What’s it about? After playing on a boys’ soccer team during middle school, Onda Nozomi decides to give girls’ soccer a try when she enters high school at Warabi Seinan—a school with a famous alumni and not much else. But with a talented roster of freshmen and and an incoming new coach, these girls may just put Warabi Seinan back on the map.
One episode isn’t nearly enough time to call this shot, but I’m calling it anyway: Farewell, My Dear Cramer is going to be the lady-led sports anime I’ve dreamed about for years. It’s upbeat and energetic without being cutesy, featuring a cast of immediately likable goofballs and a story that centers around competition and teamwork. It’s void of fanservice and treats the sport seriously while still allowing its characters to have fun. It’s everything I ever wanted. I’m so happy.
Okay, now that I’ve gushed, let’s talk production history, because this one’s got an interesting one. Cramer is an adaptation of a shounen manga by Arakawa Naoshi (of Your Lie in April fame) that ran from 2016-2020. It’s also technically a sequel to Sayonara, Football, which ran from 2009-2010. I haven’t read Football and had no trouble following this episode, so I wouldn’t describe it as “required reading,” but it is available in English from Kodansha if you’re interested in learning more about Nozomi’s middle school years.
The timeline and long gap between Football and Cramer also help explain the somewhat jarring opening sequences, where national player Nomi Naoto talks about women’s soccer being “in crisis” and then Nozomi bemoans that women’s soccer is on a “lower level” than men’s. These are absolutely buck-wild statements to hear in the Year of Our Lord 2021, after the Japan women’s team has been regularly kicking ass for the last decade, but they make sense in the context of a manga from 2009 (right before the team started popping off).
Once we get past those slightly bizarre introductory scenes, though, it’s smooth sailing as we’re introduced to Nozomi’s new teammates and quickly see that her perceptions about girls’ soccer are completely unfounded. Her team is full of passionate, talented players, from the stoic softie Sumire to the crafty Midori to the arrogant and rose-generating Aya.
It’s unclear if Cramer intends to directly challenge Nozomi’s sexist assumptions or if it’s more interested in telling a straightforward, engaging sports story that just so happens to star female characters. Either way, there’s no question these gals are devoted to their sport and the show expects us to take their efforts seriously—in between chuckling about their off-field shenanigans, anyway.
The primary takeaway from this premiere, in fact, has nothing to do with gender and more to do with teams in general. Cramer uses its first episode to explore how individuals can be lonely even in a team setting if nobody else is able or willing to play at their level. Our main cast is serious about soccer, which creates low-level friction between them and other players who just want to play for fun and aren’t especially interested in winning or getting better.
It’s a common conflict to see in high school anime, where “for fun” starts to overlap or give way to “for success.” Cramer takes a refreshingly non-judgmental approach to the conflict, sympathizing with the serious athletes without demonizing the casual players. Instead, it simply shows how the concept of a “team” is more than just wearing the same uniform: it’s about sharing common goals and working together to achieve them.
While it seems like Nozomi is technically the protagonist, Sumire realizing she’s playing with other athletes who can keep up with her is what forms the emotional core of the episode. For Cramer to be successful, forming those bonds between characters will be essential. So far, it’s off to a good start.
Animation-wise, Cramer is taking a few shortcuts, sacrificing detail and perfect models for motion and active storyboards. The slightly flat and simple designs may not work for everyone, but I’m fond of them and enjoy a little stylistic “stretchiness” in my animation. The comedic chibis are also a nice touch, allowing the show to have a little fun between action scenes. LIDEN FILMS can be really hit-or-miss with their productions, but hopefully Cramer can keep giving us entertaining matches and endearing character interactions for its full run.
Beyond that, I have no concerns right now, which is honestly surprising given that Your Lie in April’s handling of its female characters and subject matter were, uh… rough, to say the least. But Cramer’s premiere was fun, fast-paced, and full of characters I very much want to hang out with some more. Assuming none of the girls have Secret Tragic Illnesses, this could easily become the Haikyu-like lady-led sports anime we’ve been waiting for. Let’s go, Cramer, let’s go!