of a lot of money for another Clint Nageotte. The Mariners are overloaded with interesting RHP’s who may or may not be ready to contribute at the major league level. Maels Rodriguez simply isn’t a need for the M’s.
3. Cubans have an absolutely awful track record. Here is a list of every Cuban defector who has reached the majors. This list doesn’t include the flameouts who never even got to the big leagues (hello, Evel Bastida-Martinez). A quick rundown of the results for the pitchers:
Jose Contreras (so far)
Calling these two successes is being pretty generous as well. The Marlins got some use out of Livan early, then the Giants absorbed a lot of money paying him to be a below average pitcher, before the Expos reaped the benefits of a monstrous 2003 season. For most of his career, he’s been a disappointment, but has shown flashes of dominance. Orlando Hernandez is similar, but his struggles have come thanks to repeated injuries, and he’s been a quality pitcher when healthy. He is, ironically, available to any team who wants him, and if the M’s really want to sign a Cuban right-hander, he’d get my support. He’ll be cheaper, has less question marks surrounding him, and won’t command more than a one year commitment. Watching him pitch, I always thought he could make a dynamite Tom Gordon-style reliever. If there’s anything left of his right arm, he’s an interesting flyer for some team.
Adding those three factors together, I can’t support any effort to sign Maels Rodriguez. Yea, there’s a chance his velocity comes back and he’s the most dominant pitcher to ever come out of Cuba. But the odds are about as good as if Bavasi took the money to Vegas and played slots til it ran out that he’d hit the monster jackpot. Its a giant gamble, and not one that this team needs to take. Put the money elsewhere. Just say no to Maels.
Hey all. I’m guest-hosting Baseball Prospectus Radio this weekend. Lots of local stuff in this one:
January 24: What’s replacement level for radio hosts? BPR investigates as columnist Derek Zumsteg steps in for Will Carroll this week. We’ll talk to former Astros manager Larry Dierker about pitching, managing, and his book This Ain’t Brain Surgery. We’ll take a trip to the high minors to talk to Mike Curto, the broadcaster for the Tacoma Rainiers of the Pacific Coast League, and to rookie ball when we catch up with Pat Dillon, who does radio for the Everett Aquasox of the Northwest League.
It’s on early in the morning (our time) on Saturday if you want the life web feed, unfortunately, but hopefully we’ll post clips on BP.com and I can point you to those when they’re up.
Ooooooooooor…. feel free to call or write your local sports talk station and ask them why they don’t have such a fine program available.