This was my first venture into the sports anime genre, and DnA just sucked me into it like a black hole. I've never watched a single baseball game in my life and I've never showed any interest in the sport. I honestly thought that I wouldn't like this show, but if it's good enough to get approved for 52 episodes in its first season (and the fact that it was being produced by Madhouse), I thought I'd give it a try. I can honestly say that DnA has become one of my all-time favourite shows.
The story (10/10) is pretty straightforward: we follow Sawamura's journey as a pitcher as he grows and develops his skills in order to become the ace of Seidou's (famous) high school baseball team. But the show provides us more than just following Sawamura's journey; we basically get an overall glimpse of how high school baseball in Japan. The show definitely takes its time to progress, and we don't really see Sawamura beginning to grow until we're about 12 or so episodes in. But, in the episodes before that we see exactly why it took him a while and how hard he's worked up till then; we also get to see a pretty touching relationship develop between him and his future mentor.
Though I initially did get the feel that Sawamura is the absolute MC, as the story progressed and more characters were introduced, there was a slight focus shift where Sawamura was undoubtedly still the MC, but the other Seidou team members were also just as important.
One thing that the story always provides and excels at is: SUSPENSE. DnA knows hows to build up suspense leading up to the final scene in every episode, especially in the later episodes when they're in the Koshien qualifying matches.
The art (8/10) to be honest, didn't really sit well with me in the first episode (and only the first episode; I know, shame on me for judging a show based only one episode). But now, I don't even remember the reason I didn't like it. I re-watched episode 1 and I can only conclude that maybe it was because I wasn't expecting the show to be great and the relatively slow start of that episode that caused me not to like the art immediately. Overall, no complaints; the only reason it didn't get a higher score was because I've been spoilt with unique and or eye-popping art styles lately (Haikyuu! being the best) and can't help but compare them.
The baseball-playing scenes are very well-done especially some of the pitches which are animated showing clear movement of the ball (slow-mo shots of how the ball moves, or a clear arrow-like streak of light to see the course of the ball). Especially Sawamura's unique pitching form is well done. I never tire of seeing it. In later episodes, we also get to see how genius of a catcher Miyuki is with a few amazing saves.
Because comedy is a big part of this show, sometimes we'll see chibi forms pop out now and then, or sudden solid-colored background changes (with sfx and the like) when the mood switches suddenly from serious to funny.
Overall, the animation gives off a very shounen-like vibe: we get to see red-colored and blue-colored demon eyes for when they're fired up, players aura engulfing their bodies like a flame when they're pumped up, etc.
And now onto the TWO PARTS that truly make DnA the great show that it is, the show's soundtrack (and sound effects) and its impressive cast of characters.
The SOUND (10/10) of this show is just... flawless (swoon). Madhouse somehow just knows how to perfectly fit the background music to whichever scene comes up which in turn really made me feel the intensity/emotion every scene: whoever came up with the score deserves an award (if he's not already gotten one).
And the sound effects give me the chills every time: the ball hitting the mitt with a resounding BAM! (or when Furuya throws it's more like thunder splitting open a tree), the sound of the metal bat hitting the ball (or when Raiichi hits it, more like canon fire) vs the sound of Haruichi's wooden bat hitting the ball, etc.
The voice actors did (and still do) an amazing job; their voices fit the characters perfectly. If you check out their impressive resumes, it's definitely no wonder.
As for the OPs and ED's:
Both OP's so far are by the same artist, and they're really good (and revved me right up); though I'm enjoying the 2nd OP more; I can't help but shout "Fight!" as well every time I hear it, putting me in Seidou-cheering mood.
The ED's have also been good, though not as good as the OP's. The 4th ED, which is sung collectively by 3 of the 4 main cast members, is a really nice tune.
The CHARACTERS (10/10) are all loveable and memorable. Though we have the main cast consisting of 4 people, the supporting cast is nothing to sneeze at.
Sawamura is the loud, cheerful, wears his heart on his sleeve kind of guy. So what kind of quirk does he have that makes him the MC? He's a southpaw (left-handed) pitcher and has a peculiar pitch (both of which make him a unique type of player). But, even though he's unique he isn't the type of MC that's super-talented right from the start, he doesn't suddenly "power up" in the middle of a game, is unstoppable and wins all the matches; on the contrary, he gets into Seidou and quickly realises it's not as easy as he thought to become the ace because there are other people there who are more skilled than him. He falters during important moments, and even if he doesn't get back up immediately, he does eventually pick himself up and learns to move on. In other words, he accepts that he has a lot of faults, and this is what makes him so likeable and seem more human. Though a bit of an idiot (well, a big idiot), he works hard, values friendship, supports the team and always puts 120% in everything that he does. And the best part for me, he's unpredictable. Just when you think he's turning the corner and well on his way to becoming the ace, he messes up a play or does something really silly. I'm always on edge with him.
Miyuki, the genius catcher, is personality-wise, almost the exact opposite of Sawamura, except for the cheerful part. He's as crafty and intelligent as they come and though on the outside he's always smiling, he has a bit of a dark side. He's like the evil genius.
Furuya is our MC's rival for the ace spot. At first glance, he looks like the cool and collected type of person, also; but after a while I found him to be an adorable idiot as well: not being able to catch a simple throw and his insta-snooze reaction amongst others.
Last but not least of our main cast quartet, is Haruichi. Character-design wise, he's the cutest one. And though he might be cute, he's one amazing baseball player: not only is he a batting prodigy, but an exceptional fielder as well. At the same time, he's so humble and shy. Cuteness overload!
And then we have the other Seidou members, who all play an important role in the show. All have distinctive and quirky personalties and you will grow attached to at least one after watching DnA.
As far as enjoyment (10/10) goes, I am thoroughly enjoying watching every second of DnA. Whenever I watch it, i can always expect a good dose of humour interlaced with the appropriate amount of emotional moments and also a killer cliff-hanger. I wait eagerly for Saturdays to roll around and every time I finish watching the latest episode, I want to jump out the window because it's going to take another week before I can watch the show again.
Overall (9.6/10) I would recommend anyone to start watching DnA immediately, even if you've never seen a baseball match before, even if you know absolutely nothing about the game (but after watching the show, I got so curious I even googled basic baseball rules, pitch types and the structure of Japanese high school baseball tournaments). And I envy you if you haven't watched it yet, because you'll be able to marathon the show, so you don't have to get as frustrated as me with those cliffhangers. :)