Ace wo Nerae! (1979)
Released Year : September 8, 1979 to ????
No of Episodes : 1
Genre : Shoujo,Sports
Plot : High school freshman Hiromi joins the tennis club because of her admiration for Ryuzaki. Ryuzaki is a senior, who's the best tennis player on the team and also nicknamed "Ochōfujin", ("Madame Butterfly"), because of her elegance on the tennis court. However, the new coach, Jin Munakata, wants the inexperienced Hiromi to play in a forthcoming tournament. Due to this, Hiromi considers quitting tennis for good but, in the depth of her soul, she soon realizes that she loves tennis after all. She returns to the club and, under Munakata's coaching, her talent starts to bloom. In the end, Hiromi develops a strong emotional bond with her coach, not knowing that Munakata is risking his life because of a chronic illness. (Source: AnimeNfo)
Our Review : Ace wo Nerae!(Or 'Aim for the Ace!') is an exotic gem, if anything. Not only was it one of director Osamu Dezaki's earlier works(Along side one of his more famous works; Ashita no Joe), but it paved the way for what was coming in the near future. His trademark theatrics combined with Akio Suginos wonderfully lavish, gorgeous character designs create nothing short of some of the most compelling animated drama around. While the film version of Ace wo Nerae doesn't really provide the full experience due to liberties taken with the character development and subplots. It's a more then adequate alternative while waiting for more episodes of the original tv series to be english subbed - and even giving out the positives of having a faster pacing with a theatrical budget to boot. And it should be thought of as of just an appetizer, really.
Ace wo Nerae!, right down to it, is a classic coming of age story about giving your heart and soul into everything you do, never regretting what you 'could have' done or 'should have' done. Even if it's just a silly game of Tennis, Ace we Nerae! shows that you should always do your best, and strive to be even better. At a time when Japan was acquiring a reasonably large economic boost and expansion thanks to the growth of the manufacturing industry - giving the the nation a newborn sense of pride and accomplishment - it was clearly and truly, a product of it's time.
I think what helped make Aim for the Ace! stand out so much was the art; in almost every frame you could simply pause and observe the painting like quality. Admiring the attention to detail and the atmosphere that it provides. Like I pointed out earlier - Sugino's designs help bring out the manga's classic shoujo features into the animation medium, and brings in a theatrical flare to the tension, tone and dialogue. This title also has the classic Dezaki style - the watercolor freeze frames(There's actually a term to define his particular art style, but it escapes me currently), famously used by him to depict the most tensional moments and drive them up to an even higher stage.
The second aspect that made this film such a treat for me were the characters; Hiromi is a strong willed, positive, but naive and young girl who really only sees her skills in Tennis rather subpar. To me, Hiromi was a refreshing female lead, especially in an industry where women are treated as either bitchy tsunderes or damsels in distress who can't do anything without the male hero. Anime is dominated by a male fanbase, and it's only(unfortunately) natural that the male viewer would see something of himself in the lead male character. Pandering and catering to a sense of control and masculinity. And even though she is strong - like anyone her age- suffers from a lack of confidence and passion in herself. Something she clearly sees and admires in Reika Ryuuzaki, the star player of her schools Tennis club. And something of a rival early on in Hitomi's tennis career. But to me, aside from Hiromi, Coach Jin Munakata stole the show as the stern, patient and hard teacher for Hiromi, giving her the guidance and confidence to believe in herself, her hidden latent skills and the strength to overcome any obstacle in life through hard work and dedication.
It's a wonderfully neat fun fact that the guys at Gainax were directly inspired by Ace wo Nerae! when they developed and created what was to be known as one of director Hideaki Anno's early masterpiece works, Top wo Nerae!(Or, Aim for the Top). With characters Noriko Takaya, Kazumi Amano and coach Koichiro Ota taking common quirks and personality developments from the central cast of Ace wo Nerae! Proving that you should always respect the classics, yo.
Unfortunately, one of the more disappointing aspects was the music, in comparison to the characters and art direction. It just doesn't stand out as anything majestic, beautiful or particularly moving in general. Something that many anime's from the 70's seem to have had a reoccurring problem with. But it is good, and a lot of the tracks sound rather familiar with one of Dezaki's later works; Oniisama e... My particular favorite being the bittersweet closing song.
Overall, I found this title to be an inspiring, beautiful and moving work of art that just never seems to have gotten it's proper due because of it's age and fact that it's still an anime about Tennis, something that anime fans normally aren't crazy about. Despite that it is a sports anime; I look at in a way that the tennis is just allegory to properly depict the themes that I pointed out earlier. I'll be the first to admit that I really couldn't care less for sports in general, but Ace wo Nerae! is yet another piece of evidence that, despite first glances, it's something that shouldn't be overlooked, and some of my all time favorite anime titles happen to be sports themed.
It's a stunning work of art, and gem that depicts an earlier, more romantic and optimistic time when people in general were much more willing to give it their all in anything they do. Something that's rare to see due to technological conveniences and the world slowly adapting to a more westernized life style.
Ace wo Nerae! should not be missed, and the film only reminds us of the fact that- no matter what happens in life - giving everything you have, providing commendable strength and courage to overcome anything is all we can really do.
Never give up.
Constructive criticism is more then welcome btw, as reviewing is something I rarely do, but would like to do more of.