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October 05, 2000

Princess Nine

I know it's hard to believe, but there are times when I feel quite
humble. I have been taking classes in Japanese, and I know that I am not
studying nearly as much as I should. Still, I've been quite pleased with
the results so far, rather like when I convince myself that I'm getting
trimmer by doing twenty situps a day.

Case in point. I've been buying a series on laserdisc (from Japan, with
no subtitles), called Trigun. I was quite excited recently when I was
watching it and I realized that I was truly recognizing sentence
structure. Not understanding it mind you, but recognizing it. I could
tell when a character was asking a question, when another was
complaining about the first character's behavior, that sort of thing. I
know you get a lot of that non-verbally as well, but I could tell from
the sentence structure. It was thrilling. And oh yeah, I was able to
pick out at least one word in twenty!

In my class, our teacher has been taking it easy on us, mostly because
she knows we're all night students with real lives. So I got a cold dash
of water in my face when she gave us a listening comprehension homework
that consisted of maybe ten minutes of dialogue, and it took me over two
hours to do. Yow.

As if that's not enough, I recently read in EX about one of the current
series in Japan, Princess Nine. I put out the call to NOVA members to
see if anyone has it, and Dmitri came to my rescue. I recently cleared a
slot of time to watch the first four episodes, and once again I got a
dose of humility.

Let me start by observing that Japanese doesnt require rolling r's as
some dialects of Spanish do. Technically, it doesn't even have r's in
the strict sense. But five minutes into the first episode, I'm hearing
what sounds like rolling r's. The characters are rattling off so many
syllables in a single breath that it sounds like an exhibition by the
winner of the Morse code speed championship at the international Ham
Radio Festival. Double Yow.

Despite this handicap, I'm here to tell you today that this series
deserves watching. Even though the spoken dialogue of a series about a
high school girl and her talent for softball for-gods-sake, is harder
to comprehend than Trigun, a sci-fi, anime-flavor spaghetti western, the
basic story still shines through with charm and warmth.

Hayakawa Ryou is the girl who has the talent, and dreams of one day
becoming a pitcher in the big leagues like her father (Hidehiko). Though
she seems not to know about the scandal her father was implicated in
that got him thrown out of the league, it won't change her mind when she
finally finds out.

The first four episodes build her character, and introduce a variety of
other cast members, many of whom are destined to form the team that
Hayakawa-san will join. I don't want to give a blow-by-blow description
of the series, since you can go to EX for a review:


or search the Web for other info (I found the bit about the league
scandal at an online site for MixxZine). But I will try to capture one
scene that tickled me. The principals are as follows:

In the scene in question, Takasugi has dragged Ryou to the tennis courts
to witness Izumi's prowess on the courts. Izumi is systematically
tromping two male players who are clearly there to supply enough
volleys to let Izumi break a sweat. After her tough play, she is
introduced to Ryou by Takasugi (yes, I'm being sloppy about using
surnames and first names, tough). It is clear that there is an instant
dislike (at least on Izumi's part), amplified by the fact that Izumi
feels somewhat territorial about Takasugi, who is clearly friendly
towards Ryou.

What follows is a duel of sorts. Izumi gets Ryou onto the court, racket
in hand, with the clear intention of humiliating her. Ryou misses the
first two volleys, badly. But with the third, a light seems to go off in
her head, and she seems to transform the racket into a baseball bat.
Crack! She connects, and the ball flies across the court, past Izumi,
and hits the baseline.

Before we know what is happening, Kido arrives with a bat, and Izumi is
presented with a chance to experience Ryou's pitching skills, using a
tennis ball! The results are almost identical, with the first two
pitches smoking past Izumi, followed by the command of the new tool (bat
becomes racket, I suppose), and Izumi drives one 'out of the park'. I
nearly split a gut over this scene, though I doubt it was intentionally
funny. It is clear that they are destined to be rivals, although EX says
they'll play on the same team.

The music is great, with a lot setting the 'Field of Dreams' tone which
makes Ryou the likeable winner she is. I just love the OP. In short, I
recommend that everybody check it out, even if you don't speak Japanese.
It didn't stop me ;^)~

Posted by dpwakefield at October 5, 2000 11:04 AM