Gee whiz, character designs are not this series’ strong suit.

Eichirou Maruo is a straight-A student who is incredibly meticulous about each and every little thing he does, whether it’s taking perfect class notes or having exact food portions in his lunch box. Yet, he has zero hobbies and feels that he ought to be squeezing at least some exercise into his busy schedule of studying. Due to the limited free time his honour-student roster leaves him with, he decides to choose something that appears casual and easy for him – tennis – and pays a visit to a local tennis club for a free first lesson. Also at the tennis club is the so-called cutest girl in his year, who has dreams of becoming a pro tennis player – although this is a secret from everyone else she knows.

QUALITY

Man this is an ugly show. I don’t just mean that the character designs are bad or the art is unattractive (although they are, and it is), the whole thing is absolutely shockingly animated and hardly any of the characters even stay on model for the duration of entire scenes. Facial features warp and jump all over the place and anatomical accuracy often goes completely out the window. It’s animated like one of those really crappy filler episodes of One Piece or Naruto that no one really cares about, except this is the first episode, which is meant to be enticing me to watch more. I don’t even think the character animation in Abarenbou Rikishi was this bad, although at least the backgrounds in Baby Steps are passable. And about those character designs…they’re honestly just bad. None of the characters look particularly appealing and most of them are barely even memorable – I would forget completely what Eichirou looked like if he didn’t have what looks like a ridiculous fin on his head.
The thing about sports shows is that the focus is never really on the sport itself so much as the characters, and you simply can not have a good sports series without good characters. So far, none of the characters in Baby Steps appeal. Eichirou is about as interesting as a bag of plain flour, which is somewhat aggravating because his meticulous, obsessive personality could have been interesting or funny if done right. Instead, he’s just…dull. Takasaki, the token ‘cute girl’ (and I use the term ‘cute’ quite generously here considering the animation) is also not particularly engaging. She’s apparently really popular,  but instead of actually showing us anything that makes her particularly interesting or likeable, we only hear the male classmates saying that she is.
To the show’s credit, I do like that this is the first time I’ve seen a sports anime that has the lead character actually start out not knowing anything about the sport and having to work his way from the ground up; even including things like how hard the warmup exercises are to get used to. It also makes the show a lot more accessible to people who don’t actually know anything about tennis…in theory, anyway, because I’m sure the wonky art and boring characters act as a barrier to the show whether you like tennis or not.  I can’t say the show was terrible or I hated it, it was honestly just dull, and definitely the dullest of the new shows I’ve watched so far.

This is about as on-model as she gets.

Out of 5,
melon1/2

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