In every anime season lies a hidden gem or two. And fans of those series always want these hidden gems to receive the spotlight they rightfully deserve. Whether they emerge as fan-favorites come season’s end or remain a series most people still haven’t watched, there’s always at least one hidden gem out there that people are missing out on.
To establish a hidden gem, there needs to be some baselines set other than it being a good series. For one, a hidden gem is also a series that has yet to make the top-10 in any anime poll this year, has a relatively small following, and has received minimal coverage since it began airing. For the Spring 2022 season, the hidden gem is undoubtedly Birdie Wing – Golf Girls’ Story. The original anime series was first announced at the end of October 2021 and ended up becoming Bandai Namco Pictures’ first TV anime series of 2022.
Currently, the series has yet to make the top-10 in any weekly anime poll, including our own. It’s not even in the top-30 highest-rated anime of the season on both MyAnimeList and Anilist. The official Twitter is also near the bottom for followers with just above 9,600. Yet, since the first episode aired back on April 6, Birdie Wing has presented itself to be much more than what it lets on with its name.
Birdie Wing Hasn’t Missed Yet
The series is currently six episodes in and has yet to skip a beat. While “what’s the end goal for this series?” is a valid question that some critics might have–it’s also the reason why it has been utterly fantastic. Anyone who thinks this anime was set to be some kind of slow, golf anime couldn’t be any more wrong. While no end goal seems to be set as many sports anime have near the beginning, the possible ending shifts from episode to episode.
In the six episodes that have aired, Birdie Wing has presented mafia bosses, underground gambling, double agents, corrupt police officers, starving orphans, a pitch of fan service, and two main characters who present an incredible rivalry rooted in stellar contrast and their love of competing.
While the plot of Birdie Wing isn’t as intricate as other sports anime like Haikyuu!! or other original anime such as Great Pretender, the series still manages to make it about golf but in the most thrilling ways possible. Yes, the series plays to some ordinary tropes such as the main characters being rivals. And the series constantly reminds you of how those two main characters, Eve and Aoi, come from completely different backgrounds to the point that some may think “Okay, we get it already.” However, there’s more to it than just that.
Birdie Wing keeps its character’s backgrounds at the forefront in its own interesting way. This is thanks to the inner workings of the side characters and their roles in the story. The effect they have on Eve and Aoi themselves continues to breathe life into the rising action of the story, which is due to the number of conflicts the side characters create in the first place. Again, Birdie Wing involves much more than just people playing golf. If anything, golf is just simply the foundation of the series that ties everything else together.
While the simplistic view of Birdie Wing so far is that Eve and Aoi see each other as respectful rivals while coming from two different lives, it’s how their backstories are told and the build-up to whenever the two play is what the series manages to do so well. And now after episode 6 which aired on Wednesday, Eve is faced with a life or death situation while Aoi is simply out talking to the press as one of the world’s top, young golfers. It’s just one of the many effective techniques Birdie Wing uses to get the viewers invested in its characters and what it will all lead to next.
Anime Makes Everything Exciting
Some are right when they think a golf anime would probably be boring to watch. But those people also forget it’s anime—it can make anything exciting with the proper staff, cast, animations, and writing. While Birdie Wing gives us moments of regular tee-offs and simple moments we’d see in real-life golf, it takes the sport to an over-the-top level that makes the series humorous at times but also one that makes your adrenaline pump, much like Tribe Nine did with baseball back in the Winter 2022 season. The big difference between the two is that Birdie Wing has a legitimate plot on its hands.
Whether it’s gorgeous scenery or amazing camera work like in episode 4, Director Takayuki Inagaki and the rest of the production staff have managed to take one of the slowest sports in the world and turn it into an invigorating original series—something only the power of anime could accomplish. Not only can this respectful work be seen in the animations and writing, but also in the characters themselves.
Great Character Designs
Usually, lesser-known anime original series that end up being overlooked by the community tend to have rather bland character designs. While this isn’t always the case (i.e Akudama Drive), it tends to be true. But Birdie Wing didn’t give us a bunch of female characters dressed in typical women’s golf clothing every episode. In fact, each design is a fantastic reflection of each character and their upbringing. And that’s all thanks to the wonderful work by Kei Ajiki.
Ajiki works as the character designer for Birdie Wing and is now on her fifth series in the same role. But for those of you who are fans of animations might know, Ajiki has key animation work in some of the most well-known anime of all time such as the Death Note, Bleach, Naruto Shippuden, Soul Eater, and even more recently, Ranking of Kings and Demon Slayer: Mugen Train. While Ajiki’s history with character design isn’t as historic as her animation work, she still worked as a clothing designer for Vinland Saga and the sub-character designer for Psycho-Pass: The Movie.
As her fifth time being the lead character designer in a series, Ajiki’s designs for Birdie Wing manage to be a hole-in-one. Not only are the character designs a great reflection of each character and their personalities, but they’re just sleek in general. They’re the kind of designs that you can’t help but draw your eye to whenever certain characters are in a scene. The series’ use of close-up shots also emphasizes who each character truly is and really gives you a feel for their personality and what schemes they may be thinking of, some more complicated than others.
While the characters may be pleasant to the eye, it’s the characters themselves that also keep the story going. Each one has a relatively unique story to tell and their own agendas that leave a “trust nobody” feeling whenever they enter the picture. No two characters are alike. This gives rise to a consistency of ideals clashing with one another throughout every episode and keeping the viewers tuned in.
Birdie Wing isn’t a coming-of-age original anime series. It won’t receive the reputation of a Cowboy Bebop or Kill la Kill nor will it captivate fans this season to shoot it to the top of the charts like Vivy: Fluorite Eye’s Song did last year. But it does prove multiple things in its own right. One of those is that since it’s an anime, anything is possible. It took the sport of golf and has used it to turn it into a dramatic spectacle in the past six episodes alone.
Another is that an anime original series will always have the surprise factor on its side. Every episode leaves the viewer wanting more and that’s something an original anime series will always have over adaptations. But while some original anime don’t use this advantage properly, Birdie Wing is excelling with it so far this season.
All in all, Birdie Wing has me glued to my screen every week. It does a phenomenal job of telling multiple stories within each episode while simultaneously moving the main plot along. And the best part is that nobody can guess what the ending will be. Halfway through the season, it’s safe to admit Birdie Wing – Golf Girls’ Story is undoubtedly the hidden gem of Spring 2022.
Episode 7 of Birdie Wing – Golf Girls’ Story will air on Wednesday, May 18, on Crunchyroll. If you like the series, never forget to vote for it in our weekly polls! Let’s get the series into the top-10 for the first time this season!
Images via Crunchyroll
©BNP/BIRDIE WING Golf Club