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Favorite Episode
My favorite Princess Nine episode is probably the UFO one, where Yuki lost her doll, Fifi, which she believes to be an alien ^_~ Until that episode, she's been a mysterious member of the team, not to mention weird. Yuki talks to Fifi all the time (and even gives her a sip of her drink every now and then when the weather gets too hot). Yuki's also intriguing, because she's very quiet and motionless most of the time, but she knows the exact moment when to raise her glove and catch the ball (and will say that Fifi told her to do so). So in the episode where Yuki lost Fifi during baseball boot camp, she was very devastated. This is also the episode where Hiroki came to camp to visit Izumi after she called him the night before. Hiroki wanted to know why Izumi sounded so sad over the phone, but she couldn't bring herself to admit that she was upset upon finding out that he gave his lucky medal to Ryo. Hiroki then decided to hang around the mountains for a while since he already ditched baseball practice ^_~ When he left, Izumi saw that he dropped the handstitched handkerchief that Ryo gave him for his birthday. In a fit of jealousy, Izumi misled Ryo to believe that Hiroki didn't value the handkerchief and gave it to her. As a result, Ryo was so upset that she couldn't focus on anything. As a means of escape, she volunteered to go into the woods to search for Fifi. There she ran into Hiroki. Then it started to rain, and they found shelter in a small cabin in the middle of the woods ^_~ This is probably the closest the two of them got to each other (nothing happened, tho') ^_^ Whee.

Princess Nine
Synopsis | Review

If I have to write a cheesy headline that reviews Princess Nine, it would probably be something like, "A gripping sports drama about female empowerment that will keep you at the edge of your seat." And ironically, if I haven't watched this series yet and I see that type of headline, I probably won't watch it. For some reason, sports anime have made me wary. It happened after I watched some really bad sports anime in the past (I won't mention them here, don't worry ^_~). What really made me watch Princess Nine is its romantic element, and I'm a hopeless sap for romantic shoujo anime and manga. This series just proved that I can overcome my previous traumatic experiences with sports anime if it's romantic enough @_@

Princess Nine has 26 episodes and a lot of characters. Guess how many main characters there are. Hint: look at the title. Well, okay, it's actually more than nine, if you count the coach, the playboy, the best friend, the mother, the father, the chairman, the principal, the grandpa...I'm running out of fingers for counting here. For 26 episodes, that's a lot of characters. Princess Nine probably has as much characters as Sailor Moon, and Sailor Moon has 200 episodes and like two hundred follow-up shows ^_~ Okay, the comparison's probably an exaggeration, but it sure is overwhelming watching the opening sequence for the first time and seeing all these characters parade across your screen.

Oh yeah, and I'm baseball-illiterate, so I'm not using baseball terms here too much lest I say something wrong ^_^ Notably, I understood Princess Nine anyway ^_~ That's how baseball-illiterate-friendly this anime is.

Synopsis
As a child, Hayakawa Ryo played catch with her father, Hidehiko. After her father passed away, she continued to play baseball, without knowing that her father was a star professional baseball player once. By the time Ryo finished middle school, she became "one of the boys" in her local sandlot team, the Wildcats. Everybody who saw her play is impressed with her pitching, since nobody can ever hit the ball whenever she pitches it. Ryo loves the sport, but has no plans of making it the center of her life. Her mother, Shino, runs an oden bar. After middle school, Ryo plans to work at the bar full-time.

One night, a couple of men came to Shino's oden bar to challenge Ryo to a game. Then another stranger seated by himself in the bar mysteriously volunteered to be the umpire. Egged on by her teammates, who are a bunch of old men, Ryo accepted the challenge. They went to the nearby baseball field, where Ryo immediately defeated the two men. Unbeknowst to Ryo, famous people lurked in the shadows to watch her play. One was Himuro Keiko, president of the big-time Himuro corporation and chairman of the prestigious Kisaragi Women's High School. The other was Takasugi Hiroki, a star slugger who was just recruited by Kisaragi High School. His bike broke down by the field, and he had walked over to see why the stadium lights were on. He was definitely stunned when he saw Ryo pitch.

Before the two challengers admitted defeat to Ryo, Hiroki stepped in and asked to join the game. Ryo bested him as well, though he put up a good fight. And when he escorted her home after the match, he decided that he will be her boyfriend (and had no qualms introducing himself to Shino as such) ^_^

Not long after, Ryo received a scholarship offer from Kisaragi Women's High School, on the condition that she plays for its newly formed baseball team. The mysterious stranger by himself in Shino's bar the night of the match is actually the coach, Kido Shinsaku. Although a notorious drunk, Kido immediately recruits several other promising players from different avenues: softball, track and field, and judo. Being one of the first members of the team, Ryo helps out with the recruitment too. Little did she know that she is the main reason why the women's baseball team is formed: Himuro Keiko wanted to see Hayakawa Hidehiko's daughter at the Koshien National High School Baseball Tournament.

Since Ryo came to Kisaragi, she's been accosted virtually every step of the way by Hiroki, who affectionately called her "Gamno-chan," meaning desire or wish. This did not suit well at all with Hiroki's childhood friend and the chairman's daughter, Himuro Izumi. Izumi is a star tennis player who could defeat three men on the court at the same time. She also has a few hangups: she resents her mother for spending all her time at work, and she's in love with Hiroki for a while. It's only natural that Izumi couldn't stand Ryo, considering Ryo now got the attention of her mother and Hiroki. Ultimately, Izumi realizes that the new baseball team needs her. Much to everybody's surprise, she completely abandons tennis and devotes herself to becoming the best baseball player she could possibly be.

Princess Nine is all about Kisaragi Women's High School baseball team--how they formed, how they won the battle to allow women to compete against men in baseball, and how they progressed through the national tournament. While all that goes on, the team had to deal with their personal problems: a player who really wants to be an idol, another player's father is the school principal and hates the women's baseball team, another player is hung up on a doll whom she believes to be an alien from outer space, and so on. It also doesn't help that their coach is a damn drunk and Izumi is an impossible teammate who demands full competence in all her teammates. Tension rises the closer the team gets to the finals and the closer Hiroki and Ryo get to each other ^_~ Princess Nine ends with a showdown between the two Kisaragi High baseball teams ^_~

Review
I was really surprised at how much I liked this anime. I watched the first episode telling myself that I'll just check it out. Before I knew it, I was watching the rest of the episodes. Every episode ends with a cliffhanger, which is kind of mean of the anime producers (marketers would say it's a successful ploy to keep viewers coming back for more, tho'). While there's some comic relief in this anime, it's mostly a baseball drama ^_~ It's good drama tho', because there's a lot of variety. After a while, the slew of characters will cease to overwhelm you and you'll actually be able to keep up with who's who.

The artwork will take some getting used to. Princess Nine doesn't have cutesy characters with huge, luminous eyes. And there are some people in the show with weird hair, such as Himuro Keiko and Coach Kido. Izumi's hair was a little weird too, until she cut it off. Then she looked cute ^_^ And there's not a lot of bishounen in it. Hiroki's not really a hot bishounen that'll make you drool, even though he's cute. The whole idea of a self-proclaimed boyfriend is endearingly irreverent. He's also a smooth talker, which is probably why Ryo's so wary of him ^_~ Anyway, the hottest guy in Princess Nine is probably Hayakawa Hidehiko, and he's already dead @_@

The voices in Princess Nine are okay, and the seiyuu lineup is pretty good. There's a couple of seiyuus that might be familiar to Fushigi Yuugi fans. Hiroki's seiyuu is Koyasu Takehito, who also did Hotohori. I guess the whole thing about Hiroki being a smooth talker wasn't just my imagination ^_~ And Coach Kido's seiyuu is Ishii Kouji, who also did Mitsukake. An Evangelion veteran, Nagasawa Miki, gave voice to Ryo.

The storyline progressed at a steady pace and built to an unexpected ending. It's something that you really don't see anymore; most anime series nowadays are either too choppy, have a rushed ending, or have no ending at all. It seems like Princess Nine doesn't attempt to be a fantastic anime with every single Great Anime Element incorporated in it. Rather, it focuses on having well-developed characters and meaningful interactions. The hopeless shoujo sap in me feels that Hiroki and Ryo's relationship could've been developed more, but I think a lot of people will be happy with Princess Nine the way it is ^_~ I highly recommend this anime, which surprises me, really. Anime fans in general--and not only shoujo anime fans--will probably enjoy it ^_^

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