One of the genres of anime I’ve spent the least time with is sports anime – where the number of titles I’ve actually seen is far shorter than the shows I intend to watch – only Magical Girl anime and Music series are lower on the list. None of this is necessarily due to a lack of interest. I’ve found that the sports shows I’ve watched I’ve generally enjoyed (with a few exceptions like Battle Athletes). So, in the Spring 2022 season, when I saw Birdie Wing was airing, I decided to give it a watch.
Birdie Wing feels like a big tribute to Osamu Dezaki, but with golf. Lots of great use of postcard memories segments, with a plot-line that feels inspired by Ashita No Joe, except (again), with golf instead of boxing. Set initially in the fictional European country of Nafrece (Not-France – the country uses the Euro for currency and Eve references Bandes Dessinées), the main character Eve is an incredibly skilled golfer, who was orphaned at a young age and was trained by a mysterious golfer known only as Leo (who looks exactly like Char Aznable and has the same voice actor) to be the best there is at the game, by teaching her a series of signature shots with different capabilities. Eve lives in a bar on the poor side of town, hustling high-stakes golf games in order to provide for her found family, including several other orphans who are also illegal immigrants.
However, when she has a fateful encounter with an up-and-coming teenage golfer, Aoi Amawashi, Eve finds a rival (and possibly something more). Eve ends up taking on riskier gambles in order to get chances to play against Aoi, ultimately (through some spectacularly over-the-top circumstances), ending up attending the elite golfing academy that Aoi also attends in Japan. However, Aoi’s mother has her own plans for her daughter.
So, this series is made by Namco-Bandai, and boy did they fit a fair amount of product placement in there, in ways that the director and animators definitely leaned into – which ends up playing up the camp factor considerably. For example, Eve is introduced wagering one of her friend’s Gundam models in a game of golf (which she wins). In addition to the Char-clone Leo, one of the coaches at the girl’s school – Raiou Girls Academy – Reiya Amuro, is voiced by Touru Furuya, the voice actor who is most famous for playing Amuro Rey in Mobile Suit Gundam… and the character also shares Amuro’s character design.
On top of all of this, the early plot arcs in the series are based around an incredibly high stakes, and eventually literally life-or-death, game of golf played in a literally underground golf course which can reconfigure itself through what is basically ultratech to make randomly generated golf holes, for these golf games.
That said, outside of some of the characters’ over-the-top golf shots and special abilities, the golf games themselves are fairly straightforward – in the sense that the holes (thus far), have not had anything particularly unrealistic or absurd in the design – nothing a real golf course wouldn’t have. The show itself sticks to the rules of golf. The only real eccentricity is related to the various special skills of the characters themselves – Eve’s Rainbow Bullet shots, and another character’s ability to flawlessly read the green, for example.
All of this is animated incredibly well, and the writing in the dialog is very well done, with a nice balance of melodrama and humor. It makes for just the right level of camp – the show takes itself seriously when it needs to, but is able to make jokes about itself, without undercutting itself.
The show is due for a second season, and I’m definitely looking forward to watching it.
Birdie Wing is currently available for streaming on Crunchyroll.