Content warning: gang violence. hanging, brief blackface sight gag
What’s it about?: The year is 20XX, and Neo Tokyo, a country unto itself, has been thrown into chaos as “Tribes” seek ground and a place to belong. As the conflict between these Tribes intensifies, the government has no choice but to pass the XB Law, a decree that says that now, all inter-Tribal conflicts must be resolved through Baseball: Extreme Baseball.
As a lifelong fan of Danganronpa–at least, ever since I found the series during my tenure as a grad student in 2014–I feel it is my sworn duty to watch any product that Kodaka Kazuma’s studio Too Kyo games has anything to do with. I suppose that’s why I’m sitting here on a Tuesday evening, FODMAP-friendly slices of pizza next to me, watching some knockoff Danganronpa teens play that great American game, baseball.
Extreme baseball, that is.
Which swings us (get it) into episode 1, “It Takes Guts”, an episode set in 20xx in Neo Tokyo, a “twenty minutes into the future” version of our Tokyo filled with gang violence, fires, delinquents, fucking hangings, and… Baseball as a solution to any and all gang conflicts.
And… like that’s it: that’s what Tribe Nine is about. It’s all about baseball–extreme baseball– and teens finding themselves. And also, nearly getting murdered by sportsballs flying blocks away from home plate. It’s all about throwing down, swinging the bat, and finding yourself as you make a mad dash for third base.
And honestly? It’s great.
I’m just gonna say it: Tribe Nine has a killer soundtrack. It’s giving me Danganronpa V3 vibes, utilizing juicy synths so good, you’ll wanna start a riot. I swear, I wrote half this review hitting that whip and doing the nae nae because the beats are so fat, though that’s par for the course since Masafumi Takada is doing the music for the series. Also, I can’t help but shout-out Miyavi’s OP, which is guaranteed to go hard for no reason other than just because. It’s promises to be the kind of OP that I basically never skip, even once it gets a bit rote.
The show also looks good, bringing that Akudama Drive flair; that’s partly because Kodaka had a hand in the concept designs, though credit truly goes to Simadoriru and Komatsuzaki Rui. Everyone stands out in this cyberpunk-ish flair combined with a bit of our own modernity. While it doesn’t always result in cohesive outfits, it does result in some pretty wacky gear. However, what really sticks with me is the hair: everyone’s got that good Danganronpa-esque hair that makes me wanna get a wig and get to work styling and profilin’.
But does that make for a good premiere? Well… yes, largely because Tribe Nine doesn’t care about being serious. That’s really what makes it stand out in a season that’s as unseasoned as white bread with mayo on it. It’s the spice that really has me hyped to potentially watch (and definitely review) on-going series during these very chilly Winter months.
Tribe Nine isn’t about to win any awards: let’s make that very, very clear. It’s a silly, extra show leaning fully into the question, “What if Baseball was a life or death game and also, ended gang violence in Japan?” It’s not here to be serious, and honestly, that’s why it’ll probably be one of Winter 2022’s best premieres.
One qualm though: there’s definitely some “comedic” blackface about fifteen minutes in which results in a character getting shocked, which results… in their skin turning a deep shade of brown and their hair turning into a fro. Something something it sucks, but also, y’all knew my eagle eyes would catch it.
Okay, back to being really into this show.
Honestly, this is an outrageous extreme sports anime at its finest. It’s got everything I want from an over-the-top, seriously silly show. There’s nothing deep, at least not yet: don’t expect Akudama Drive’s ACAB message, nor anything poignant. This is baseball at mach 5, and it’s great because of it. Come for the baseball, stay for the baseball: heck, get invested because of the baseball. It’s an incredibly silly plot hook that promises more, even if the show ultimately doesn’t say much outside of baseball, baseball, baseball.
So come along for the ride: I know I’m more than eager to add Tribe Nine to my seasonal watchlist. I need a bit of levity, and if that means leaning hard into sports this season, then so be it. I can’t think of a better, more earnestly goofy series to swan dive into.