Well I figured as I’d finally finished off my DVD of the series that it would be a good place to start. It’s a series that I found it hard to get reviews of prior to purchasing, but maybe I was searching for the wrong key-words (Touch + Anime = Weird stuff). But enough of that.
History/Origins: Touch (タッチ Tatchi) is a classic Anime series that aired in 1985 and ran until 1987, it spanned 101 episodes + 5 movies (the last movie aired in 2001). It was adapted from the Manga of the same name, written by Mitsuru Adachi and was serialised in Weekly Shōnen Sunday. It is a ‘slice of life’ anime that revolves around the lives of the main characters, and baseball.
You might possibly be thinking “I’ve never heard of this one. It can’t be very popular”, and I shared those thoughts with you when I first saw the DVDs on sale at a once-reputable Anime store a few years ago. The series didn’t get much attention in the English speaking west, but did get aired in parts of Europe such as Italy, Spain and France. The original manga has been released on 5 different occasions, and the anime was ranked 9th in a 2005 poll of the Top 100 Animated Television Series by TV Asahi. That might not mean alot, but it goes to show that it was (and still is) considered a big deal in it’s native Japan which is very competitive with it’s Manga/Anime rankings.
What I had to work with: Now having never heard of this originally, and being one who has come out on top of a few purchases on random games/anime in the past, I decided to go for it. The DVDs I received did have English subtitles and Japanese audio, but they were hong-kong bootlegs. D’oh. So some important plot points were very badly written in ‘engrish’, but luckily I could understand enough of the voice track to stop myself being lead astray.
The Review: From the very start of the series you are introduced to the 3 main stars of the series. Tatsuya Uesugi, Kazuya Uesugi & Minami Asakura. Tatsuya and Kazuya are identical twins, but they couldn’t be any more different.
Tatsuya, the older of the two, is a natural at what he does but doesn’t like to let that side of himself be seen by anyone. He prefers to appear as lazy and untalented so that he doesn’t feel the pressures of society by needing to be Mr. Perfect, and for the benefit of his brother.
Kazuya meanwhile is the hard-working, talented brother who is always doing his best to meet the expectations of all who are around him. He is the ace pitcher for the schools baseball team, and he admires his brother and wants to be just like him (as his brother doesn’t ever try, but can get results when he does)
Minami, the girl next door, has lived next to the Uesugi’s since birth and treats the twins just like her own brothers. She sees the talents that Tatsuya is trying to hide from everyone.
The series basically goes from the end of middle school through to the end of high-school, and could effectively be broken into 3 seasons/arcs. Over the duration of their high-school years, we get to see the characters develop naturally and grow right until the very last scene.
So being about baseball, we do get shown quite a bit of training and alot of baseball games, but they are charming affairs that sometimes had me feeling anxious to know how the game would end, something that doesn’t happen often to me with sport. But don’t be mistaken, although baseball is seemingly the foundation holds most of the series together, the characters and their lives are what really gave this anime life.
The story telling is quite slow, but part of that makes it appear realistic. You can’t rush 3 1/2 years of character development when you have 101 episodes to work with. And although it isn’t as action packed as say Dragon Ball Z, it was very engaging and after I’d finish an episode, I’d find myself weighing up if I should just watch the next or retire for the night. That is part of the charm though.
The animation style used in the series certainly looks dated and odd at times (Something about their pet dog creeped me out at first) but it turns out for the best at the end of the day. Anime is known for it’s distinctive art style these days, but alot of the older series’ (SDF Macross, Tekkaman Blade, Space Captain Harlock just to name a few) have their own styles that don’t conform to the rules that anime must follow now. Also the music of the show is very fitting and it fits the era, at times it is like listening to the soundtrack of an 80s sitcom or TV-drama and I just loved it.
At the end of the first season there is a major plot-twist that I didn’t see coming which acted as a major driving force for the rest of the series, but it was something that made you stop and think about, especially as you watched the cast trying to come to grips with it themselves and keep on moving with their lives.
So if you do have the opportunity to watch this series I say you won’t regret it. The series pulls the viewer back to a more innocent time in their lives and shows that anime can have a great story without resorting to overly flashy battles, oddly proportioned women, mechs or even Moe at every turn. It is a heartwarming journey through the characters lives that makes you feel as though you could actually imagine these as being real people. *101 episodes is quite alot and may be to much of a time investment for some, but for those that can’t see themselves sitting through the whole series, I’d recommend the first 3 movies. They were a theatrical re-telling of the story that do a good job in showing the series in a much more condensed form. The development of characters isn’t quite as good as each of the movies run at under 2 hours each, but there are still touching scenes that show the characters in a way that the series couldn’t.
My Rating: 9/10 – A must Watch for true Anime fans.
*Before signing off, I should make a quick note in relation to the movies. As they were theatrical movies, the entire series had to be condensed to be told in 3 parts that are just under 2 hours, so there are some minor differences with some events that were shown in the series, but nothing that will make you think you missed out on anything by not watching them. They are a testament as to how popular the series was in Japan, and the first movie aired in 1986 which was before the TV series had stopped airing.