Diligent and methodical honor student Eiichirou Maruo decides to exercise more during the little free time he has available because he is worried about his health. For this reason, after seeing a flyer, he joins the Southern Tennis Club at the beginning of his freshman year.
During his free trial at the club, he meets Natsu Takasaki, another first year student, who is determined on becoming a professional tennis player due to her love for the sport. In contrast, Eiichirou's study-oriented life exists because he believes that it is what he has to do, not because he enjoys it. However, his monotonous days come to an end as the more he plays tennis, the more he becomes fascinated by it.
Baby Steps is the story of a boy who makes the most of his hard-working and perfectionist nature to develop his own unique playing style. Little by little, Eiichirou's skills begin to improve, and he hopes to stand on equal footing with tennis' best players.
To be completely honest, I can’t begin to comprehend the lack of popularity surrounding Baby Steps. The title Baby Steps may often make people prolong watching this sensational series or even drop it completely. Baby Steps art style can push people away from watching it, but once you get past the art style you will be be engaged in this show.
I will not go into full detail of the story, and will try to make this review nice and short.
This series is typically about an honour student Maruo Eiichirou, (also called Ei-chan for his exceedingly high grades) and he is living an unhappy life.
A life of studying, to make his parents happy. But what this really making him happy? He decides to take up tennis, with having no prior experience in sport whatsoever. This is when his love for tennis, started to begin. It is also really provoking to see how, Maruo takes notes in his practices and how he involves his studying and note-taking into his matches. This is such a different character, to what we are used to seeing and Maruo’s potential as he trains and takes notes is infinite.
Baby Steps does not follow the routine of every other cliché sports anime. It is such a rarity that you come across an anime with such an engaging story and cliffhangers that make you rushing to finish the next episode. As Maruo starts to play tennis, he finds that his lack of fitness is making it hard for him to improve and get better. He trains indefinitely to improve just hitting the tennis ball at first and then he gradually gets better as his fitness level rises. Baby Steps does a really good job engaging its audience, by taking a realistic approach on a sports anime. Maruo does not have super-human powers and gets professional instantly. You watch him grow on his journey from becoming a straight A student, to a person who finds passion in his life, that he never knew he has before.
Has anyone ever told you to not judge a book by its cover? The same thing can be said for Baby Steps. The art style for it can often be misunderstood and make people score this series a lot lower score than it deserves. Once you get used to the different approach on the art, then you will sure be in for a surprise!
Baby Steps does a magnificent job portraying all of the different characters, especially the relationships between Maruo, and his classmates and family. As this is a slow pacing anime, do not get turned off if it takes a while until you feel engaged. After every episode there are only more positive things to come and as you are watching Maruo grow as a tennis player he also grows fundamentally as a person in all aspects. The relationship between Maruo and his mother also grow throughout the series, as she sees how much Maruo is enjoying his studies and has finally found a hobby that peaks his interest.
The soundtrack in Baby Steps is not “ sensational “, but the sound does a great job in adding different atmospheres in certain situations. The opening song “ Believe in Yourself “ by Mao Abe fits the series just perfectly. It reinforces the idea that even though Maruo had never held a tennis racket before in his life, the amount of dedication and love that he had found for this sport would astonish, not only those around him, but himself as well. The soundtrack fulfils its job well as setting the mood and tone in various settings. It can make a regular tennis match turn, intense and thought provoking in a matter of seconds.
I highly recommend this Anime to not only people who enjoy watching sports anime, but to everyone as well. Baby Steps takes a very different approach on a sports anime, and it deserves more recognition for how well the series went.
Watching Baby Steps is like trying to learn how to ride a bike, an activity that may seem hard at first but will find its way eventually if you put your efforts through. But a bike isn’t without rules and similarly, Baby Steps has its own guidelines when it comes to tennis. For Maruo Eiichirou, a straight A-student, almost everything he has done in his life came with effort in order to become successful. And that’s no understatement when he has earned nicknames such as “All-A”. However, one thing he lack is a dream, a real goal in his life. After a faithful encounter one
day with popular student Takasaki Natsu, he may have just realized what it means to follow a dream.
Written by Hikaru Katsuki, the series is built on the foundation of tennis, a competitive sport of cunning nature. For Eiichriou, he quickly finds out that he isn’t really in shape when it comes to the nature of the sport. This is quickly realized during the first day when he joins a gym that Natsu is part of where he quickly succumbs to burnout. In retrospect, training for tennis is something completely new to him and requires a different perspective than studying. Luckily, he pays close attention with his precision and while lacking talent for the actual sport, Eiichriou’s observation skills earns him praise.
Praise doesn’t come easy though on the field. In the beginning, Eiichriou learns the hard way not only during training sessions but also gets annihilated in actual competition against tennis prodigy Takuma Egawa. The rivalry between them is fairly fresh and simple though: Eiichriou simply wants to return one of his serves. And while he makes little success in the beginning, he is able to use his observational skills at first hand. By doing just that, others realize that the kid has potential because in tennis, it also takes more than just muscles and speed to outwit an opponent. Nonetheless, Eiichriou’s journey as a tennis player quickly becomes a routine schedule. Unlike others born with raw talent, he works his way up. Perhaps the show itself is synonymous when it comes to “baby steps”. Essentially, Eiichriou is taking those first steps to follow a dream. It’s no difference with prodigies or professionals already though. Even they started out as newbies and worked their way to the top of the game. For Eiichriou, his steps are easily worth noting for his persistence, integrity, and value.
Throughout the show, Eiichriou has influence on other players even if he doesn’t notice it himself. This is clearly evidenced through his relationship with Takuma. While the latter essentially views him as an inferior opponent, he comes to acknowledge and even sets his mind back forth to becoming a professional tennis player. This influence is the seed to characterization and development. While some players lacks quality in this field compared to others, the main characters gets that firsthand. We witness this through strategic flashbacks and realistic revelations. And while plot twists aren’t prominent in the show, some scenarios can be surprising and strikingly influential. The show is also honest when it comes to development with a sincere plot. Eiichriou works his way up through his own ways such as taking notes on opponents and analyzing matches. His notebook contains full of diagrams and calculations with precision. In other words, he doesn’t take an easy way out and proves his worth with his unique skills. It shows that a good tennis player doesn’t always rely on their brawn but a clear mind can be just as dangerous on the field.
The journey to becoming a professional tennis player isn’t an easy road to take. Takuma and Natsu already knows this but Eiichriou quickly finds out as well. His first real match takes a lot out of him but Eiirchriou uses his skills, determination, and even a bit of luck to follow his dream. The way the show depict each of his opponent tests Eiirchriou as both a player and a person. In essence, opponents he faces makes him realize his strengths and weaknesses. And like most tennis players, each has their own different playing style. The show features this exclusively with certain characters with their unique gameplay gimmicks. Some of the more elite players in the tournament (depicted by the level of their seed) are also characterized by their reputation and even with flashbacks to show their testament. On the other hand, Natsu, the main female character suffers a bit when it comes to characterization. While her outer appearance seems to be of a cute girl, her personality fits more of a tomboy and even a clumsy side during her debut. Her interactions with Eiirchou can also seems awkward at times. This is evidenced during their first encounter when Natsu accidentally ruins Eiirchou’s notes because of her klutzy actions. Not to say she is a klutz though, because out on the field, she can really shine like a superstar. The relationship she has with Natsu is something I’d describe as innocent and charming. But at the same time, their connection isn’t entirely too focused when it comes to a personal level. It’s clearly shown (or at least implied) that Eiirchou has a crush on Natsu. On the other hand, it’s hard to say Natsu feels the same way for him. As the show focuses more on competition, the romance development between the duos is subtle and dense. There is also hints of a potential love triangle as another girl enters the picture. However, that territory is never explored. In the end, don’t expect this show to be some Romeo & Juliet love story.
Despite the story being fictional, there is surprisingly amount of realism. The series shows Eiirchou’s life in his perspective and what’s like every day for him in the beginning. Whether at home or at school, it’s easy to realize the type of person he is – responsible, determined, and also persistent when it comes to anything. But on the field, tennis is explored dynamically in two ways. In one way, Eiirchou’s novice shows the viewers firsthand on the mechanics of the game such as the basic fundamentals. Terms such as love, ace, seed, lob, spin, volley, and among others are shown and explained in concise details. Then, there’s the actual explanation by outside parties and in Eiirchou’s notes relating to various strategies that are utilized. The show spends a decent amount of time in the beginning to let audiences who are unfamiliar with the game of tennis the general aspects.
Indeed, the show is charming with a solid cast of characters and credible comedy. It understands the premise and fundamentally delivers that in the eyes of Eiirchou. But for the character himself, his personality can be a mixed bag. While some people may like his determined personality, his persistence can get annoying. It’s also easy to label him as the ‘nice guy’ type and someone hard to get out of the friend zone. As mentioned before, the show’s romance is dense and so is Natsu when it comes to her love life. Essentially, it focuses much time on Eiirchou’s advancement as a tennis player rather than his personal life. Shortcomings can also be hammered down to the comedy itself. Sometimes it feels flat. Other times, it’s oddly balanced, seems forced, and in general lacking with odd timings. Character dialogues also feels repetitive. And speaking of that, the story itself is also dealt this way. Based on manga, the adaptation is faithful but also has anime original material that neglects some important factors. As expected of Studio Pierrot, not everyone will get what they want. Luckily, a season 2 has been confirmed so expect new rivals and a whole continent of a journey for our tennis player to explore.
Visual wise, the character designs are moderate. Nothing really stands out for the main character Eiirchou besides his haircut which almost looks like a rooster. On the other hand, Natsu is designed as a graceful girl with tomboyish characteristics. Her short hair and athleticism are clear demonstration of this. Other characters are designed with clarity. In particular though, Takuma stands out as a firm competitor and ironclad figure with his expressions. The animation for the backgrounds and interior designs of the game settings can be described as a mixed bag. Nothing stands out impressive as some game-play movements feels like washed out while other times has impressive camera angle features. The plus side is that the show doesn’t employ usage of shock footage or fan service to allure the audience. Instead, it’s simple and realistic enough to typify the show’s message.
Soundtrack can be colorful and seems so on most occasions. During many matches, the OST is consistent to match with a game’s intensity. During more climatic moments, the show proves itself to be able to handle its way to convey the delivery. Most voice mannerisms seems standard though and nothing impressive. But if there’s one person to take notice of would be Takuma for his stoic nature. The ‘bad boy’ attitude he displays is clearly shown in his egoistic and arrogant voice in the beginning. Similarly, the OP and ED song illustrates a message in believing his motives. In fact, the final few words of the OP song mentions “believe in yourself” as a moral to follow one’s dreams from baby steps.
Baby Steps is more or less underrated but can be memorable when it comes to a realistic journey. Eiirchou is a good example of that, a person with no natural skills but works hard in following his dreams through simple steps. His development as both a person and tennis player can be entrancing to watch. And as a role model, we can learn from him. On the other hand, his personal development with other characters isn’t as impressive when it comes to romance. In particular, Baby Steps spends most of its time at the tennis court with Eiirchou being the highlight. And despite not being mainstream, the series is a fine example of a tennis showcase. The first baby step begins with the swing of that racket.
I've seen several sports-themed anime, and in my opinion this one of the two or three best.
To me, one of the most attractive aspects of this story is the method by which the protagonists attain their expertise at the sport. Not a single character spends time meditating by standing under a waterfall. No one ever packs up camping gear and hikes to remote areas in distant mountains for training (defeating bears and wildcats along the way.) There is not a single "secret" or "special" move that "magically defeats one's opponent.
What stands out is the main character's ability to analyze not only his
opponent's strengths and weaknesses, but his own as well. You could call this "effective reflection", I guess. Skill is invariably gained by realistic training activity and practice.
Some facial expressions / reactions are "over the top", but do not materially detract from the story; some are funny. After all, this is a story about an accomplished nerd transforming himself into an accomplished athlete. The main protagonist's reactions/interactions with the main female protagonist are consistent with their established characters. The slowly developing romance between the two is realistic and believable. Those looking for fan service will be disappointed, as there is none.
The strength of the story carries this anime, and even if your interest in tennis is zero, that fact will not detract from your enjoyment!
Baby Steps 2 just started as part of the Spring 2015 anime line-up, and after viewing the first episode I have high hopes for the continuation of the Baby Steps story. I will probably review it separately at a later date.
Honestly, I thought I wasn't going to like this anime because most sports anime have these settings where there's minimal thought and just pure flair. In Baby Steps, the whole setting is realistic without sacrificing intensity or enjoyment. Although I won't consider this anime perfect, it is definitely worth the watch.
The story is set to be a typical shounen, as the main character, Maruo, has to start from being an utter beginner at tennis to being good. The direction to go is pretty straightforward, as with all sports animes, so that's why I couldn't give this story a 9 or a 10. However, there
are many qualities of this anime that make it unique. Maruo is an honor student who's trying to get better at tennis. In any other sports anime, Maruo would still be the straight A student while being the best in his sport, but not in this one. As I said before, this anime is realistic, so Maruo has to balance practice and his studies. Seeing this pressure made me relate to Maruo greatly. Another realistic aspect of Baby Steps is the practice. Most sports anime just say, "We decided we don't want to lose anymore so we decided to practice hard" and after a few scenes with no explanation, they suddenly become gods. This anime puts an emphasis on describing Maruo's practice. This makes the story much more enjoyable because it builds what's behind the sport. The journey of Maruo is typical, but how he gets there is unique and enjoyable.
I would say this is one of the weak points of Baby Steps. Some scenes, Maruo is a head shorter than another character, then suddenly he becomes as tall as the other character. The whole setting is very plain, and there is minimal consistency with the art. However, everything is still understandable and not grotesque. Although the art in Baby Steps is far from beautiful, it is highly tolerable and not bad.
I like the opening and ending, but it didn't really have hype. The OST was really nice, I could really feel that sh** was about do go down when I heard the electric guitar soundtrack. The OP and the ED was kind of generic, but the OST was cool.
Maruo Eiichiro, a first year high school student who's at the top of his class trying out tennis because he wants some exercise in his scheduled life. After finding out how fun it is, he decides to pursue it further. I really like Maruo as a character, it's understandable that he could get better and better because his diligent character. Maruo is really likable because he makes no enemies, just rivals in competition.
Natsu Takasaki is one of the best tennis players in this anime and Maruo's pretty obvious romantic interest. At first, I didn't like the idea of romance and sports being together, but Baby Steps controlled it really well.
I would've gave the characters a 10, but some characters like Sasaki just seem pointless.
I loved watching Baby Steps because I loved watching Maruo learn and grow, not only in tennis, but as a human. It's really special watching someone cherish the things we take for granted. Maruo didn't have any desires or goals in life, but now he's starting to find it. Not only do I love watching Maruo's journey, but I love watching the tennis. I may have a bit of a bias because I'm an avid tennis player, but the mind games and physical match ups really appealed to me. Having an awesome main character and a great display of tennis really made me enjoy this show.
I think Baby Steps can appeal to a lot of people, but I don't think it's a masterwork. There were flaws, a lot of which were easy to ignore, but it affects my judgement now. If you're going to watch Baby Steps, don't expect beautiful greatness, but expect a light sports anime with a fierce, intelligent, and fun competitive aspect.
Tennis has been around in anime for some time now, but the number of series dedicated to it are surprisingly low. In the following list, we'll take a look at five popular tennis anime, including not only iconic classics, but also some newbie gems!