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Ooi! Tonbo – 03

It would be hard to find an anime more ignored in the English-speaking word than Ooi Tonbo. So many strikes… It’s a sports anime, which is trouble to begin with. It’s golf (hell, the manga is published in a golf magazine). It has no superpowers or “Hunger Games” ripoffs. It has no bishounen and while the heroine is a cute girl, she’s not sexualized. It’s not that surprising that none of the major streamers picked it up, as it probably would have been almost as ignored if they had.

Yet here we are, in a season full of bubble series, and Ooi Tonbo is the first non-sequel I’m confirming. If the criteria were different it’d be the sort of show I’d just watch – these posts will go largely unread. But sometimes you have to do something for yourself, especially when you put the hours in that I do. It’s more fun blogging shows I like, that’s a given. Once in a great while a series I cover for my own gratification actually winds up growing a local following here, like Ginga e Kickoff.  This isn’t GeK – that series was on another level of great – but it’s still among the most entertaining entries of the season so far.

The geeky golf stuff here is really fun for me, but we’re starting to unbox Igaiga’s story just a bit too. He’s starting to let his guard down a little – like the professional way he mows the greens at the course (which is a lot more complex than non-golfers imagine it is). Tonbo is also bragging to the others about how good a golfer he is, and when they inevitably all play a round he realizes he’d better sandbag a little or their suspicions will be raised. He does so (lifting a finger off the club on his drive) but Tonbo isn’t fooled for a second.

It’s understandable that Igaiga is becoming more and more fascinated with this wild child who does wonders with a golf ball purely with instinct. Her grip, her swing plane, the club face – she’s always tweaking something to compensate for only having that one club. But there’s only so much you can do with a 3-iron, and a lot you can’t – like aim straight for the pin on a short approach over a bunker from a sand-filled divot. He’s desperate to see her hit a wedge – the club a true golfer can work magic with. But Tonbo just isn’t interested – ever after watching him pull off that approach out of the divot.

Igaiga’s eventual ploy – replacing the tattered grip on the three with a brand new one and putting her old grip on a 58-degree wedge – is a clever one (if a little presumptuous). But there’s more to this story – the wedge he uses belonged to his son Rintaro (Hatanaka Tasuku). Igaiga wasn’t exactly the father of the year, let’s put it that way. I’d thought that it was problems on the course (maybe the yips)  that drove him into self-exile, but it seems as if those on-course problems bled over into his personal life, and that may have been the real reason he fled. He certainly seems to have destroyed his son’s love for the game, and certainly regrets it.

I’m kind of conflicted by what we see happening after that reveal. On the one hand, it’s great to see this deepening bond between Tonbo and Igaiga – one which each of them gets something out of. Tonbo is regenerating Igaiga’s own love for golf, and in fact he says she’s the first “friend” he’s ever had on the course (which is actually pretty sad). On the other, that shouldn’t be a substitute or even proxy for making things right with Rintaro – who’s the one that’s really been wronged here. It would be nice if Igaiga doesn’t forget that, and where his true responsibilities lie.

All that tricksy stuff Igaiga shows Tonbo with the wedge is proof of his renewed sense of fun. And obviously she’s entranced by all of it, but there’s a method to his madness here. That two ball trick is an actual teaching tool, but even here she finds a way to outsmart the challenge in Tonbo-style, not by the book. Golf does indeed have an insane number of rules, and theories about technique. But she’s just fine without any of that. Still, Tonbo refuses to entertain the idea of being a pro – again, circling back to her obsession with never leaving Hinoshima. There’s no way to spend money there anyway, so why should she try and get rich becoming a pro golfer?

This actually puts me in mind of the current baseball manga Diamond no Kouzai (Days of Diamond) – and this topic comes up in the “My Taste is Better Than Yours” episode that covers it. If someone is a genius at something, does that mean they have an obligation to perform at that level? Is it wrong for Tonbo to “waste” her talent knocking the ball around her little home course when she has the potential to compete at the highest level? What is she’s happy just as she is? These are not simple questions to answer, and I suspect this is one of the themes Ooi Tonbo asks us to consider.

The post Ooi! Tonbo – 03 appeared first on Lost in Anime.

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