This is the story of Natsunosuke Honda, a pro baseball player—a relief pitcher who has been playing pro in a team called Spiders for 8 years. The team operates as a highly-stratified society, where the player's performance determines his annual salary. Natsunosuke is one of the highest paid players in the game. He measures how good players are by how much money they make, and he intends to be on top and stay there, and as such is always looking for players to challenge and does everything to insure that he is better than they are.
Sports shounen is a popular genre. There are many shows that are about a team overcoming all odds in order to win the tournament. However less common is a show like Gurazeni that is less about winning and more about the lives of players in the Nippon Baseball League. There is no grand tournament, just a regular season of baseball. There is no high stakes in the matches, and while they do matter to an extent more weight is put into the characters and the experiences that they go through. The real stakes in the matches are the livelihoods of the characters who are effected
by how well they do in the game.
The main character Bonda is a LOOGY, a Lefty One-Out GuY. LOOGYs are not the most prized part of a baseball team and in fact it's usually a role that while in demand doesn't have much allure to it. However Bonda's story is not about him overcoming the LOOGY role into some more but rather about how life is working as a LOOGY. In this way it is also unique from the rest of sports shounen anime. While many of them use the humble beginnings as a way for the player to rise up in the ranks, that seems to be less of the case here. While it does seem like Bonda is getting better with time, it's not in such a extreme fashion like with most shows. Rather a gradual improvement that can often be seen in major league baseball players.
The show does a very good job at showing the lives and struggles that come with all sorts of fringe players. Whether it be a talented rookie who has yet to have their big break, a veteren who is past their prime but is still trying to hang on, or Bonda the loogy, they all have stories to tell and they all have a lot of weight on their shoulders to do well, or risk getting demoted to the minors. It goes more into the realities of playing the game, and the all of the different hiccups that can effect one's livelihood.
While Bonda himself puts a lot of focus on money, especially in the first episode, that does subside and is more of a side story to the pain point than the actual focus. It's more of a subpoint to sort of focus on the situation that these players are in and how they still need to earn their paychecks despite the somewhat alluring role that they are in.
Another thing I liked is how much focus they put into the skills of these players. Bonda may just be a loogy and be a lower role compared to most players but that doesn't mean he lacks talent, and it doesn't mean that he's not athletic. The show does well to show that despite his role, and his body shape that he does have athleticism, and is better than your average lay man. After all even the small fries are still a professional baseball player.
While the show can be a bit slow with the explainations, especially of things that most baseball fans would know, I personally didn't mind it much. Even though I knew it all I think I'm just used to it from watching a good amount of kids shows. Also the general experience of this show taught me a good amount about how the Nippon Professional League works. Since most of my experience is in watching the MLB, it's interesting to see the similarities between the true.
For those who are interested in baseball or already love the sport, I personally recommend this as a good watch. There is a lot of nuance and a lot of good tidbits that are picked up from watching these players play each game. I enjoyed the take that it has on the sport and liked it's unique flavor. For anyone who wants to see what Japanese Professional Baseball is like and the struggles that it's players go through, this is a great choice.
Guranazi is a story about this Megane-Hitler who is a professional baseball player. Much like every living person in our society, he is also the victim of capitalism. According to his contract, he gets payed based to his performance rather than based to his name and team ownership. He really likes shekels so this obviously sucks. Fortunately for him, he has a plan: to be the best payed pitcher in the world. To achieve this, he simply has to be the best at it (at pitching). Hence the English name of this show: Money Pitch. Good for him, I guess.
That leaves us the other side
of this show. Us viewers. And the show is not all that good for many viewers. In fact, it was such a major success that Studio Deen had to cancel the show after 1 cour, and for the sake of damage controll, act like they never planned to do more of it.
Apparently, the initial target audience consists of working-class citizens who are interested in slice of life comedy centering around sports, but not really sports -- rather salary and statistics related to sports. Basically, the more time you spend on creating meaningless Excel sheets, the more likely you are able to enjoy this show.
There really isn't much else to say about the story, so let's not. The characters are great tho. Natsunosuke Bonda, the main character, is really special. His only merit is how not a single person on this website has added him to their favorite characters list. His favorite past time is studying statistic centering around other players. He has memorized everything about every player except their salary. Random characters ask him to guess how much some player earns and he guesses with almost 100% accuracy how much their income is. Amazing skills, bro. The other main character was not even introduced before the series ended. Talk about change of plans.
The art and sounds are based Deen. Not exactly as gloriously animated as the original F/sn nor as cute as Ito Junji anime, but overall passable production. Weird choices have still been made. For one, they constantly change between CGI and hand-drawn on the fly when it comes to the actual pitching scenes. Looks pretty bad and messy.
Overall this show is not especially good nor bad. It suffers from niche target audience which is the main reason for its low mean score. This series will not appeal to many. Most viewers will find it boring. Even those who became fans of it will be disappointed by how short the series end up being. One cour length despite the source material having content for 50-70 episodes. Personally I found this approach to be rather interesting and also truthful, considering how much role money has in the business. Guranazi offers variety to the sports genre and I can appreciate what it did to some extent, but that's all there is to say about it.
Gurazeni is a baseball anime with a few things that set it apart from the more regular ones that you may be accustomed to seeing. The main focus isn't so much on the playing of the sport but rather it's on the things you may see around it. This would entail the livelihood of the baseball players(ex-players and current),the staff, media etc. Most importantly however is the money that would be involved within all of those things which is where the show gets it's name from. With Gurazeni being a seinen series, it will bring with it a different vibe as opposed to the shounen
ones that may be more recognizable. Related to this point, Bonda, the main character of the show is a relief pitcher which is a stark contrast to the ace pitcher protagonists that are the norm.
I had expectations of good things going into the first episode but those were shattered pretty quickly as the episode had a really rough start. The main causes of this is the CGI which felt jarring and also the story which felt like it was weak. After a while the CGI becomes tolerable as it doesn't happen often and you learn that the story of the show is an episodic one and after about three or four episodes it starts to become enjoyable, so much so that in terms of enjoyment it ranks highly among the shows I've seen in the season at the point in time this review was written. Apart from the CGI, the art of Gurazeni is average at best which would make it the worse component of the anime unfortunately.
The soundtrack itself wasn't really memorable however the show does have very good, catchy tracks for it's Opening and Ending songs.
The characters are a selling point for Gurazeni as they would need to be in slice of life type of show like this one. The aforementioned Bonda, may take a while to warm up to but you eventually grow to like his character as the stories unfold. As the show is episodic, each of the mini stories within the show are tied to newly introduced characters and for the most part they are enjoyable as well and some will even appear again from time to time.
Overall I think Gurazeni is a nice niche show but it's a difficult show to recommend because of some of the issues it has. If maybe you're looking for a change of pace from the regular baseball anime then Gurazeni is one that you can consider giving a try.
Gurazeni is an anime about professional baseball in Japan, and as simple as they may be, that is really the best description of the show you'll get in a single sentence.
This isn't a sports anime with over-the-top shounen tropes or hype scenes, but instead this is an anime that takes a more realistic approach to sports and gives viewers a look at what goes on behind-the-scenes of Japan's largest professional sports competition, baseball, and I think this is a pretty unique and fresh take on the genre.
The Story - 7
Gurazeni is a fairly episodic anime. What happened in the last episode most likely won't get
much mention in the current episode, like how most episodic shows are. Each self-contained episode brings in a new aspect of professional baseball to expose to the viewer which keeps the series from getting stale. Each episode also brings in new characters, which I will go into more details in a bit. Something I found cool about Gurazeni is that the story isn't focused on a baseball prodigy at all, but instead a near-bottom ranked professional player just trying to get by.
The Art/Animation - 5
There isn't too much to say about this show visually. The art is nothing amazing but it's not like it's bad by any means. Same goes for the animation, it gets the job done and for the most part it. The only bad thing I can think of is the CG pitching animation that they use a few times throughout the show, which feels out of place as a lot of CG animation does in a 2D show, but admittedly it could be a lot worse.
Sound - 5
Gurazeni's sound is for the most part mediocre but I would give it credit for it's upbeat rap OP which I find pretty catchy. The rest of the soundtrack however is very forgettable.
Character - 6
Like I mentioned before, each episode brings in new characters. There are hardly any characters that get reused for episodes, with the exception of course being the main character. Most of the weekly characters aren't particularly interesting by themselves, but become interesting when they interact with Bonda, the MC. The main character doesn't have any noble or honorable goals like you would expect, but instead just wishes to pitch better in order to get a higher contract, and make more money, hence the title.
Enjoyment - 7
Gurazeni has an odd pulling factor. I can realize that there is nothing overly great about this show and yet it for some reason became one of the shows I looked forward to the most each week. I wanted to see Bonda get more money. I wanted to see what goes on in a bottom-ranked pro player's daily life. If I knew this was what I was getting myself into beforehand I probably would've turned away from this show to save myself from boredom, but somehow Gurazeni managed to keep me intrigued.
Overall - 7
If you are looking for a realistic sports anime, or just something to relax and watch every now and then, then I would definitely recommend for you to give Gurazeni a try.