Take Me Out To The Ball Game: Big Dreams and the Unknown God in “Major”
We Americans think of baseball as our “national pastime,” and perhaps rightfully so. But it would be equally true to say that the Japanese have adopted baseball wholeheartedly, and made it their own. I know of no other Western sport with an authentic Japanese name, written in kanji (野球 yakyuu, or if you will, “plains ball”), with other authentic Japanese terms for “base,” “pitcher,” and so on.
Amongst baseball anime, Major is unique in following the life of a single character, Honda Goro (later Shigeno Goro after his adoptive parents), from infancy through his late twenties. In a way, Goro is the simplest character you will ever meet. He has but one dream: to become a major league pitcher and play professional baseball in the US. He will face any obstacle, make any sacrifice, and push himself to any limit, to achieve this. Single-minded, constant hard work to achieve one’s lifelong dream: that is what this show is about.
The obstacles in Goro’s path are many, but the result is the same for them all. Blow out your right shoulder when you’re just about to enter puberty? Then become a southpaw, and in the meantime tough it out. Have your luggage stolen upon arriving in the US to enter the minor leagues? Then thumb a ride at the airport, be rescued by coincidence (!) by a Japanese man, and in the meantime tough it out. The last obstacles are all within Goro himself, and they too must meet the same fate.
Where does the “unknown God” within anime fit in with Goro’s life? Mainly, I think we see him enabling Goro to inspire everyone he meets to excel, on every baseball team in which he participates, from Little League to the major leagues. One such character is Sawamura Ryouta, elementary school delinquent, who soon turns his life around after meeting Goro. Or one could mention Yoshitaka Yamane, junior high delinquent, who when he saw how Goro had overcome a similar injury by switching dominant hands, stopped beating kids up and started playing baseball again. The roll call of changed lives continues through Mike Murdoch in the last season, who through Goro’s influence, changed from a liability to a valuable team member.
While I watched Major, I must admit that I envied Goro. I wished I could be that single-minded about anything, or have that level of confidence in my own life’s direction, or inspire others to that degree. In the sixth and final season, when Goro was at his lowest point and on the verge of quitting, all his friends from the past called him out to play with them for old time’s sake. It must have been the worst sandlot game Goro had ever played, but it somehow brought him to his senses. It was as though Goro’s friends had said to him, “We are all here today because of you. When you go back to the US to play in the majors, you carry our dreams along with yours. Don’t let us down.”
Did Goro deliver on that challenge? I think so, but you’ll have to watch and decide for yourself. The 154 episodes of Major are quite a ride, but one well worth taking.
Note: This post was written by R86, a frequent commenter on Beneath the Tangles. I hope you’ll look forward to future posts by R86 on this blog.