Rule of Three: Birdie Wing: Golf Girls' Story - Moving Pictures
The Rule of Three is when you watch three episodes of a TV show and make a judgement based on that whether you’ll continue watching. If a show isn’t sufficiently entertaining after about an hour (not counting ad breaks), then it’s probably not going to be at all. With the current season of anime, some have piqued my interest more than others, like with today's example: a show about golfing.
With five episodes having currently aired, Birdie Wing: Golf Girls' Story is an original anime from Bandai Namco Pictures and directed by Takayuki Inagaki. Ignoring the two most recent episodes — because this series is called "Rule of Three", not "Rule of However Many Episodes There Have Been at Time of Writing" — Birdie Wing follows the stories of two young golfers. Our first protagonist, Eve (played by Akari Kitō), lives in the fictional country of Nafrece and uses her immense golfing skill in tandem with her absurd strength to win money off of the greedy in underground golf matches and duels. On a conceptual level, the idea of clandestine golfing that is occasionally even sponsored and run by powerful crime families is patently ridiculous. However, Birdie Wing displays its golf matches with such a sense of style that even this premise is easy to follow along with if you allow it to. Additionally, the golf-centric world the show creates is internally consistent and allows its concept to serve as a base for some excellent drama and storytelling. Eve defeats others at golf specifically to provide enough money to care for a group of orphans that all live together in a shop. But because of that, she’s had to take on a rather mercenary approach to golfing, seeing it more as “just hitting a ball with a club” rather than really “playing” the game.
That brings us to Birdie Wing’s second protagonist, Aoi Amawashi (played by Asami Seto), the child of two golfing legends and a golf prodigy in her own right, with a true passion for the craft. Hailing from Japan, Aoi starts out as the favourite to win an Under-15 golf tournament in Nafrece, determined to perform well and have fun playing the game along the way. She meets Eve in a chance encounter when she spies one of her competitors in the tournament giving up against the powerhouse in a one-on-one match. Curious about this potential new challenger, Aoi approaches Eve and asks if the two of them can play a hole together. Eve, of course, asks how much Aoi would like to bet, but the prodigy instead remarks that she wouldn’t want to besmirch the game that she loves and respects so much.
As the two tee off, both discover that the other is truly amazing at the art of golf and quickly grow a deep respect for each other. Aoi’s more than glad to have someone around her age that can match her skills, whereas Eve is starting to enjoy herself and actually have fun while golfing. As they bond as friendly rivals — almost but never explicitly bordering on gal pal territory — Aoi asks something of Eve: play with her again. This leads Eve to make a deal with one of the golf-focused crime families in the area (as you do) to gain a special invitation to the Under-15 tournament for the final day of the competition, where she quickly rises through the ranks. Despite being surrounded by competition, it comes down to Eve and Aoi for the ultimate victory… but the duo are denied a satisfying resolution to their duel, cementing a desire to play against each other, just one more time.
All in all, these first three episodes truly deliver on bombastic action, with golf balls bursting and rocketing around the screen with the use of rather easy-to-follow and seamless blending of 2D and 3D animation. I couldn’t help but stay engrossed with every swing of the club: from Eve’s powerfully aimed shot that passes through a passing train and bounces off a rake, landing her a golden opportunity, to Aoi’s perfect golf ball landing that just misses a sand trap and rolls down the green far enough to give her a shot at a birdie. So far, Eve undeniably has more opportunities to show off her amazing golfing feats, including one multi-episode trick that depends on changing the geography of the land in a prior match that had me laughing in glee. All in all, this original anime feels very much like it could be its own golf videogame and one that I would very much love to play right now. Even if you want to ignore anything else that Birdie Wing gets right, the show can easily sell itself on the fun factor alone.
Even so, this anime has shown itself to have far more than just a wide variety of stylish swings. Of course, that seems to be Birdie Wing’s primary selling point thus far, but who doesn’t want a little variety? The characters have all been incredibly memorable, and each of them has a very entertaining personality. My personal favourite has to be Amane Shinjō (played by Ami Koshimizu), Aoi’s no-nonsense caddy/personal assistant who initially dismisses Eve as a credible rival before finding herself increasingly shocked by the supposed newbie’s prowess. While it is very fun to see Amane get disproved in her assumptions, the caddy is also just a good friend and advisor to Aoi, offering the passionate golfer a bridge to interact with those less sincere than she is while also never forcing her to go along with anything.
Another downright impeccable area is the soundtrack and sound effects. Every club’s swing is crisp and backed by an inspiring score, but the standouts here are undeniably the opening and ending credits for each episode. The opening — backed with the blood-pumping track “Venus Line” from pop singer/songwriter Kohmi Hirose — is an unrepentantly bombastic occasion, offering a flurry of colour and golf action. While the entire minute and 30 seconds are a wonderful sight, I am particularly glad to see one of my favourite polearm manoeuvres in the first few seconds. Eve holds her club tucked under her arm with one hand attached roughly in the middle of the pole’s length before releasing her hand and allowing the club to slide forward before catching the handle with the exact same hand. The movement is rendered with a close-up shot of Eve’s gloved hand and the movement is as fluid as can be. Is that a weird animation/movement to single out and enjoy? Probably! But it hits the right buttons for me and that’s enough.
The ending — featuring “Yodaka” from Tsukuyomi — is comparatively more relaxed in its opening moments, before slowly shifting into a more energetic finish. Those ending shots have some beautiful bird animations forming a silhouette of our two central protagonists, but what truly impressed me here were the stylish watercolour pictures of the main cast alongside breath-taking scenery in its slower moments. Even though “Yodaka” is so soothing that I would just love to sit back and let the song wash over me, I never want to miss the visuals.
If all of that wasn’t enough to convince you to give Birdie Wing a shot, please let me say this: Aoi’s personal golf balls have Pac-Man on them and she calls her golf balls “Pakkun.” That is objectively very cute and also pretty good branding on Bandai Namco’s part.
Birdie Wing: Golf Girls’ Story is streaming now on Crunchyroll.