Tonbo! – Episode 1

By: Cy Catwell April 7, 20240 Comments
Tonbo makes an impossible shot from a bunker.

What’s it about? Enter a dramatic tale of golf, humanity, and hitting the green set in the beautiful Tokara Islands with Igarashi, a young man who’s thrown away his life’s story to live outside society, only…well, there’s a girl here. A middle schooler who plays golf like it was her soul’s purpose. Will this be enough to drive Igarashi’s iron heart into a new, verdant green? Well, uh… Fore!

I think this is the first time I’m watching a premiere on Amazon Prime, which I keep for my medical necessities. It’s weird because it feels like everyone’s got a piece of the premiere pie this year. Who next, Youtube?

Oh…oh yeah

Enter Tonbo! (I’ll be writing it without the exclamation point hereafter), Amazon Prime’s big premiere of this season. It’s cute, and surprisingly, it’s got a day one dub! Huzzah! Now this is a trend I can get with. And hey, this is a 48 volume manga, so there’s plenty of meat on the bone for this series.

But can I get with a new golf anime as someone who still hasn’t watched THE golf anime? Can I pull on the middle schooler that played the mess out of Mario Tennis on the GBA and find my love of “sports” in general? Can I rise to the occasion as a reviewer? Well, you’ll have to read to find out! (Though that last one should be self-explanatory, Anifam. You know I’m good people!)

Igarashi gets seasick.

Episode one kicks off with some very quiet foundation work around main character Tonbo, who lives on a fairly remote island where she’s the only middle schooler and presumably, her only contemporary. It sets up a somewhat rustic story: that of a young woman that will be schooled by the very affable and kind of Dick Gumshoe/Columbo man, Igarashi.

But before that, both viewers and Igarashi have to learn just what kind of skills Tonbo has when it comes to golf, and it’s quite the pleasant surprise…

Igarashi shares his enthusiam about finding a hidden golf course on the island.

There’s something that reminded me, quite joyfully, of what anime looked like in the 2000s. It’s got this nostalgic vibe that made me crave watching some of my favorite aughts series, but with the polish of modern animation styles. It’s simple but well executed, transferring the style of the manga well to the digital screen.

That said, the dub has Sonic Adventures-level script directing at its worst and general poor directing most of the time. It feels incredibly wooden at points, sentences get spoken with the weirdest pacing, and it’s just…weird. Worse, the subtitles don’t always match the spoken words, which is a disservice to people who rely on subtitles as a way of engaging with media: folks like myself who need them to help them hear the words being spoken, or folks who may have auditory disabilities or impairments. It’s worse than “slacking”: it’s flat-out ableism. Not having accuracy means you aren’t paying the person who did all the subtitle work enough to have time to do due diligence to their job: I don’t blame them. Someone at my level economically ain’t to blame here.

It’s unacceptable when this is being licensed, and likely invested in, by Amazon at this low level of effort for the English Dub. It makes me wonder where Amazon messed up because I’m not going to put this on the talent: they’re not a multi-billion dollar company. And like, it sucks to come down hard on a dub because I’m particularly fond of them, but I have to here: this is a big company footing the bill. Seriously, do better and probably pay better. Anime dubs deserve the same stage as their subtitled contemporaries, and the folks who work in the Japanese localization industry deserve better as well. They have a right to dignity and to do a good job; freakin’ let them, but back it up with pay and reasonable schedules.

Outside of that, I really like this show: I’m a sucker for anything that reminds me of rural Fukushima, and let me tell you: Hino Island is that specific slice of rural, seaside (in this case, island) life that I have fond memories of from my time abroad.

Tonbo watches the sun rise on a new day.

Here’s my verdict: watch it, but please, watch it subbed. You’ll get a much more natural delivery. Plus, you’ll get to enjoy a genuinely good story about a kid and a (not creepy!) adult who helps her enjoy the sport she just has a reflexive skill for. I find great joy in just enjoying a simple story where I learn a few things about a sport I don’t have much investment in. Sometimes, that’s just all you need. Anime as a medium, as a thing to be engaged with and enjoyed, doesn’t have to be more than that.

Count me among those watching Tonbo! this season. It’s the exact thing I need: a simple, pleasant slice of life sports anime with a good mentor and a great kid. While there’s still a larger story to tell and the question of just how much of its ongoing, 48 volume will be adapted, I’m kind of here to enjoy Golf the Anime and see where it goes.

About the Author : Cy Catwell

Cy Catwell is a Queer Blerd journalist and JP-EN translation & localization editor with a passion for idols, citypop, visual novels, and the iyashikei/healing anime genre.

You can follow their work as a professional Blerd at Backlit Pixels, get snapshots of their out of office life on Instagram at @pixelatedrhapsody, and follow them on their Twitter at @pixelatedlenses.

Read more articles from Cy Catwell

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