Hiromichi Kojima is an athletically-gifted baseball player with an astonishing amount of accolades to his long and illustrious career. Unfortunately, his statistical production on the field has been wasted over the years since he plays for a lowly basement-dweller team known as the Lycaons. During one of his offseason conditioning trips in the island of Okinawa, he comes across an enigmatic and aloof man named Tokouchi, a pitcher who has always won in a high-stakes gambling oriented version of Baseball known as ‘One Outs’.
The aim of this game is simple, the pitcher either strikes the batter out or the batter gets a hit, then the people who are observantly watching place their bets on who they believe will win. After dueling it out on two occasions, Kojima comes to realization that Tokouchi could be the missing piece to kickstart his struggling team into becoming a championship caliber organization. After Tokouchi accepts Kojima’s pleas to abandon his life of gambling and become a team member, the owner of the Lycaons, a money-hungry businessman who doesn’t give a damn about the team’s success, makes him sign a peculiarly one-sided contract where he gains 5 million yen for every out that he accumulates, but loses 50 million yen for any run he gives up.
I found the overall premise of this anime to be very interesting. Even though I haven’t watched a ton of sports-related anime (I think the only other one I’ve watched was Ping Pong the Animation), Baseball is a sport that I happen to like quite a bit so I was curious to see how an anime would depict the idiosyncrasies and quirks of this sport. Even though Baseball tends to be negatively described by many as rather long and slow-paced compared to other popular sports, (which strangely happens to be the reasons why I enjoy it) The narrative of One Outs always gave me a feeling of titillation of what was to going to happen. In every episode, Tokouchi is always faced against insurmountable odds as a professional pitcher where any minute error could potentially leave him destitute and financially broken beyond repair. Since he plays for a pretty inept team, Tokouchi always methodically thinks through every scenario at all of the games like a master tactician; his caluculated thinking process instantly reminded me of Kaiji Itou from Kaiji: Ultimate Survivor.
Tokouchi is a very interesting character. On the surface, his cold and detached demeanor gives off the impression that he’s quite arrogant and shrewd due to the indifferent cadence of his voice. But he’s incredibly smart with regards to the conventions of Baseball, and he also possess a strong mental fortitude that’s able to accurately pinpoint the strategies and moves of his opponents throughout the ebbs and flows of a game.
One of the qualities I liked about One Outs in terms of animation were the character designs. While most of the side characters appeared rather plain and generic, I saw it as a positive since it made Tokouchi more visually distinctive as a main character. Even though Tokouchi usually displays an apathetic exterior, I think Madhouse did a great job of catching the subtle vestige of the emotions on his face; which was an exceptional way of showing how much of a mental game Baseball can be.
While One Outs has very few shortcomings overall, I feel like how the characters were developed could have been handled better. I would’ve liked to have seen an episode that showed Tokouchi before he led a life of gambling in the streets. It also would have been cool to have gotten to know what motivated some of the other characters to pursue a career in Baseball, Kojima was the only notable character that received a substantial backstory.
All in all, One Outs is a solid anime that showcases a psychological aspect to the sport of Baseball that we might not be aware of as an audience. While the characterization for the other characters may be sorely lacking at times, it does not negatively detract from the overall enjoyment that much. If you enjoy anime shows that play with your mind and have you constantly thinking in a diligent manner , One Outs may pique your interest.