WARNING: The following article contains significant spoilers for Tribe Nine Episode 1, currently airing on Funimation.
Fans of Danganronpa and Akudama Drive were eagerly awaiting the premiere of the latest anime from Too Kyo Games, a dystopian tale of a world in which gang disputes are resolved with an explosive variation of baseball known as “Extreme Baseball” or “XB”. Fortunately, the fun and inventive first episode shows that Tribe Nine is more than just a sequel to co-creator Kazutaka Kodaka at Danganronpa project. The characters introduced in Episode 1 have the potential to surprise fans with their unexpected personalities, especially Shun Kamiya and Haru Shirokane.
Kamiya has a reputation as Neo Tokyo’s greatest XB player. Haru is a shy young man who is targeted by abusers. Kamiya has an eccentric and confrontational personality, and Haru is reluctant to engage with his new XB team. It might seem expected for the characters in these roles, but other developments in the episode reveal that there is much more to both.
In the opening scenes, tuna fisherman turned baseball player Taiga intervenes when Haru is mugged, but Haru uses his incredible reflexes to warn Taiga of an attack. Kamiya leaps up, neutralizing the attackers with an incredibly accurate hit at a water tower with an empty soda can. The way he relishes combat and threatens attackers makes him creepy and firmly in control. Just as Taiga challenges Kamiya to an XB game, Kamiya vomits, puncturing the cool and untouchable aura he established with his decisive victory over the attackers.
Back at his “Minato Tribe” headquarters, which also serves as a restaurant, fellow XB player Manami Daimon reveals that Kamiya is sick because he has a hangover… from coffee. Another teammate, Santaro Mita, offers him a “hangover cure” – more coffee. Kamiya’s hangover, and more importantly, his reliance on his teammates for the “cure”, reveals a level of vulnerability audiences might have expected to be a turning point in character development, and not part of its introduction.
Also in hiding, Haru describes himself as “boring”. Kamiya berates Haru for this, teasing him that he probably expects him to disagree, but instead accuses him of being arrogant and nicknames him “Boring”, which stays with Haru for the rest of the episode. Maybe Kamiya thinks Haru is downplaying himself to lower other people’s expectations of him so that he doesn’t have to work so hard; someone with a veneer of false modesty. Calling Haru like this not only complicates Haru’s initial impression of an ordinary humble character, but anticipates Kamiya pushing him to join the team after accepting a challenge from the Shinagawa tribe, who have access to more technological resources. than Minato.
It’s another way that Kamiya challenges the potential expectations of her character. Being the best XB player could have made Kamiya an arrogant ace, dominating his superiority over the other players as he dominated the domain. Instead, Kamiya encourages the strangers he has encountered to join his team. On the pitch, Haru is reluctant to take the bat, saying “I can’t! I have never played! ” to which Kamiya replies: “You know you can’t without ever trying?” Kamiya tells Haru to “Do your best!” but Haru recoils from the cliché, saying, “You’re kidding!” Kamiya reconstructs the old standard by saying “Is doing your best too much to ask? I think it’s a wonderful thing. ” His heartfelt encouragement is a big contrast to the cynical first impression he makes in the opening.
Kamiya eventually convinces Haru to take over as a hitter, and his excellent reflexes lead him to successfully reach base. After Minato Tribe won the game, Haru smiles a determined, almost vicious smile and admits how much he has come to appreciate XB, saying, “When I was in the game it was so exciting!” At the end of the episode, Haru returns to confront the attackers, returning to the bruised but victorious siege of Minato. Haru’s development from a gentle, reluctant XB player to someone who loves the game and seeks out gangs for revenge is something other anime could have expanded over the course of a season, but it all happens in an episode of Tribe Nine.
Kamiya’s vulnerability and inclusiveness, along with Haru’s newfound confidence, mean that Tribe Nine has no choice but to develop these characters in a totally original way. Kodaka’s game Danganronpa and its adaptation star animates Makoto Naegi, a “normal” boy who gains confidence throughout the story. As another multimedia project, Tribe Nine requires comparisons with Danganronpa, but the stark differences between Haru and Makoto as the protagonist help the series launch on its own.
Danganronpa has a lot of unbearable genius characters, such as billionaire snob Byakuya Togami, but he also has characters who are the best at their sport while cheering on others like Kamiya does, like mixed martial artist Sakura Ogami and swimmer Aoi Asahina. This way maybe Tribe Nine continues Kodaka’s trend of characters who are more than the tropes they appear to be at first glance.
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