The story centers around three characters—Uesugi Kazuya, his twin older brother Tatsuya, and Asakura Minami. Kazuya is the darling of his town as he's talented, hardworking, and the ace pitcher for his middle school baseball team. Tatsuya is a hopeless slacker who's been living the life of giving up the spotlight to Kazuya, despite the fact that he may be more gifted than him. Minami is the beautiful childhood girlfriend and for all intents, sister from next door who treats both of them as equals. Society largely assumes Kazuya and Minami will become the perfect couple, including Tatsuya. Yet as time progresses, Tatsuya grows to realize that he's willing to sacrifice anything for the sake of his brother, except at the expense of giving up Minami to Kazuya. And thus the story is told of Tatsuya trying to prove himself over his established younger brother, how it affects the relationship between the three, and both brothers' attempts to make Minami's lifelong dreams come true.
Since the birth of the written word, we have been taught that storytelling is most effective through drama. Good triumphing over evil, a mystery solved, a pair of lovers.
But there are also stories that choose to convey something a little bit more ordinary– something more human. A story not about the apocalypse, but one focused on a normal person growing up and finding their place in the world. A story where the antagonist is not some cackling lunatic, but a sibling or a friend.
What is interesting about something so mundane? Adachi Mitsuru's "Touch" has the answer.
Uesugi Tatsuya is a lost soul. He
wakes up every day only to be shunned by his family and classmates for not comparing to his younger brother, Kazuya. Kazuya is virtually perfect– an ace pitcher for Meisei's baseball club, a top-ranking student, a charismatic personality and source of infatuation for the girls– he is everything that Tatsuya is not. But Tatsuya can't quite resent his brother for it, either. He loves him as a sibling and as a friend. He wants him to succeed. Tatsuya's only wish is to remain himself, and who can blame him?
The one thing that the two share is a mutual affection for Minami. For as long as they can remember, the three have been together as neighbours and as friends. Kazuya's dream is to bring Minami to the Koushien, while their parents have their own goal in mind: for Kazuya and Minami to marry each other in the future. Tatsuya naturally does not like this.
And neither does Minami, it seems. What about her feelings? She has no idea if she actually loves Kazuya or if it's just something that she's just been forced to accept over the years. And what about Tatsuya and her feelings for him? Of course she doesn't want to leave a close friend behind for something that her parents haphazardly decided. Of course she doesn't want to separate the two brothers for something that doesn't need to be. Both of them are equally important to her, even if Tatsuya might tell her otherwise.
So goes the story of Touch. For a while.
Things are eventually victim to change. There is a certain tragedy that follows which completely changes the course of the story. It proves difficult to describe the impact this has without spoiling the most important scene of the anime, but what should be noted is that the first arc of the story is a build-up for everything that comes after. The first 26 episodes function as an extended prologue for a much greater tale.
For most people, "26 episode prologue" will sound off as an instant reason to avoid the anime. Don't. Every piece of dialogue between Tatsuya and Kazuya, every moment of frustration with Tatsuya's or Minami's attitude, every slow-pan over the school courtyard – it all exists for a very specific reason. It is there for the viewer to establish a connection with the characters and the world that they live in. How many times have we had an anime where it throws us deep into the story before we can establish any sort of connection? Far too many. Touch is a slow anime, and it wants you to listen closely.
The story of Touch is ultimately Tatsuya's story. Over the course of a massive 101 episodes, we see him grow from a lazy, bitter child to a determined adult. Determined not only in the sport of baseball, but for Minami and his friends as well. Friends that he never had before. A Minami that loves him as more than just a childhood friend. Even his parents are left wondering how Tatsuya of all people could have made it so far on his own. By the time he's on the mound leading to the Koushien, Tatsuya has surpassed Kazuya.
Where Gurren Lagann turned Simon into a Kamina clone, Touch opts instead for Tatsuya to remain himself to the very end. He matures and changes, but that selfish, lazy person inside of him is still there. It feels natural, never forced, much like any ordinary person might mature over the years. An evolution, but not a 180. Even if his attitude might infuriate you from time to time, that's never a bad thing. Tatsuya makes mistakes and says the wrong thing at times– just as we do. He's flawed like any human being.
Considering Tatsuya's personality, the relationship between him and Minami is naturally slow to develop. This has inevitably drawn some frustration with those seeking steady romantic progression, but I will ask, why does it need to be that way? Why must every romance develop in exactly the same way? The two love each other, of course, but they have also been together since they were small children. It was never the love-at-first-sight phenomenon common in media today. Touch is meant to be realistic more than idealistic.
Adding to the cast is the rival of the two brothers, Nitta Akio. As the power hitter of one of the country's best baseball teams, he is the natural obstacle between the brothers and the Koushien. A rival in love, too, but a friend just the same. He shows us that you can have an antagonist who is also friendly with the protagonist, one that doesn't need to fill the conventional role of an enemy. This friendly rivalry effectively makes the final match at the end of the story all the more rewarding and emotional, witnessing two characters you've grown attached to facing each other off for their last chance at the Koushien. You want Tatsuya to win, but you don't quite want Nitta to lose, either. We don't often find characters like Nitta in anime.
The supporting cast is just as great. Meisei's baseball club is coloured by the presence of the catcher, Kotarou, who has a difficult relationship with Tatsuya. First enemies, and close friends by the end, they slowly open up to each other in a genuinely believable and endearing way. On less-than-great terms is Yoshida, who has a sort of... creepy admiration for Tatsuya, eventually reaching the point where he starts to copy Tatsuya's pitching style. There is also Nishimura, another rival to Tatsuya (though Tatsuya is ever reluctant to care about him), and Nitta's rebellious sister, Yuka, who finds herself drawn to Tatsuya as he starts to become recognised as a pitcher. Initially she seems a bit of a filler character to pull Tatsuya away from Minami, but this is eventually shown not to be the case. Yuka has her own reasons to feel the way she does for Tatsuya, while Tatsuya is never truly interested in anybody but Minami. What Yuka actually ends up revealing is just how much Tatsuya loves Minami.
Perhaps most important, though, is the interim coach, Kashiwaba. He is the sole enemy in the story. As the kind of dude who regularly abuses and overworks the baseball club (his first meeting with the club is by punching Tatsuya), kicks puppies, and chain smokes and drinks in public ... it's kind of natural to hate his guts. But he has his reasons for what he's doing. Maybe not completely justified, but he is a damaged person, once kind and selfless. Through Kashiwaba's backstory (gradually revealed over the course of the anime's second half) he proves to have much more relevance to the overall story than merely existing as a source of conflict. He represents a Tatsuya in a different situation– the person that Tatsuya could have become if things turned out differently. Kashiwaba realises this and relentlessly targets Tatsuya for it, convinced that the person he sees through him is long dead. Though he never fully redeems himself by the end, the moment where Kashiwaba decides to give a helping hand to the team when they need it most is one of the most gratifying scenes I've personally experienced in anime.
The dialogue is also phenomenal, with one of the most powerful moments in the story occurring over a quick cup of coffee. Tatsuya disappears before the start of one of his final matches and Minami finds him sitting carefree in her family's coffee shop, sipping away like nothing is the matter. When she talks to him, Tatsuya reveals that he's there because he's nervous, because he needs to calm himself in a familiar environment. He describes how much he has started to love baseball (something he was forced into only a couple years before) and realises how flawed he is as a person. We realise then just how much Tatsuya has changed. There are times before when, sure, some changes in his personality become evident, but this scene is the moment when it all starts piecing together. His evolution is so human and natural that you wouldn't ordinarily notice it.
Even when the big tragedy occurs earlier on in the show, the characters don't scream and cry. They react with shock, denial, and then with remorse. The emotional impact of the scene comes from empathising with the characters' emotions– not through some sappy music playing in the background. Melodrama is not a part of Touch's itinerary, and it's all the more brilliant for it.
Despite being an anime focused on sports, Touch is easy for anybody to get into. Regardless of whether you're a fan of baseball or somebody who despises it, there isn't a huge focus on the sport itself. Sure, there is the occasional match that will stretch on for several episodes, but it's fundamentally there as a way to develop the characters. There is never any complex baseball terminology to impede your enjoyment (or understanding) of the matches. And thankfully, the obnoxious "spectators in the stands explain every single thing that the players do" cliché is kept to a minimum. The sports genre really, really needs to stop doing that!
Touch is almost 30 years old and still has one of the best soundtracks today. Many of the tracks continued to give me chills even after the third, fifth, and tenth time they played. In particular is Hoshi no Silhouette (Kazuya's theme), motivational on the same level as the Gurren Lagann soundtrack or even the Rocky theme. The openings of Touch also represent a distinct mood of each arc in the story. By the time the depressing second opening kicks in (immediately after the tragedy), it becomes evident that Touch isn't the carefree rom-com that it first seemed to be. The fifth and final opening is also superb, fitting in perfectly with Tatsuya's struggle in the last few episodes, and the credits slowly fading in and out gives the impression that the story has finally reached its climax, soon to end. I don't think it would be an exaggeration to say that it is my favourite anime opening of all time.
The artwork is fantastic for its time. Even if you aren't particularly drawn to 80's and 90's animation, the age ceases to be noticeable after the first dozen episodes. Adachi Mitsuru's character designs hold up well even to this day (although the background characters can sometimes look identical to each other) and the overall art style steadily matures as the story progresses. A few three-to-five second batting sequences are reused here and there throughout the story, which can be a bit jarring, but to otherwise keep such a high quality for 101 episodes is nothing short of commendable.
It is difficult to review an anime that has changed my life in many ways. How can you critically define emotion? How can you be certain that anybody else will feel the same way? You can't– humans are inconsistent creatures. There are many things that Touch does exceptionally well, but I don't believe that Touch is merely an exceptional anime. It is something more than that. It's a life-affirming, empowering journey that brings the tarnished word "epic" back to its true meaning. Epic not for its length (which is a colossal 101 episodes), its scope, or even its story, but for its ability to show us just how much we can grow.
Whether you admire it from a distance or feel an intense emotional impact, or whether you dislike older stories and adore the new, Touch is the kind of anime that should be experienced by everyone. It is more than a classic. It's an achievement for the anime industry as a whole.
I'm sort of surprised there isn't a review for this show already. This is really a great show. It's defenitely a classic.
The story itself may not sound extremely original, but the way that it develops is excellent. The main focus of the series is the growth of the main character, Tatsuya. His brother, Kazuya, is the ace pitcher of the baseball team and everyone loves him. Both him and his brother like the same girl, Minami. Over the series, Tatsuya tries to make himself a better man for Minami, with a lot of influence from his brother Kazuya. The show has a lot of romance
in it, as well as sports, but there is a good balance. Also, the dramatic parts of the story are done so well, but not overdramatized. The first 26 episodes focus on the relationship between the brothers and Minami, but after that it focuses on Tatsuya becoming part of the baseball team. It really feels like a slice of life anime when you're watching it. The series covers 3 years, but the pacing is perfect.
For a show that was made in 1985, the animation is really nice. It's simple, yes, and the character designs arent flashy. However, the animation itself is great. The movement of the characters while they are doing sports, or anything, is dead on. There aren't many "repeated" scenes over and over again, and if they are they're not too noticeable. The quality of animation is also consistent throughout. I personally also liked the simplistic character designs and feel of the show.
Nothing to out of ordinary here. You have your typical 80's pop songs for intro and ending songs. In the show there is a lot of classical music (like chopin) when Kazuya listens to his records or Minami does gymnastics. Aside from that the background music is fitting to the show, but does not really stand alone well. The voice actors are very good though, and extremely fitting to their roles. Tastuya and Minami's seiyuu's were great.
The character development in this show is huge. Throughout the show you see the growth of the characters. Tatsuya undergoes the most growth since he is the main character, but Minami and other characters (even some of the minor characters) grow and change throughout the series. The only downside was the fact that you never really got to know all the members on the baseball team, which happens a lot with sports related shows. However, all the characters in this show are great.
I enjoyed this series so much. There was not really any filler (besides a few recap episodes which would have been necessary for people following the show weekly) and each episode was interesting. The story never really seemed to drag, and even though there were times where you got frustrated at certain situations, they always turned out fine in the end. DON'T avoid this show because you dont like sports. the sports may be a crucial part to the story, but it defenitely does not have your typical "sports anime" feeling. Same with the romance. The romance in the show is really important, but it's not a "romance anime".
This show was really well done. At first, I was hooked by the romantic rivalry between the two brothers. However, as the story progressed i got hooked into seeing how Tatsuya would change by becoming part of the baseball team. The story itself is really good and I think it's defenitely worth watching. Don't be scared because it's an old series, it's defenitely a classic that should be watched by all! :)
Animation - 4
Touch has that signature, old school character design. Big hair, pretty natural to exaggerated bodies, and big, blank, stupid eyes. With that said though, I will say that Touch has the most expressionless faces I've ever seen in any show. The face is completely the same whether or not the character is crying, stunned, happy, or angry. From scene to scene, body proportions change from heads being proportionally larger to smaller to natural. The animation is terrible. For eyes that aren't the type that normally catch lots of mistakes or shortcuts regarding the execution of animation, mistakes
are very obvious. One easily catches recycled scenes all over the place, be it gymnastics, baseball, or just running to school. Even for this time period, I'm not so sure that this was acceptable.
Sound - 6
I could be wrong, but the music used during the show was overall, anachronistically ludicrous. One of the main songs "My Girl," sounds like it belongs in a 50's sockhop. But what's worse is that the song is used for almost every occasion, be it training, mourning, victory, or romantic sequences. The opening and endings were all suitable for the show, but ultimately forgettable. Foley effects are pretty on par with what was available during the time, so I didn't really see anything wrong with that. Overall, I believe the cast did a really job of creating characters (especially the supporting actors who were given very little to work with). Voice actors for the main characters were especially charming and added engaging emotion where the animation failed.
Characters - 8
For characters that were integral to the story, the writing did a good job of making memorable characters. The leads, Tatsuya and Minami, aren't very original characters in their type, but because of very strong characterization and fine development, they come off as some of the most natural high schoolers I've probably seen in anime. Though they are prodigies, and there is a bit of a disconnect there, there is no doubt ever that they have go through much of the same thoughts as their classmates. Tatsuya is by far the most interesting character because all of his personality and actions all come from the same place, and except for one occasion, he never felt like he was going out of character, which is very important and amazing considering the show covers the most significant years in human development. Rivals such as Kazuya, Akio, and Yuka are also either well developed or characterized and efficiently play their roles as foils of either Tatsuya or Minami. But of those rivals, Yoshida Takeshi is by far the most well-executed character, with development rivaling that of Tatsuya. He goes from a pitiable tertiary character to a loathsome rival in such a short, yet natural amount of time, that his presence on screen becomes magnetic.
Although there are great and good characters in this show, there were also very bad and useless characters to go along. Tatsuya's parents were absolutely useless in the show. They are used only as comic relief, so when the most serious turning point happens, they are rendered as useless as puppets without an owner. Moreover, there is really no apparent reason for them to have treated their sons with such differing affection. Their actions were always baffling. Another character that deserves mention is Tatsuya "seemingly" best friend, Harada. After having finished the show, one is left mistified at his purpose besides framing what Tatsuya is going through. Aside from that he is a delinquent who isn't really a delinquent, and that's all that the viewer knows. Another character strangely one note character is Eijirou Kashiwaba. He's basically only introduced to catalyze Tatsuya's talent for baseball, but once he is given a story of his own (that of a distorted mirror of Tatsuya) it fails. I don't really know what to say about it, but it just fails. Much time was wasted on giving this man a reason for his actions, but ultimately he could have been just as effective had he been simpler.
Story - 7
The story is very transparent: it is a high school romance between Minami and Tatsuya set up around baseball. For about the first half of the show, the sports aspect is wholly inconsequential to the main plot. Though the plot development is very obvious, there are a few times where, as a viewer, you don't want to be right in anticipating the outcome, which speaks very highly of how engaging most of the story and characters are. There is a wonderful simplicty and innocence in the tone of the show that is carefree and relaxing (in much of the nostalgic way that adults who have good memories of high school tend to look back) adding to the overall enjoyment of Touch. The building up of emotions is where this story shines.
But with the good comes the bad, and when Touch is bad, it can be rather droll. The writers don't have a flair for drama at all, so when it comes to important scenes where a character needs to express his or her feelings, the writing just doesn't know what to do with itself, so for the romantic element of the show, it just about fails in delivering that climax. Also, regarding the main turning point in the series, the aftermath is terribly executed. Rather than show how the characters cope with the situation, we get a time skip of about two weeks, and everyone's practically acting normal. Finally, as I have mentioned before, towards the end, the show tries very hard to force drama into Tatsuya as a character while juggling the difficulties of making sense of Kashiwaba as a character, and wrapping up the story as a whole, managing to over-complicate the plot, and knock the wind out of the main climax of the story, Tatsuya and Minami's relationship.
Enjoyment - 9
Overall, I really enjoyed this show from episode one. Though many events in the plot and characters left me dumbfounded, with everything that went on, I think the show was very successful. For those that hate the look of this time period as much as I do, I must say that it is a testament to the quality and the tone of the show that I didn't give the art that much of a thought. Watching Tatsuya come into his own despite himself was a very enthralling process. Much of his humor alone is the reason why I thoroughly enjoyed Touch. This show really is for anyone.
In a sentence, this series will touch your heart - this is a hard anime to find, but if you can get your hands on it and don't mind watching anime from another age (the 80s), sit back and enjoy the ride. Slow but very deliberative and excellent character development, packed with foreshadowing and plot twists; some expected, many more not.
While it is a "sports-themed" anime, don't let that stop you from picking it up - the near-flawless execution triumphs over what on the surface may seem like a fairly simple plot outline.
This is a masterpiece; if you're in the market for a story
with characters that you actually want to succeed but also want to be kept guessing whether they will or not, look no further. Touch, and never forget.
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