With the third season of Chihayafuru being delayed to this autumn, Mix: Meisei Story easily became the anime I was most looking forward to from the new Spring 2019 season which makes it the logical place to start my coverage for the season. And because it’s already got a couple unrelated-to-the-actual-anime strikes against it, I also feel the need to help draw people’s attention to what will hopefully and probably be one of the best titles of the season.
The Tachibana brothers and sister attend Meisei middle school where the brothers are members of the baseball club. They are already dreaming of the chance to compete in the yearly national Koushien high school tournament when they advance to Meisei high school. The high school team only ever once won their regional competition to earn the chance to go to Koushien and that was nearly 30 years ago. Nowadays, the school and team seem more interested in catering to the children of wealthy parents with the one Tachibana brother forced to play third base so there’s no chance that the current “ace” pitcher will lose his spot. Will they get the chance to really compete and, if so, can they make it to Koushien?
The Fine Print
I mentioned earlier that, in the eyes of the general anime watching crowd over here, Mix: Meisei Story already has a couple strikes against it before the first episode aired. To the more casual anime fans or the fans that do not spend much time researching anime, the character designs will look old or outdated which can be a turnoff. To fans that spend at least a little time researching before choosing which anime to watch, the fact that Mix is billed as a sequel to Touch, a series that aired in the 1980’s well before they were likely born, can be a turnoff as they worry about the lost of context. To fans that spend a little more time researching their potential anime they might catch that the source material is a manga by the author Mitsuru Adachi who is often characterized as recycling his art and his characters and his plots and this can be a turnoff. I can’t and won’t deny that there is a little bit of truth to each of these potential turnoffs, however, they are also largely over-exaggerated, taken out of context, and not really applicable.
First off, if Mitsuru Adachi’s characters didn’t look so similar the whole talking point that he recycles everything probably never would been created, even so, his characters do and here we are. What bothers me about this is the idea that he recycles his story and plots. Mitsuru Adachi excels as a storyteller and at letting the characters of his works drive the story which is why, even if there are similarities to be found, his stories develop into different creations because the parts of his characters and their situations that are unique will lead the story in different directions. After finishing Touch, Adachi could have gone back, taken the exact same group of characters and beginning, and he would have ended up with a completely different story if he’d have just altered one thing – making the older brother slightly less considerate of the younger brother’s feelings.
Next, I have tried to do some research in the question about the need to have watched Touch before starting Mix. I have not read the manga to Mix (so, I’m less than 100% sure) but the answer is apparently no, one does not need to. Watching episode 1 seems to back this up. I don’t think there was anyone with the last name of Tachibana in Touch and no one seemed to act like they had any connection to the Meisei team featured in Touch. I have the feeling that the connection to Touch is more on the meta level, in that, Mix might be almost a what-if version of Touch if both brothers had decided to play baseball instead of the older brother deciding to take up boxing so as not to potentially overshadow the younger brother.
And lastly, the character designs are not really old or outdated because I don’t think there was ever a time that characters looked like the characters that Mitsuru Adachi draws. It’s more correct to say that his style is idiosyncratic. They are a bit odd, probably more so due to his not marching lockstep with the current fashions, though, once one gets used to them, they provide his works with a sense of timelessness. After watching Cross Game or, one day, Mix, one would be able to go back to an early work like Touch and it suddenly hardly looks that much older.
So, how did I like the first episode of Mix: Meisei Story?
I liked it.
The first episode did not contain the emotional gut punch that the first episode of Cross Game contained and that’s okay because I don’t want the same story told again and again. I liked that it didn’t try to do to much or go too fast, instead, it let the cast be themselves and a number of potential plot threads were either introduced or hinted at. That might sound like damning with faint praise, but, it’s not. It’s an expression of relief over my worry about the production team adapting Mix. There’s nothing wrong with OLM as an animation company, per say, it’s just our two paths don’t often cross since they seem to mainly handle long running kids shows like Pokemon and Youkai Watch. The director is Odahiro Watanabe who has directed Tokyo Ghoul:re (the series that made me drop the entire franchise) and Soul Buster (a short series from Fall 2016 that has an average of 5.88 on MAL). Atsuhiro Tomioka is in charge of the series composition and is someone that I’ve also hardily ever crossed paths with; even though he’s got dozens and dozens of writing credits, I think I’ve only every seen Samurai 7 where he did series composition and the script for 22 of the 26 episodes as well as Final Fantasy Unlimited where he wrote 15 of the 25 episode scripts. So, not a group that would allay one’s fears over potential shortcoming of the anime adaptation.
My worries over the adaptation haven’t completely vanished; however, I don’t think I have to worry about it being below the competent level and that’s good enough. Mitsuru Adachi knows how to create interesting characters and how to let them tell their story. I only now wonder if we will eventually get a full adaptation of the Mix manga; it’s still ongoing and I’ve seen no word that it’s finishing soon. Both Touch and Cross Game were complete adaptations and it will be a shame if we’ll not get to see the end of Mix as well.
One of the things I liked about the first episode was that the time was taken to introduce a side character who will be part of the baseball team and the inclusion of the other team members in the opening. This was something I missed in Touch after having watched Cross Game. I think Touch went like 70-80 episodes before getting around to even giving names to the other players on the team beyond the pitcher and catcher. (That’s not to say that Touch didn’t have side characters, they were mainly members of other baseball teams or in the boxing club or in the gymnastics club.) Having these side characters as part of the team adds variety and interest to the main story and to the baseball games since the successes and failures of the team can be more naturally spread around and they have more meaning when we know the characters.
Speaking of the opening, I also really liked it, in particular, the animation. Good animation never hurts an anime series. After putting up with the rather low budget CG animation found in the otherwise excellent Gurazeni, I’m glad to see that distinct lack of CG animation used to animate the baseball action. The character interactions also flowed well. The banter between the brothers while they played catch was perfect, as can be expected from Mitsuru Adachi. I think it’s cool that they got an actual real life brother sister seiyuu pair to voice the sister and the one brother in the show, their dialogue should only be that much more natural sounding.
And, while watching Touch is not needed to watch Mix, when news that the anime for Mix was going to start this Spring season, I did go and watch Touch. I finished about a month ago and that opening introduction and the narration by Noriko Hidaka who voiced Minami Asakura in Touch really hit me hard. I was glad this happened as well because there is the flip side to linking Mix to Touch, there should be some payoff for the people familiar with Touch. There are many characters from Touch beyond the main characters that I hope we’ll eventually learn what happened to them, including, Isami Nishimura, Shouhei Harada, Eijirou Kashiwaba, and the Nitta siblings.
In conclusion, go watch Cross Game and Touch. I can attest that they are both awesome anime series. I prefer Cross Game because Mitsuru Adachi improved his skills with time, I like the faster pacing, and that first episode makes one immediately invested in the show. The currently airing Mix will probably turn out to be another excellent series and anyone that enjoys character driven anime series, particularly character focused sports series, should give this show a chance.