What’s it about? Daigo had always wanted to play baseball like the rest of his family, but when he struggled to stand out in his first year of little league, he quit after just one season. Now, two years later, the arrival of his dad’s old teammate’s son may spark his love of the game again.
The sports anime deluge continues! But where MEGALOBOX and Gurazeni were geared towards an older audience (albeit in very different ways), Major 2nd is targeted towards a younger crowd, with all the marks of a classic shounen—for better and for worse.
Major 2nd is technically a sequel, but it’s a “next generation” story that’s far enough in the future you can watch it without knowing anything about the original (as I did). This one follows the Major protagonist’s son, Daigo, as he pursues his own field of dreams.
The premiere primarily takes place when Daigo is in the fourth grade and joining his first little league team. His father is a local legend and his older sister a skilled player, so everyone (including Daigo) expects him to be a prodigy. It turns out he’s pretty average—he has good control but a weak arm, and struggles to hit against the older kids. Feeling like he’ll never be a great player, Daigo gives up on baseball entirely.
Flash-forward two years, and he’s become a complete defeatist. He tried soccer and quit; he promised to get into a prestigious high school but doesn’t study. He’s utterly lacking in motivation or goals—which is, naturally, right when his Fated Rival arrives.
There are a lot of well-worn but worthwhile ideas at the heart of this episode, particularly about the pressure of living up to expectations and the frustration of realizing that just because you love something doesn’t mean you’re going to be the best at it. In some ways, Daigo is a unique main character, as he’s neither the talented prodigy nor the underdog workhorse, and has completely lost that Go-Get-Em spark that shines in the eyes of every shounen protagonist.
He’s also not much fun to watch, especially after the time jump. In fourth grade, he comes across as a heartbroken kid with too much pressure on him, but two years later he just looks entitled and petulant. While I’d like to see the story dig into that sense of entitlement, the fact that his rival’s father is also a baseball superstar doesn’t bode well for that. Most likely, this is going to be a story about doing things for yourself rather than to live up to others’ expectations, as Daigo rekindles his personal love for baseball. And that’s fine, too, if not exactly ambitious.
Both my favorite and least-favorite thing about Major 2nd, though, are its female characters. Where most sports anime relegate their female characters to the roles of managers and fans, Daigo’s sister Izumi is a talented, driven baseball player who loves the sport just as much as he does; and based on the opening theme, it looks like there’s going to be a girl on Daigo’s team as well. Daigo is undeniably the protagonist and his most important relationships will likely be with his father and (male) rival, but the girls have their own goals and motivations too, and I appreciated that.
I’m… also kinda bummed about it, though? Because Izumi is so good—confident and hard-working and fed up with her brother’s pity-party—that halfway through the episode I realized how much I wanted this series to be about her instead. We have a lot of anime about boys idolizing their fathers, and recently more anime about girls idolizing their moms, but we very rarely see that formula flipped. Major 2nd is a Next Generation story, so how great would it have been if that generation had followed a girl, inspired by her famous father, as she worked to make the women’s national baseball team?
Once I had that idea in my head, Major 2nd was inherently disappointing for me, and there was nothing it could do to salvage that. This is unfair to the series, but it’s where I wound up.
This isn’t to say readers shouldn’t check it out if they like straightforward, shounen-style sports anime. You totally should, as it follows a familiar format with plenty of sincerity and just enough originality to make it feel “classic” instead of “cliche.” There’s absolutely nothing wrong with telling a boy’s story as long as you treat your female characters like people instead of props, and so far Major 2nd has done exactly that. It’s a fine premiere, really. But it’s hard for me to shake the knowledge that I’ve seen this same story a dozen times before, and harder still not to think about the much rarer tale it could have been.