“That sounds like it would be really boring” was the universal response to the titular question presented by “What If The Female Manager Of A High School Baseball Team Read Drucker’s Management?”, hereafter Moshidora. Conventional wisdom was correct: this show is wholesome, straightforward, and utterly boring. Were it not for the irresistible prospect of reviewing it (and typing that sweet name, over and over again), I would have put the show away after two episodes.
Despite that, the original novel was hugely popular. The anime makes it pretty easy to see why: it’s a sepia-tinted, high school sports fairy tale cunningly disguised as a business manual. Going into Moshidora, I kind of wanted to see a propaganda film, something really ponderous and cultish like one of Happy Science’s many anime films (sadly, Moshidora lacks any character with a name as awesome as God Eagle). I was hoping to see something really weird and terrible, and by being merely watchable, Moshidora actually disappointed me a bit.
The setup is that our heroine Minami, tasked with running a high school baseball team in place of her best friend Yuki (who’s sadly stricken with the common, frequently terminal Anime Disease), happens upon a copy of P.F. Drucker’s classic business text Management: Tasks, Responsibilities, Practices. Of course, Drucker’s business basics turn things around for the struggling team, and as we’re told from the opening monologue (as if to allay potential fears that anything will not go fully as expected) they make it to to the national tournament.
The first few episodes go directly as stated: a light lesson on Drucker is introduced and then immediately applied to an aspect of the baseball team. The format is didactic, but it’s to its credit it is gently so. We’re never beaten over the head with doctrine, and I can see how this was successful as a breezy business text. Of course, I might have preferred a lecture to the actual story of Moshidora, which is so utterly standard it could, in an alternate future, be issued by the government in plain white DVD sleeves reading “Baseball Drama – Slightly Weepy” to otaku who can’t afford the $1000 Blu-Ray box set of Cross Game.
About halfway in, Drucker mostly exits (by the final episodes there’s no room at all for him anymore; Management lies on a bench in the dugout and is sometimes stared at like a beloved father figure) and the baseball melodrama takes center stage as the team takes serious aim at the national tournament. Fueled by the “innovation” of what is maybe the worst strategy I’ve ever heard of, one so ludicrous that they don’t even show it working onscreen (imagine the theoretical Rock King, a shonen fighting manga in which our hero becomes the Rock-Paper-Scissors champion of the world by playing only “rock”), the team blasts through the preliminaries.
The show gets notably gooier in the second half, as the best friend’s Anime Disease worsens, the deciding game approaches, and Minami grits her teeth as she makes exceptions to the parts in Management where Drucker isn’t sentimental enough. Moshidora is as earnest as it is predictable on the way to its climax, as every sports-movie tearjerker trope in the book (not Management) gets pulled out one after the other. Oh, hell, it’s all just so normal that it’s nearly impossible to get excited about. Perhaps excitement is too much too ask for from a story about the characters of a business how-to text that tells you how it ends before the opening credits have rolled.
While they frequently fall back on “and then we won!” speeches playing over montages of still frames, Production IG does a better-than-usual job animating the action on the field in the important moments: the series’ NHK funding (in an unusual scheduling move, the show ran daily on NHK General for ten days) is apparent in its high production values. Towards the end, Moshidora becomes indistinguishable from the kind of high school baseball story that you might expect to come across in Shonen Magazine. It’s just a dull example, is all.
I wanted Moshidora to be propaganda, and while it’s not on the Happy Science level it certainly qualifies: it sells the target audience — the Japanese middle-management schlub — on Drucker’s dry, practical techniques with high-school nostalgia and cheerful, headstrong schoolgirls to great effect. And by “to great effect” I mean the folks behind Moshidora made a lot of money and sold the hell out of Drucker. It doesn’t mean that this anime version actually entertains in any capacity, because it bored me into submission. This is a curiosity at best, with a title more potentially interesting than anything that actually happens in the show. There’s no need to go to the trouble of watching it, any more than you’d rush to the theater to see “Who Moved My Cheese 3D,” a delightful computer-animated children’s musical about a lovable quartet who learn that if you want cheese — you’re just going to have to run!
(The Moshidora movie, starring an AKB48 idol, comes out in June, and just by the involvement of AKB appears to be much more otaku than the anime. Perhaps we are all otaku now.)