On her first day at Nishi High School, 15-year-old Hiromi Oka is inspired by top player Reika "Ochoufujin" Ryuuzaki to take up tennis. Shortly after joining the school's tennis club, she encounters Jin Munakata, the club's new coach. Munakata puts everyone under rigorous training that even puts Ochoufujin to shame. Despite the hardships, Hiromi's determination prompts the coach to select her as part of the club's main players. Because of this, Hiromi must endure the peer pressure from her seniors to become an ace tennis player.
Animation as any other form of art can't avoid the rule of percentages that supposedly determines what is good amidst the mediocrity (that some might proclaim is oscillating around the 90% of the total).
When it comes to old anime as the one object of this review, new factors appear, and the challenge is placed in discerning between what was lacklustre back in the day of its creation and what are the mere consequences of standing the test of time.
Aim for the Ace! (Ace wo Nerae!) is one show worth to be highlighted thanks to the apparent simplicity of its premise, and the good mixture
between the sports' department with the constant dramatic situations and the psychological exploration of the characters. The fact of being only 2-cours long makes it from the very beginning way more accessible than some of the long-runners of the time. Aired in 1973, is not only one of the first anime of its genre, but also the first production to came under the name of studio Madhouse, and directed by one of its founders, Osamu Dezaki.
The shows under the direction of Dezaki use to be safe bets for us viewers of our time, since they were able to find their strengths in the same limitations of the format that used to work as detriments instead.
It is not, nevertheless, the aim of this review to praise this particular work for just being one of the first to make their appearance in this particular scene of both shoujo and sports. Aim for the Ace! is one truly interesting series by itself in spite of its context, with themes and worries that almost haven't aged with the pass of the years, and that are still current and relatable. There isn't an excess of melodrama either, since the different problematics are solved quite naturally, while others are introduced at the same time in one constant cycle of formulation-resolution that is far from being overdramatic. The portrayal of its sports aspect shows a progressive and believable evolution.
Apparently an obscure show in MAL terms with not even a thousand people rating the entry, it was actually a hit in Japan back in the day. A summary movie, with new and better animation, was aired six years later, alongside with Shin Ace wo Nerae!, another season covering the same events the original one did but in a slightly different way. There is also a second and third seasons, aired in the late 80s, nearly twenty years after the first series. Unfortunately, only the first season (that can be enjoyed as a stand-alone), the film, and the first two episodes of season 2 are currently available with English subtitles.
In conclusion, this 26-episode experience is really recommendable for any anime fan that is interested in the history of the medium. Some of the characters and themes of this show have been reformulated by numerous others almost to a fault, what affords the series a constant déjà vu vibe. Ultimately, don't miss it if by any chance you like Gainax's Top wo Nerae!, since the major part of that OVA's story works as a parody of Ace wo Nerae!
I first watched Ace wo Nerae! in 2009, after learning of its existence through Gunbuster, and it had quite an impact on me at the time. It's a simple enough story - a great coach sees potential in a young student, and trains her to be a strong, courageous person on and off the court. Through hard work and persistence she overcomes her obstacles and grows successful.
There is no audiovisual spectacle to be found in TV animation this old, from an era where Japanese animation's budgets, technical background and conventions were relatively limited. The most charitable thing you can say about it is that
it has some stylish design ideas, and a catchy opening theme. I tend to like art that borders on the abstract, so I still give it a decent rating.
What I get impacted by every time I rewatch this(and I will go and rewatch an episode every year or two) is the strong storytelling. A lot of the tropes common to modern anime are seen here, in a more innocuous, unexplored form. It doesn't try to subvert anything or throw in huge twists, wacky characters or fantastical elements, it stays in a grounded, ordinary sort of telling, and just builds up your empathy for the characters and their goals with persistence. The simplicity of it is the thing that makes it remain interesting even now.
If you want to see the story but would like different takes on it, you have plenty of alternatives: There is a 1979 film remake, a TV drama, and, of course, the original manga. The story does have a plot continuation in the sequel series and OVA, but they serve as more of a coda for fans.
Ace wo Nerea! Translated to Aim for the Ace is an underrated 1973's anime and that probably brings the first doubt to mind: The animation. Now before we move ahead, I'll tackle the animation as quickly as possible so it is easy for animation critics to decide whether to watch it or not.
The animation of course is old. It lacks the luster and details, and fluidity of more recent animes. The colors are dull and at times the character features are seriously out of shape. Plus, there is a lot of sequence repetition. However - and this is important, the animation has its positives. The
char features and build are consistent and the facial art style is somewhat unique and at times even attractive. They have repetition, yes - however they do manage to pull of unique sequences when required as well. And as someone who has followed a decent few recent animes, the animation is bearable. It is needed at this point to be understood that it is not an anime which features amazing graphic tennis but a story about a personality and a player strengthening separately and their journey through many hurdles.
After having filtered out people who had issues with animation - the question pops up - is the anime good in the rest of the aspects? As far as story goes - it is a present cliche of "talentless protagonist going the distance to be one of the best" which wasn't as big a cliche then and even if it was, it is executed at a really good pace. You sort of know the ending and direction, but you watch for how it is executed. Each event - which is 1 to 2 episode long, manages well to keep your attention and doesn't let the show get too slow and boring or two fast and exciting to put you off.
As for characters, well - for one, I love the characters in it. The main chars at least are pretty believable, their cues, expressions, and dialogue truly reflect an average school life. Meaning, moods just don't 'appear' or 'feelings' don't just develop out of nowhere. Plus, the protagonist isn't the total cry baby that just loses hope. And if that IS your first impression about her, it does change as the anime progresses. Some may rightly claim that certain chars are 1 dimensional however the anime does hint that they are showing a certain 'aspect' of their life, or their personality as they wish to show and their intentions, thoughts may be different and/or they may act differently given different situations. That is NOT shown for every single char, but it did help enough to keep me happy with the chars.
There is one issue after watching many recent animes perhaps and it is that there are instances where you can guess which character to pop up to boost/demoralize the protagonist or add tension in the storyline, however unless one is overly critical about such matters, it is something that can be overlooked.
The sounds are old, quirky and seem like something my parents might like. But they do manage to compliment the anime considerably and that is their purpose in essence.
So over how would I describe it? An anime with old school, yet bearable and at times 'good' animation, believable progression of a tennis players skill and personality build with certain embarrassing, certain comical, and certain frustrating events that one does face in real. The episodes progress in a well thought manner, nudging you to see further and when I finished it, I was certainly happy to pick this up.
It is a recommendation to all people who like sports, and good char development, and rather then looking for an extremely unique story are more satisfied with good execution and story line.
Thank you for reading and feedback - positive or negative (not random insults - FEEDBACK) is always welcome!
As an anime coming out of the 70s, about tennis, and by Madhouse, I had certain expectations and let downs.
First off, this screams 1973 perfectly from the clothes the characters wear, the sound/music, all the way to blood flowers. You'll know what I mean when you watch it.
There is so much to love about Aim for the Ace. First off, the main character Oka Hiromi is a bit of a cry baby and is easily overcome with emotions. But, she slowly evolves into a strong-willed women and matures as much as she improves her tennis game. She undergoes very tough training to improve her game
and it is exactly what you want in a sports anime.
At first the art style will throw anybody off, mainly sparkle sweat. I quickly got used to it within the first episode and grew to love it.
What I loved the most about Ace wo Nerae is the banter between Hiromi and her best friend Maki. Oh and the tennis matches were fantastic. "You" can see where and what other sports anime take from this one.
I truly believe that if you are a fan of sports anime and/or shoujo, "you" owe it yourself to give this a good try.
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