In reviewing the sixth and final season of “Major”, I suppose I should say a word about the first five – because in many ways, the continuity of the series is such that all the episodes can be viewed mostly as one long season.
For my tastes, the first season of Major remains the best. The initial six episodes and their tragedy were perfect, and Goro was an amazingly gripping main character right from the start. The camaraderie of the Mifune Dolphins never seemed to be quite matched by any of Goro’s later squads, and the friendships – Shimizu, Komori, Sawamura – and Goro’s relationship with Momoko were the best of the series.
That aside, there was something to be said for all the seasons. While the show was somewhat inconsistent after the first season it was never less than interesting, and occasionally brilliant. Goro’s HS career was capped by the match with Kaidou, one of the best of the entire series. Watching Goro humbly scratch his way through the Minors was often hilarious and moving. And the World Cup season was consistently exciting – probably the second-best overall season – especially the subplot with Gibson. Indeed, Gibson Sr. was responsible for many of the best moments in Seasons 2-6. He was always a complex, conflicted character but he changed the most of anyone – both in terms of his makeup and the way he was perceived by the audience – of any character.
As for S6, it was probably middle of the pack for me. The first dozen or so eps were excellent – I loved the “Yips” storyline. But it was plagued by inconsistency a bit after that, with some of the dramas being resolved in a rather formulaic manner. It rallied at the end, with the last game of Goro’s season a dramatic high-point. In terms of pacing, I would guess that there were originally plans for a seventh season, because the drama peaked with two eps to go and much of the eye-opening development occurred in a short musical epilogue. We may very well see some of that epilogue (direct from the manga) fleshed out in the OVA – I hope so.
In the end, “Major” is all about Goro Shigeno (though he’ll always be “Honda” to me – and Shimizu). He’s one of the essential characters of modern ani-manga – a stubborn, short-sighted, frustrating, and incredibly talented, courageous and big-hearted guy. This series is really about Goro’s incredible force of will, and the impact it has on everyone around him. GAR hardly even seems adequate to describe him – he has absolutely no fear, and will sacrifice himself to the point of foolishness for the sake of his team. He wrecked his right shoulder as a kid doing that, and almost wrecked the left in S6. But that’s Goro – for him, the competition is everything, the spirit of the battle. He’s a modern warrior in baseball cap (that never fits) and spikes. And his sheer will inspires Komori, Shimizu, Toshi, Watts, Keene, Gibson Jr… The list is endless. They all want to support him, or battle him, or strangle him sometimes – but the excitement he brings to their lives is like a drug.
Where S6 – and Major as a whole – fits into the grand pantheon of sports series depends on your POV. It certainly doesn’t aspire to gritty realism – this is a celebration of the exceptional, with exceptional events to match. But it brings genuine excitement and an infectious love for the game of baseball. And even setting Goro aside, there are wonderful characters here. Shimizu Karou obviously, the love of Goro’s life – but also her little brother Taiga, played with wonderful snark by Paku Romi. Little Komori, the overachiever who always wanted to do Goro proud. Joe Gibson, the arrogant young star who grew through tragedy into a sensitive giant of a man, and almost as GAR as Goro. We meet most of them again in the credits of the finale, and it’s a nice trip down memory lane. Major has been a part of my life for so long that it’s hard to imagine it never will be again. Since the flawless S1 none of these seasons has ever found Major at the very top of my list, but it’s always there – waiting for me like a worn-in mitt, ready to be picked up anytime. I could always count on Goro for a straightforward, optimistic and fearless take on life and set aside darker thoughts to root him on for 22 minutes. That, I think, is really something to be treasured.