Baby Steps (ベイビーステップ)
Manga author: Hikaru Katsuki
Animation studio: Pierrot
Genre(s): Sports, Tennis
Recommended audience: 13 and up
First aired: April 6, 2014
US streaming: Crunchyroll.com
Popularity outside of Japan
1. Philippines / Quezon City
3. South Africa
4. United States / Austin, TX
Review by Judy Winters
Adapted from Hikaru Katsuki's manga of the same title, Baby Steps tells the story of junior tennis player Eiichirō Maruo and his journey to become a future tennis champion.
Honor student Eiichirō Maruo was introduced to tennis relatively late. Initially, he was looking to tennis as a way to get some much needed exercise. Maruo became instantly hooked to the game and is now one of Japan's top junior players after only playing for two years. He is able to achieve this through relentless work ethics, particularly his studious note-taking before and during every match. With support from close friends, Maruo is taking on the best young players from Japan with an eye toward a professional future.
When one thinks of a manga or anime series about tennis, The Prince of Tennis immediately comes to mind. The ever popular Prince is credited with bringing tennis to mainstream anime. However, Baby Steps does not lose to the aforementioned in term of content. In fact, real tennis players would find Baby Steps more realistic and engaging than Prince. Flashy and unrealistic shots are few and far between in this series. Instead, we are treated with realizable shots and adept match strategies.
As a tennis player myself, my game has certainly benefited from watching the show. For a non-tennis player, however, Baby Steps may not be engaging enough to watch for the entire 50 episodes. If you have to pick which season to watch, I recommend the second cour of season 1 and the first cour of season 2; they have some of the most thrilling matches in the entire series. Like most anime series adapted from manga, the ending is open-ended.
The show is clearly a budget production. Fortunately, most of the actions are on the courts so the mediocre animation should not negatively affect our enjoyment too much. The character models are faithful to the manga, which means you won't see a slew of pretty boys like those of The Prince of Tennis. This series is truly a show about tennis, through and through.
Despite running for two seasons, Baby Steps keeps the same opening song. It's a catchy song that fits well with the series.
One thumb up!