The year is 1949. Japan had been defeated in World War II and was occupied by Allied Forces consisting of American, Australian, British, Indian and New Zealander troops.
A young woman meets a young man. Both have lost everything because of the war. Tome Kano, a barmaid, and Katsuya Ranzaki, a wealthy investor. The two are fed up with their lives and want to live "real lives" for once. Katsuya's starting up an all-girls baseball team with Tome on it allows them to do this. In this dramatic story, the dreams of a nation come alive. Through the determination and strength of Katsuya and Tome, girls baseball becomes a sensation, and Tome a superstar.
I usually don't write reviews on MAL but I feel like this series is under-appreciated and overshadowed by other sports series. My review will not be very structured but I'll try my best to write about it in an unbiased way. Firstly, this resembles Holyland if I were to pick any sports series. It's about a main character trying to find freedom and strength.
I really liked this series and it moved me. I cried several scenes. It's such a powerful series and our MC, Tome is a really fun character to follow.
Let me go over the flaws. The romance is very strange. I never felt
any romance out of Tome and her love interest. If you read it, it progresses very quickly and has no development and buildup. If the writer really wanted a strong romance between them, we need more development. I normally wouldn't have minded a random love interest pushed in but it ended up driving her existence and her motives where she did everything for that love interest which was out of character for her. She is a woman who is depicted as a soloist or a leader. I honestly don't think she needs a man to live.
It's a bit rushed at times. I feel that the pacing in the beginning worked better than the one it ended off with. The build up was excellent though.
The strong point of this series was the build up, as I've said before. How everything rolled down, how Tome was shown as. She's so fearless and liberated. This series is truly a good read for a feminist, at least. I'm not speaking about 3rd wave feminism but actual feminism back in the older days. Women in Anime/Manga are usually depicted as as weak, powerless, and submissive but she is rather the opposite of all those things. She's an actual role model.
The art is well done and matches the story. The art makes you want to cry for the characters because they do a lot and suffer but they still try their best. It's kind of detailed for art but it's an older series so that's as expected. The scanlations are a bit mediocre but nothing too bad for the average reader. I'm a bit pickier as a typesetter msyelf.
The sports aspect was pretty good. I mean, it's not really a sports manga as baseball was just the theme they picked. Anything else could have been used in place as long. Overall, this was a really great series and more people should check it out if they want something that impacts.
Expectation of typical sports plot when it comes to Tsutomu can be classed as pure naivety. His innate noir-ish sensibilities prevent him from such orthodox escapades, instead we are presented with hyperrealistic version of occupied Japan where baseball plays a secondary role.
Nippon Banzai screams out of panels and tactful subtlety is nowhere to be found. Main character serves as vox populi amidst this anachronistic mumbo jumbo, which at some parts resembles David and Goliath with a nationalistic twist to it.
Tsutomu's adroitness both as artist and writer allow him to bypass the flaws. Aspects such as women's empowerment and anti-war mindset play in favor
of laudability. Further on, fusion of sport, crime and noir adds to overall excitement and suspense. Most questionable -- as far as reception with readers is concerned -- is contrast between sport and Tetsuwan Girl's more quieter moments. Because latter appears too realistic in comparison to implausible talent achieved behind the scenes.
Baseball may be secondary in terms of plot, albeit artistically wise it probably receives most attention. Tsutomu's wild pen strokes and his evocative art style pertain to excitement on the field and masterfully convey tension of certain moments.
Tome Kano, the titular Iron Armed Girl, when not written as a tool for conveyance of nationalism, is an easily relatable character. Her untamable spirit and passion are inspirational despite of the fact that she remains stuck in her initial characterization till the very end.
Tetsuwan Girl mashes up various themes and conveys several mindsets, some better - some worse. But, stripped to its core, it offers distinctive and memorable journey; one of a determined woman who shakes up entire nations in pursue of her dream, the Iron Armed Beauty.
This is almost like Takahashi Tsutomu's version of a shonen manga, despite it being populated by and being about women. That was my first impression as I began reading this. The idea of Tsutomu doing a sports manga (which I connect with shonen automatically thanks to thematic linkage) is both disappointing and interesting.
With this manga we have a master storyteller breezing through an intriguing backdrop, ocassionally threatening to descend into cliche, but avoiding it enough to become an entertaining romp through the world of women's baseball in post-war Japan. The stakes are high, the hopes and dreams of a nation rest on
the left arm of a woman, can tetsuwan girl carry the burden?
The main character of Tome is suitably a tomboy with a chip on her shoulder. Tired of the darkness of the war she seeks to burn bright like the sun and fights onwards like a shonen hero causing a revolution in her wake. I mention shonen because she resembles those extremely popular characters in that she has a will that surpasses anyone else and supporting characters look up to her and her indomitable spirit for inspiration.
All the genre traits of sports manga are here, the gradual powering up, the rivalry, the training scenes, the games, it should make you roll your eyes but this is Takahashi Tsutomu we're talking about so there's other stuff going on to make it a worthwhile read. The more the story veers away from actual games, the more interesting it gets. Most notably how the rise of Tome ignites a passion in the Japanese people who are still recovering from the aftermath of the war. She gives the masses a voice and that voice says "Please leave now America, thanks". The socio-political aspects of the tale make for good drama as Tome has to bear the consequences of fame and make hard decisions that affect the lives of other people.
There aren’t many manga set in this time period, let alone about women partaking in a 'mans' sport, not from a realist perspective anyway as opposed to the fantasy worldview of most sports anime. The historical backdrop and adult nature of the relationships is what keeps this manga fresh despite the sport shonen tendencies that pop up. The whole "I have to get stronger to defeat all-comers" thing.
Not that the shonen genre, or to be more specific: the sports genre itself, is anything to be derided automatically. There is plenty of enjoyment to be had from the genre but at the end of the day it is a genre lacking in the kind of substance you see in Tsutomu's usual seinen output, and its a genre consisting of predictable motifs and traits to be checked off, not what you'd expect the writer of Jiraishin to dip into, so Tetsuwan Girl runs the thin line between alternative niche due to its setting and scope, and mainstream generics thanks to its baseball field showdowns.
Takahashi Tsutomu's art is his own style as usual; the artist's voice is loud and clear in many of the good looking panels. Some great baseball scenes abound along with almost abstract and free flowing depictions of 1940's Japanese landscapes. The dialogue is also succinct in that Tsutomu style, to the point and economical in conveying meaning.
Tetsuwan Girl is a worthy entry into the sports genre manga because there's no over the top physics-breaking magic, lurid humour or mystical destiny bullshit cheapening the tale. This is set in the real world and before the feminist movement of the 60's so it makes the female baseball players' fight for acknowledgement and glory all the more compelling, and seeing as the sports genre is practically based on rooting for the underdog, Takahashi Tsutomu's manga probably deserves a spot somewhere up there with the best.
I say probably because not all 9 volumes are translated into English yet... ;)