Baby Steps Anime Announced (Updated 11/14)

Updated info below the fold.

Update: It’s Pierrot, 25 episodes.  Of most interest to me was this quote: “Katsuki is collaborating on the creation of episodes with original stories not told in the manga.”

My initial reaction to this is pretty negative, to be honest.  Pierrot has access to some top-line directors, but they also sometimes deliver excruciatingly bad CGI (see: Kingdom).  It seems they’re going to try and tell an alternate and complete version of the manga (29 volumes as of today) in two cours.  At least Katsuki-sensei is involved, so maybe they’ll come up with something decent – if this works, it could end up being a blessing in disguise.  But I was certainly hoping for an encyclopedic retelling of the manga by Production I.G. or Madhouse.

Taking some of the sting off the disappointment over the Hunter X Hunter false alarm comes one of my happiest adaptation announcements ever: Baby Steps will be getting an anime next Spring.  And even better, it’s coming from NHK, which could mean a long run.

I wrote a short appreciation of Baby Steps not long after I started this blog (14 volumes ago!).  I love sports manga, but this, for me, is one of the very best.  I played tennis and I know the sport well, and this gets it spot-on (unlike the other tennis manga that got an adaptation).  Ei-chan is one of the best and most unusual main characters out there, the romance element is sweet and unforced, and the matches themselves are beautifully portrayed.  It’s a great manga, and it certainly should be a great anime.



  1. t

    thanks for the info.
    interesting. I am not familiar with the manga. I'll start reading it sometime…as a sports fan, I know I'd most likely to fall for baby steps.
    I am not that familiar with tennis in sports-anime mostly because I haven't seen prince of tennis anime (nor I read the manga).. so I hope baby steps will do the job for me (:

  2. t

    Haikyuu (volleyball sports manga) also got confirmed for next spring (announced about a month ago or more).
    I guess we are gonna see much more sports anime (or manga or whatever) in the following years to come by, due to the olympic games in 2020 in Japan.
    I don't know how it really is in japan or what they (the japanese) really think in that matter…but I do believe it has or will have effect in that matter.

  3. I tried to get into Haikyuu after the anime announcement and I will give the anime a trial, but it just didn't click for me. It seems like WSJ sports manga basically consist of two things: superpowers and fujoshi shipping.

  4. K

    Cool haven't read the manga (since I barely read manga anymore) but it sounds good. I look forward to the anime.

    More sports series is always a good thing.

  5. i

    "Stick your hand out you (omitted)"

    Ginban Kaleidoscope, FMA (original) and Prince of Tennis were the three animes that made me a fan. The shoujo romance with slight josei appeal of GK, the seinen like shounen series that was FMA and the pure shounen sports fun of Prince of Tennis appealed to me so much so that I began watching a medium I personally viewed as the domain of introverts and losers.

    And those three types of anime are the core around which most and my certainly my favorite animes are based: romance, shounen action/mystery and sports. I added comedy out of fondness but in the last 6 or so years those three anime I first watched in horrible dubs on Animax stole me. They were all in a way my Baby Steps to this medium.

    Ginban and FMA essentially stole me but the sheer length of PoT kept me long enough in anime to become a fan. I won't say it's the best anime ever made but to make fun of it royally pisses me off. It is to me what Fishcake/Clorox/NonexistentPiece are to a number of anime fans.

    "So hold your hand out, you S**********." lol.

  6. All I said was it doesn't get the tennis spot-on – it's not like I compared it to Nisio Isin or something. And as someone who played the sport (and still does, on occasion) I'll stick by that assessment to my last breath…

  7. R

    Yeah, I was reading it some time ago, don't know for sure why I stopped (probably because of time constraints), maybe I'll go look at it again. ^^

  8. E

    One of my favorites too. Ei Chan is a excellent main.

  9. S

    Wow, this news just made my day! I’m a big fan of real-life professional tennis (RF mostly), I love the Prince of Tennis series and I love the Baby Steps manga.

    By the way, is tennis actually popular in Japan? I know they have a top-20 player, a few top-100 players by the men side and an ATP Masters tournament, but I’m not sure whether it’s a much played sport over there.

  10. Yes, quite popular – about on the same level as in the US I'd say.

  11. R

    Kei Nishikori is quite popular there. Though they don't have a master 1000 tournament. I hope that Enzo is right about this being spot on. I was completely unable to watch prince of tennis because of how much of a joke portrayal it was (Avid tennis player/watcher here). A real tennis manga is appreciated.

  12. I'm hard-pressed to find any fault with its depiction of the sport. It's exhaustive in detail and wide-ranging, from fitness to coaching and even using Zen meditation. You could say Ei-chan is a bit of a conceit, as he's a completely ordinary physical specimen who excels at the game because of his mental prowess – but look at Nishikori Kei. And Ei-chan by no means gets there without seriously obsessing over his strength and fitness.

  13. I should point out, too, that Nishikori Kei is a "character" in Baby Steps according to the mangaka – though she changed the name and a few details. She interviewed Kei and a slew of teenage Japanese prospects for research.

    I should also point out that women's tennis is also a major focus of the series – including the differences between it and the men's game.

  14. R

    Heh, but Kei is always held back by his frail body! He has the talent, but so many injuries. But nah, that's not exactly an issue. Look at David Ferrer. Barely 5'9 and he's number 4 in the world at the age of 32.

    But this is good to hear, I might preview the manga before it airs.

  15. But The Little Beast is built like a rugby player. Kei is… not. And Ferrer himself has still not won any slams, largely because he lacks the power game to get through the big four in five-set matches.

    For the record Ei-chan (the MC) is not the one based on Kei, but this he definitely struggles with the issue of trying to be dominant without being naturally large. Let's be honest, this is not an uncommon issue for Japanese men in international sports.

  16. S

    Good to hear tennis is popular over there. I presumed tennis was less played in Japan in favor of other racquet sports (badminton, table tennis) like other Asian countries, since the sport requires a lot of upper body strength which the general Asian population lack in comparison with Western people (Of course there are exceptions). But I guess the successes of Na Li, Kei Nishikori and the international fame of tennis superstars has contributed to the popularity?

    (My mistake about the ATP Masters, it’s an ATP 500 tournament. I mixed it up with the Shanghai tournament)

  17. Don't forget that Japan also has Date Kimiko, who's been a very fine player on the WTP for decades and in fact is the oldest woman ever to win a WTP event.

    I think in comparison to many sports, it's quite possible to compete in tennis without a lot of upper-body strength. And I also wouldn't generalize too much in that respect, because there are plenty of Japanese guys who are buffed out (rugby is also popular here). What seems to hurt Ferrer and Nishikori isn't so much upper-body strength (Ferrer is a kaibutsu) but height. Shorter players are at a disadvantage in the modern men's game, especially when it comes to the serve.

  18. S

    Yes, how could I overlook Kimiko Date Krumm, the female player who had successes when current top-ranked players (and myself) were still in elementary school.

    Regarding the upper-body strength, I was comparing tennis with other racquet sports. Good tennis players have broad shoulders and a strong arm, while for badminton players strong wrists and forearm are required. Table tennis and badminton are more popular in Asian countries than tennis and I think it’s related with their body types. Of course there are exceptions: Na Li, for example, had to quit badminton because her shoulders were too broad and her wrists not good enough, so she turned towards tennis.
    And I learned from the Eyeshield 21 series (sometimes anime can teach things) that rugby/American football has become more popular in Japan.

    You’re right about the lack of height and firepower of small male players. Even though they make up for it with their counterpunching style relying on footwork, speed around the court, stamina, consistency and mental toughness (Nishikori sometimes uses the jumping “Jack Knife” backhand from Prince of Tennis for a more powerful stroke), there is a limit to how much one can compensate a natural disadvantage with work ethic.
    But as you would know, height isn’t everything. Tall players like Isner, Raonic, Berdych, Del Potro (though he comes close) who rely on their powerful service can’t consistently win from the elite players since they lack finesse, stamina and footwork.

  19. K

    On another note there is another famous tennis anime: Aim for the Ace. Never saw it myself but it is also considered very good. Gangbusters plays homage to it.

  20. K

    That is Gunbuster (stupid autocorrect)

  21. e

    Aim for the Ace was pretty good (although frankly speaking between the recap movies and the series remake + sequels combined with my tender age when I first starting following it – here i n Itay they dubbed and broadcast all of it ;D – my memories are sorta blending together ) in true blood sweat and tears and sacrifice old school 'shonen' sport series spirit. I still dig Ace's overall aesthetics (Dezaki's direction and dramatic flair + Akio Sugino's golden age chara design yey ).
    And really while I'm really grateful for good sport series still being adapted from shonen mangas I find pretty sad how anime sport series from shoujo and josei outside of Chihayafuru seem to be such an endangered species.

  22. Maybe Chihayafuru will pave the way with its modest commercial success. Got any recent titles in mind?

  23. e

    @Guardian Enzo: I apologize in advance for a few sidetracks X,D, I'm leaving the 'true' sport titles in bold .
    That's the problem Enzo: :,D there is a sore lack of sport titles in the female demographic (good, popular, or both). In the '80s you could still find a lot (especially for ballet, gymnastic and volleyball) but after that… Chihayafuru in this aspect feels like a shoujo and josei sport manga&anime from three if not four decades ago :).
    In recent years you'd rather a Chihaya degree of goal-oriented protagonist to find in some non-sport josei and shoujo titles (Oishii Kankei and Real Clothes had this for their working women protagonists and the man whose job they admire and wishes to learn from [in OK she does fall in love with the chef and future sensei soon after after falling in love with his food though, RC has romance flags at present], while Ashita no Ou-sama had this in the female MC obsession for theatre and aim to become a drama writer [this is also much less romance-heavy than OK and yay for concision.Among the theatre play subgenre is a very little known work but frankly it kicks ass] <— all three titles scanlated at Wingtip Café. Same scanlation team is doing Shanimuni Go! – tennis, shoujo, male protagonist – but I haven't checked it out yet ).
    Recent titles with sport as the MC's aim if not the main focus: right now on the top of my head I can only recall Crimson Hero ( female and male volleyball. It sorta meandered due to the romance triangle after a few volumes. Still have to catch up with anything after volume #7, but at least they finished scanlating the whole series a few months ago ) ,
    Mizushiro Setona's S (tennis, three volumes. I haven't read it – no scans – but this mangaka in general is a bit hit and miss – she likes to cross genres but the results are a bit uneven in quality – . I really like a few of her works – Diamond Head in the high school friendship&romance [with a whole defendant and plaintiff judgement school club with related detective story bits 😀 ] . camp, Afterschool Nightmare for the sexual&gender exploration+horror . And as mature malexmale dysfunctional relationships go she's one of the very few who got something good and believable out of such themes imho wth her Cat and Mouse josei series ].
    There's a fair bit of boxe in Mari Okazaki's BX . I have a bit of weak spot for this mangaka. Even when the characters she portrays are not that great personality-wise (see under: Shutter Love <— photography nuts ) the storytelling and her very personal art (panel composition, angles, the faces ) tend to capture me as in a lucid dream.
    Purikyuu by Kyousuke Motomi (archery, one volume, complete)
    Naoko Takeuchi's most succesful manga before Sailor Moon was her The Cherry Project about ice skating ( that said honestly I would not really recommend it unless you're curious about sampling Mrs. Togashi's storytelling skills or lack thereof :,) ) .

  24. e

    Oh great instead of bold tags I got italics save for the last title. I'm so sorry!

    Continued from the above comment:
    With some sport bits that are important but have less on-screen presence so to speak:
    Fuyumi Souryo's had the main MC aiming to play basketball in her Boyfriend series and in her Mars the male MC pursuit of professional motorbike racing is one of the reasons he's estranged from his father but in both cases the guy's family issues take the cake by far vs the sport aspect (she is definitely more at ease with the psychological bits… as in her seinen Eternal Sabbath where the protagonist is a male 'esper' (sorta. It's complicated. Ad pretty dark)).

  25. R

    I haven't read the manga, but I'm intrigued. I like stories that combine sports and romance in one — Chihayafuru is one great example that comes to mind. I read the link that you provided, and it says Saito Kenji will be the producer. Call me stupid or ignorant, but I'm still not 100% sure how big the role of a producer is to the quality of an anime. However, Saito-san was involved in a number of shows that I like — Bakuman, Dennou Coil, Hyouga Mono, and Kingdom — and this adds confidence to the upcoming adaptation. In fact, it excites me a bit.

    Enzo, they haven't announced which studio or staff will be involved, haven't they?

  26. No they have not. I too like much of Saito's work and take his involvement as a modestly good sign, though it doesn't offer any clues as to which studio might be involved. Neither does NHK, as they've produced shows with just about everybody. It could conceivably be I.G., which would obviously be great – they have a history with both sports and NHK – though I wouldn't be surprised if it ended up being someone like TYO or TMS.

    Don't mistake me – the romance isn't as big a component here as it is in Chihayafuru. And there's no triangle, either – well, not in the same sort of way. The romance is more of the charming variety than the dramatic variety.

  27. R

    Thank you, Enzo :-). I will take note of the advice. Well, whether romance is a big part or just a dash to spice up the story, I will be looking forward to it.

  28. Z

    The MC "E-chan" reminds me of Kubo from Otaku no video. Except he gave up on tennis to become an otaku lol.

  29. S

    I don't think I've actually heard of Baby Steps before, sounds like something I'd like to watch/read though. PoT is the only tennis related manga I've read and while I enjoyed it at the time, I'll wholeheartedly agree that it's an incredibly unrealistic portrayal of tennis. Since tennis is my favorite sport and I play pretty regularly, I've definitely gotta check out the Baby Steps manga.

  30. e

    Aaah I remember you mentioning this manga before. The more sports anime the better if the source material is good. Another title to look forward to…

  31. Z

    Just no more flowery sports manga please.

  32. M

    Baby steps, ZZ, baby steps.

  33. e

    Define 'flowery' here? 😀

  34. A

    In the world of anime and manga, there are only 3 things that, if announced, would make my year, and this is one of them. I've been playing tennis as a hobby for over 5 years now and this is easily one of my favorite series ever.

  35. S

    It was announced this morning on ANN that Baby Steps will be animated by Pierrot with 25 episodes.

  36. R

    Yes, it would have been nice if it were either I.G. or Madhouse. Hope that Pierrot will put in some money and effort to do it properly and not treating it like what it is to Kingdom.

  37. s

    I was actually going to start reading the manga but was going to pause when I heard about an anime adaption. Now it seems I'll avoid the anime adaption entirely and just stick to reading the manga afterall.

    Thanks for the Info Enzo! While I like Periot, I'm not interested in seeing a 29 volume manga's story changed, and condensed into a 2 cour series. Disappointing indeed, as I had been hearing from quite a few anime fans of refined tastes as yours that this was one of the best sports manga out there (and one that I hadn't read yet).

  38. R

    I'mma cry. Normally I don't care if anime decides to go the original story route but in this case I am going to sulk and throw a tantrum because, like you, Baby Steps is one of my favorite sports series. Honestly, the fact that they're trying to cram it into two cours is the part that gets me. Part of the reason why Baby Steps seems like a much more realistic portrayal of tennis is the fact that the progression is slow, natural and well paced.

    Tennis being the only sport I've played for any relatively long period of time, I'm just UGH.

  39. M

    "Part of the reason why Baby Steps seems like a much more realistic portrayal of tennis is the fact that the progression is slow. "

    That could be part of Pierrot's justification to condense the 29 volume material.

    For me Urasawa's tennis manga, Happy! would have been a more interesting prospect, but mid 00s sport manga are naturally all the rage right now.

  40. R

    I understand that to a certain degree, but I can't think of a single sports series, slow or fast paced, that can fit comfortably into 2 cours.

    I mean, even the comparably fast paced series are…well, slower when it comes to buildup. It's part of the whole "sports" thing. Part of the fun is watching the teams win their way up, stumble, fail, get back up. I think series where the main character blazes through everything because of natural talent would probably turn me off of it >_<

    I really wish this was 5 years ago right now where these sorts of series could run for 100+ episodes man T_T

  41. M

    Back in the 80s, 26 episode length was the exception and 100 the mean. Quite a few of those sports anime too.

  42. Z

    "I really wish this was 5 years ago right now where these sorts of series could run for 100+ episodes man T_T"

    You need to go further back than 5 years to get that kind of episode count.

  43. R

    Shoot, I do don't I.

    I hate reminders of how old I am now XDD

  44. e

    The good ol' times when you were young but still old enough to remember those Ashita no Joe, Tiger Mask, Ace wo Nerae and Touch broadcasts :,D…

  45. S

    Hey Enzo, I don't know how much sports manga you've read or are reading right now, but do you have a list of sports manga you would recommend? I really like Adachi stuff, and Slam Dunk was a favorite of mine, but I've kinda stopped reading sports manga, and I'd like to get back into it. If you have any recommendations, that would be cool (kind of irrelevant to the topic of the post, but I figured this was as good a place as any).

  46. Well, not knowing what you've read and not… I'll assume you've read Adachi thoroughly. Off the top of my head:

    Ginga e Kickoff (anime is a better choice)
    Giant Killing (both equally good)
    Major (ditto)
    Yowamushi Pedal (anime just started)
    Hikaru no Go (both great)
    Chihayafuru (both great)
    Capeta (both great, anime stops about halfway)

  47. S

    Ah, thanks for the list. I've actually read Major (never watched it), but Capeta, Giant Killing, and Ginga e Kickoff all look like things I would enjoy (I started Chihayafuru, working my way through that. Anyway, thanks again, looks like I have a good amount of reading to do.

  48. e

    Ginga E Kickoff is wonderful :,)
    You might try also this one about tennis… it's pretty good so far 🙂
    and this boxe-flavoured short series – this mangaka's style can be a love or hate thing though –

  49. t

    Pierrot hah?interesting.
    for a moment I was negative too..then I was thinking about it…"don't jump into conclusions". it's interesting. kingdom is adapted very well. and they did hikaru No Go, but it was a long time ago.
    I don't think they'll stick to CGI like kingdom, so I hope there is no reason to worry in that matter. if there is CGI…that's not good..not at all..on the other hand, even YP has some CGI and it's looking good. but kingdom CGI won't be good…

    well…it will be interesting seeing sports by Pierrot. not the optimal studio for sports anime, unlike madhouse X IG…but let's give them a chance.

    thanks for the update

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