Azusa, Otetsudai Shimasu!

January 13, 2012

OMG! It’s no doubt Mamiko Noto! She’s in here as a leading character in Azusa, Otetsudai Shimasu! Well, if I didn’t go around randomly browsing anime series, I probably wouldn’t have stumbled upon this. Yeah, you could say she was the sole motivation that got me to watch this single OVA of around 45 minutes rather. Not because if there was comedy in it or am I a baseball freak (which is the theme for this OVA). Theoretically, if the role she was voicing went to someone else, I would have never watched it at all. Prejudice? Call it a particular obsession to a particular seiyuu.

The setting is in the not so distant year 2099. I guess in the future where everything is so automated, it feels so like in the past. Get what I mean? Robots and technology everywhere but it feels they’re so backwards no matter how ‘futuristic’ they are designed or functioned. Shunpei Harumaki is one of the baseball members of the Karugamo ‘Ducks’ High School Baseball Team. His grandpa Senzou is also the team’s coach. He is running late for a practice match. You can tell their baseball club hasn’t being doing well for a long time because their rivals, Eagles High School is really looking down on them. What’s more, Eagles have bought 2 high-tech sports robot in their team! Is that even legal? Consult the rule book! Yeah well, seems like it. Type 93 Ieyasu has 3 legs to bat. Is that legal?! Up to 4 legs are allowed. Type 92 Hideyoshi has a special disappearing demon ball ability. Is that LEGAL?! Up to 3 demon balls per match. Looks like Ducks are going to have it tough. However Ducks’ Captain mentions the rule they have forgotten: If your opponents don’t have sports robots, you are forbidden to use any! Captain is laughing like mad that no matter how technologically advance their robots are, they can’t use it against them since they don’t have a single sports robot. So it’s going to be flesh to flesh slugging. In the end, Ducks lost 0-26. Yeah, they got hammered and roasted. To add salt to injuries, Eagles’ captain thinks they need to go back and practice more since they hardly had one with Ducks. Total insult! Back home, Shunpei thinks they need to get a sports robot too but Senzou scoffs him off and says sports robots are evil. They don’t have a heart so they don’t understand the true spirit of baseball.

Next day in the club room, the club is in a pinch because senior Nakazato is quitting. This means they will be one member short to play and their club will be disbanded if the minimum number of members (nine in this case) isn’t met. So the only ones left are Captain, Shunpei, Doujima, Tonomura, the Yamada twins, Tanabe (everybody seems to be ignoring his presence) and the only girl in the club Mizuho Yuuki. Captain wants the twins to split into triplets! Is it possible? What about using that washing machine invention that Shunpei was inventing? Wait. Can it even play baseball? So the only option is to buy a sports robot. Where to get the money? Don’t worry, the drinks stall owner lends them his funds to kick start their dream. Shunpei and Doujima head to Akihibara to scout for a sports robot but they find out sports robot costs more than what they have. Nothing is cheap nowadays. What do you expect? A few pennies in a jar to cover it? When they finally find one that is within their budget, it turns out to be a maid robot, Azusa. The reason I could only think of why they bought it was because she’s rather cute. Or rather desperate to have another member. Back in the club room, Senzou is not too happy that they got a robot because it’s like their lack of guts will make them rely on that damn machine. Hey, at least it is made in Japan. Geddit? Maid in Japan. Haha! Those twins sure can come out with this kind of jokes. As Shunpei starts it, Azusa is rather stiff and talking very loud. Hmm… Maybe she needs some oiling. After that, Azusa is functioning as normal and apologizes for the trouble she has brought and would love to do anything to help out. Because she needs to oil her legs, the guys start gawking with keen interest. Mizuho beats all those dumbasses up. But since she is a maid robot, can she play baseball? Well according to Shunpei, she is a multi-purpose maid robot and certain stuff is like baseball. Like chasing after cats is like running and pounding a drying futon is like batting. I see… So all they need to do is to teach her the finer points of baseball. Thing is, she doesn’t know what baseball is. Oh boy. This is going to be a long day. Seems she is rather clumsy, klutzy and easily runs out of breathe. Wait a minute! A robot getting tired?! WTF?!

As an old humanoid model that is rare these days, Azusa needs to have her energy recharged the old fashion way. The members are contemplating to register Azusa and have her as their team manager seeing that having a cute girl in this testosterone-soaked club is soothing itself. What about Mizuho? Don’t they see her as a girl? They note she acts like a guy and have no boobs! Mizuho gets pissed that they don’t mind having metal boobs as long as they’re big and beats them up again. See, she’s acting like a guy. Back home, Senzou is giving Shunpei the silent treatment and eats his dinner at a separate table. Shunpei tries to lighten up the mood by saying he should bring Azusa back to cook but again he dismisses the idea and that robots should only be used for jobs that are too dangerous for humans to handle. Things like cooking or baseball should be done solely by humans. Next day everyone is shocked to see the club house cleaned up and in tidy order. Even the toilet is sparkling clean! So clean that they don’t even have the heart to take a piss.

Captain announces that everyone will be going on a training camp. Now. Right in the middle of class? Senzou has made arrangements that their summer vacation starts early but this means their winter vacation will be shorter. Too good to be true. As for the place, it will be Senzou’s hometown and they’ll be staying at the temple. The rest start giving excuses not to attend especially Mizuho who is concerned about separate toilets and rooms since she doesn’t want to put up with the den of wolves as her parents are pretty strict about their only precious daughter. However Senzou made the call and mommy is pretty happy to have her go on the camp since the adults can have a quiet summer. So much for that. No Mizuho, you’re not adopted. Upon arrival, they meet the temple priest who is Senzou’s close friend. Training begins with them pulling out weeds. By hand. Under the hot sun. How has this got to do with baseball? Maybe it builds character, stamina, patience… Senzou talks to the priest and he sees something different in Azusa. Senzou is surprised at his words and mentions she’s a robot. Next day, training continues with them pulling rubber tyres and a baseball practice that literally knocks them all dead tired. Azusa cooks them all a decent meal. During that, Shunpei spots Senzou visiting a grave. Talking to the priest, that grave belongs to Shigeharu Aida, the first person who created sports robot. But the priest reveals more that Shunpei didn’t even know. Shigeharu and Senzou were childhood friends and often played together when they were young. With declining birth rate and kids these days not interested in playing baseball, Shigeharu created the first baseball robot 20 years ago since the decline of baseball was unbearable for him. The first sports robot he created was so perfect that it was deemed a failure because it lacked of something called ‘heart’. Because of that Shigeharu sealed it away and devoted himself to create a robot with a heart. The reason Senzou hates robots is because he probably couldn’t do anything for Shigeharu.

Next day as the team is practising baseball, Shunpei is deep in thought over the priest’s words so much so he didn’t see a ball coming his way. Azusa spots this and activates enough power to catch it. Then she throws it back to them. So fast and hard that the metal fence dented! They learn she is usually in Economy Mode but can power up at will during her Power Mode. They have her test out several pitching and batting and her power is awesome. However she seems to have frozen after that. By using her Power Mode, her power often runs out very fast. The gang aren’t worried about it since they are confident every dugout has a power output to recharge and it’s not like she needs to be in Power Mode every time. Thus she can save some energy during other times and use Power Mode whenever the time calls for it. With the team’s spirits lifted, they teach Azusa several techniques that they specialize in. I don’t know why but the Yamada twins thought her how to do a manzai comedy. Maybe this is what they specializes in. Before they know it, it is the last day of their training camp. The rest wonder what kind of life Azusa had prior being put on sale, the master she had and the memories before they met her. They have mixed feelings since it’s sad that her memories can be wiped out a push of a button but at the same time, if she remembered them, it might be very troubled.

Back in the club room, Captain mentions their first match proper will be against Eagles. Time to regain their honour. Azusa is ready to do her best when she freezes. Looks like she ran out of power but Mizuho notices her time between recharges is getting shorter. Oh no. Doing further research, her battery lifespan is almost up and recharging her over and over will degrade it. Azusa is an old type model so her battery can’t be easily replaced. Plus, Azusa’s battery is made to last 12 years and she’s way passed that. They hear Azusa ‘sleep talking’ that she’ll be alright because she wants to help them out. The day of the Kantou preliminary tournament is here and Azusa still needs to be recharged. Eagles are laughing at their obsolete model as Ducks realize Eagles have added a new solar type robot, Type 99 Nobunaga to their team. Senzou gives his team a pep talk that they’re thinking up of excuses of losing to a team that have 3 sports robots but the real reason they never won was because they never gave it their all and were afraid to lose. However they retaliate by saying that they won’t run away or give up. That’s the spirit. With Azusa starting off, she surprises Eagles with her 150kmph pitching. It must be embarrassing to lose to a maid robot, eh? With Azusa effectively using both Power and Economy Modes to counter Eagles’ offence, they manage to keep the score tie. Nobody has scored yet. With Nobunaga coming into the fray, Eagles manage to score some points as Azusa continues her recharge during the turns. During that, nobody notices of Tanabe. He is like so non-existent that not only humans, but robots too can’t detect him going from one base to another! It’s like he suddenly showed up and everybody is stunned to see him there! Tanabe is so sad that he doesn’t mind losing or going out as long as somebody notices him. Captain also pulls off some weird batting move to catch his opponent by surprise.

Next up is Azusa as Senzou reminds her not to use her Power Mode since she is next on the pitching list. Though she agrees but Senzou notices she is lying because she went full power on the batting. See the steam coming out from her body? Ducks are leading by a single point margin. The final stretch is near and if all goes well, they could win it. They don’t want Azusa to use Power Mode recklessly because they want to continue playing baseball with her tomorrow. But when it’s play ball, she again uses her Power Mode to catch the ball and collapses. Suddenly her inner core powers up and she transform into a serious baseball player with the kanji words ‘heart’ over her forehead. Shunpei and Senzou realize she has switched to emergency reserve mode and she may be Shigeharu’s legendary robot with a heart. Azusa is going the end it all in 3 pitches. She even warns the catcher to stop her ball with his chest protector. Get ready. Grit your teeth. For the first throw, her throw was so powerful (170kmph, that is. So fast Ieyasu has no time to react) that she sent the catcher and umpire flying back. On the second throw, she reaches 2000kmph!!! Then on the final pitch she is going all out. Shunpei realizes what she is doing and yells for her to stop. After using up all her reserve power, she froze forever. Not. Back at school, Azusa is back to normal and continues to play baseball with everyone. Yes, they have won but Senzou is still sceptic that they were just lucky. Priest talks to Senzou and he never knew that the odd item that was given by Shigeharu and was using all the while as a paperweight was her battery and heart.

Always Glad To Help Out
Well, I guess it was okay for a short OVA. Nothing pretty much extraordinary. Now that I have got my fill of Mamiko Noto, I guess I’m pretty satisfied even if the series didn’t offer anything new. Basically it was just a bunch of underdogs going against all odds against a higher rank and cocky team (which probably led to their downfall because they underestimated their opponents). In the process, they bond together and become close enough for them to draw the spirit and determination which every team needs to make a miracle come back and win. Even if this is just Ducks’ first win in a long time, there will be more obstacles and greater opponents to come. Playing at the Koushien as a big dream for every baseball player so it’s not going to be easy. But that’s a different story.

Azusa as the ever helpful robot wasn’t treated as a robot or even a maid, but an equal comrade. Everyone cares about her and although they discover her Power Mode, it’s not like they abuse it and use it to their advantage. They even get worried about her next recharge. However her past and origins do bug me because I was slightly interested in knowing how she came about and ended up being on sale (shouldn’t outdated models by sent to the scrap metal yard? Too cute to dispose?). Maybe if they decided to expand this into a TV series or more OVAs, this area will be explored? Not likely. It has been years since this OVA came out back in 2004. Another thing which bugged me was when she transformed into that legendary baseball player. She obviously sounded like a different person that it wasn’t the voice of the Mamiko Noto that I use to know. Perhaps a different seiyuu? Not listed anywhere so I can’t verify this.

The other characters may not be deep enough since it’s only a single episode but most of them are amusing to keep this OVA entertaining. Like the Yamada twins’ manzai comedy and puns, Tanabe’s non-existence that nobody seems to notice, Captain’s loud and boisterous attitude and Mizuho’s tomboyishness. Call them all weird but in that case every team is weird in its own way. The winning formula is  always the trust, bond and teamwork that make them successful. Senzou may not like robots and some of his words are true. Robots lack the hearts that make us humans unique but notice that he gradually accepts Azusa for who she is? And when she lied about not using her power, did you notice that was a trait that makes us human? So who cares if Azusa is indeed some legendary sports robot with a heart. As long as she has a heart, it is all that matters.

Maids and baseball. You rarely see them in a sentence together. I guess now we can see maids in a different light. Instead of being proficient at local chores like cooking and cleaning, you can have one that excels in sports too. See the usefulness of maids? They can do just about anything and everything. Never underestimate them! Of course Azusa here being a robot means she is being programmed but like us humans, she too can learn. Using robots in sports that only humans should participate diminishes the true meaning and spirit of the sport. We strive for perfection but when we become too perfect, what does it really mean? Hmm… Maybe we can hire some maids to help in our country’s flagging badminton or football sport. Maybe Azusa would like to help out?

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