I don’t watch a lot of sports anime; American football aside, I don’t particularly enjoy watching sports in general. Even when I do decide I want to watch sports on television, I can tell you baseball has been my choice exactly one time. I just find the game incredibly uneventful. So imagine my surprise when one of my favorite anime from the Spring 2019 season (that continued on into the summer) was a baseball anime. And the baseball was actually exciting. Spoilers ahead.
While not a direct sequel, MIX is a continuation of sorts of an anime that aired in the mid 1980’s called Touch. Same universe, town, and even some of the same characters, all taking place 30 years after the events of Touch, just as it’s been a little over 30 years since the original airing. I haven’t had the chance to actually watch Touch yet so all that I know is simply what I’ve read online; I will say if it ever becomes available to stream, I will be watching it.
Japan’s largest scale amateur sporting event is the Japanese High School Baseball Championship (also known as Summer Koshien). It is a tournament that began back in 1915 with only a few years cancelled due to events such as WWII. A total of forty-nine teams can qualify to participate, each team the best in their prefecture. All this is to say, it’s a big deal.
There are many anime that follow various teams in their bid for victory, and MIX is one of them. It’s the journey of Meisei High School’s baseball team, a team that hasn’t been relevant since the events of Touch. Specifically, we follow the lives of two stepbrothers who’s fathers were members of the Touch championship team.
Something about this anime clicked with me almost immediately. I’m not sure if it’s the throwback art design (to match Touch), the interesting family dynamics, or the characters themselves, but I was drawn in almost immediately. It gave off the immediate impression of being an anime that would have a lot of heart. Rather than immediately diving into the baseball games and Koshien, MIX takes time to establish proper backstory and motivations for the cast, choosing to center the story around people over the tournament. This helps the characters feel alive and important rather than tools to show off Koshien baseball, an important distinction in the long run.
Baseball games do eventually become a large part of the story being told; it wouldn’t be much of a baseball anime if they didn’t. But because we now are invested in the characters, even people like me who generally have a distaste for baseball can get excited to see them perform well in the games. And honestly, the baseball games legitimately gave me that edge of your seat feeling. You always want to assume the protagonists are going to come out as victors, but MIX does a good job at keeping that mystery alive.
This anime loves to throwback to Touch and other meta humor, both for plot and for some of it’s jokes. It’s one of the more self-aware anime that I’ve ever seen, with small details like characters reading the Touch manga on screen or making jokes about how often they’ve appeared in the episodes recently. By the end of the season, it’s almost tradition for a 4th wall joke to appear in every episode, but that doesn’t make them any less funny. Below are just a few examples of what I mean:
MIX also features a large and surprisingly well rounded supporting cast. Typically when you have enough characters to fill in a baseball team (and then some), you have to start relying on stereotypical personalities and motivations to give them an illusion of depth without actually delving too deeply. After all, if you focus too much on the side characters, the main cast suffers. But MIX avoids this, instead choosing to actually properly develop almost everyone on screen barring the most minor roles. There were even instances where character development happened late in the game. It may sound overwhelming, but it is done elegantly (and all without filler episodes).
More often than not, MIX feels like a masterclass in pacing. It really gives you that “I have no idea how long this episode has been going” feeling, especially in the later episodes when the games stretch over multiple episodes. I’m sure my sheer enjoyment of this anime contributes to that feeling, but I truly never felt bored.
If there was one complaint I had to lobby against MIX it would be the sound design for the dialogue mixing. It didn’t start out this way, but somewhere along the way it became really hard to hear the characters. The music just seemed to overwhelm them, even with the simple bass rhythm tracks. I’m not sure if my ears suddenly changed or what, but if it wasn’t for the subtitles, I’m not sure I would know what was going on (and not just because I don’t speak Japanese). I watched in on Crunchyroll instead of Funimation, so I can’t tell you if there’s a difference between the two (my instinct says no, but you never know).
One sound aspect they did nail was the first OP. It sets the tone for the show perfectly for “adventurous high school sports tale”, and I was really disappointed when it changed for the second half of the season. Give it a listen and you’ll see what I mean.
Little by little this anime fills in almost every box for a show that is equally exciting and fun to watch, featuring characters with heart and passion, an ambitious goal, a large supporting cast that are more than just stereotypes, and pacing that is done so well the episodes feel like they end almost as soon as they begin. And they were able to put all of this into something that truly is normal life rather than epic fantasy. Personally, this show is exactly what I feel slice of life anime should aim to achieve. It really is one of the most underrated anime this year. I cannot recommend this show enough; even if, like myself, you enjoy avoiding baseball, I think this show will catch your attention.
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