Touch is centered on three characters, Uesugi Tatsuya, a talented, but hopelessly laid-back slacker; his younger twin brother Kazuya, the darling of the family and star pitcher on his middle (and later, high) school baseball team; and their neighbor and childhood friend Asakura Minami, a gymnast (and before long, baseball team manager) who spends all her time studying with Kazuya, and teasing Tatsuya for being so lazy even though he's actually better at everything than either one of them! As they grow older, the feelings between them begin to change and take a romantic turn towards being an archetypal love triangle. And meanwhile, the three of them try to lead their team on that long and arduous journey to high school baseball's ultimate field of dreams: Koshien Stadium.
Touch originally aired in the mid-1980s, but it hasn't garnered much attention in the United States, though it has aired on European television on occasion.
I'm envious. From the get-go, this series has wonderfully endearing characters, excellent writing, and a slow-paced, but entertaining storyline, all of which more than make up for the dated animation and unusual art style.
The twins (two-thirds of the center of this show) are a study in contrast. Tatsuya is the "natural", and true to the Japanese archetype, rather than try hard at *anything*, "Tacchan" doesn't want to be Mr. Perfect at all. He doesn't want that sort of pressure on his life, and it shows. If anything, he wants to be seen like Moroboshi Ataru from Urusei Yatsura, worthless, lecherous, and proud of it, though he's really too noble and innately talented to pull it off.
Meanwhile, earnest and hardworking Kazuya ("Kacchan") practically breaks his back trying to keep up with his brother, and this hard work is what the family (and the rest of the world) sees and rewards. But really, he just wants to be like the brother he admires.
In the middle is Minami, who respects Kacchan's work ethic and Tacchan's free spirit, and loves them both like brothers. "Tacchan is Tacchan, and Kacchan is Kacchan," or so she says. But this is a romance of the best sort, so the love triangle starts to take on overtones of unresolved sexual tension, and very quickly.
And yet, apart from the peekaboo underwear scenes and the boys swapping nudie mags, Touch isn't an overtly sexual show at all. Gentle charm is a quality rarely seen in today's pop culture, yet Touch has it in spades. Rather than concentrating on titillation and fan service, Touch relies mostly on characterization and acting for its romance, and it works far better that way, because you actually grow to care about these characters, right from the beginning. And as a shounen series, Touch doesn't have the same kind of extreme melodrama shown in series like Marmalade Boy and Hana Yori Dango - this is very much a story about boys dealing with their first love, though there are more than a few female anime fans who will identify with the winsome, sweet, but definitely NON-doormat Minami.
But this is about baseball, right? Well, yes and no. The sports plots are mostly a vehicle for the triangle relationship to move forward and get more complicated, but Touch still succeeds quite well as a sports series. Baseball, after all, is a sport that is inherently suited to drama, so this aspect is also dealt with quite effectively. However, I feel that Touch is really less about baseball itself than the people who play it. Another main factor here is that, while Tatsuya is a talented baseball player, he's not actually part of the team to begin with! Still, it's obvious that the creator, Adachi Mitsuru, is an avid baseball fan, and everything is as true to the sport as a dramatic anime will allow.
Though the art style of Adachi Mitsuru seems awkward at first, jug-eared and thin-cheeked as the characters are, it has its own appeal for those willing to take a chance on it. The animation is old (remember, this is a contemporary to Kimagure Orange Road and Macross), but it's adequate for the story being told, and there's nothing bad or jarring about it at all. The music is charming, but equally dated.
The storytelling is slow-paced, yet draws you into the bygone era of 1980s Japan as inexorably as KareKano's at-times hyperkinetic, at-times philosophical characters typify the late 1990s. Touch displays a very distinct sense of realism, too, especially when a tragedy near the end of the series changes the characters' lives forever. I certainly won't spoil exactly what happens, but it's something that few series attempt, much less succeed at telling.
Akin to Maison Ikkoku and Kimagure Orange Road, Touch is a slice of Japanese life that reminds anime fans that people across the world from each other really aren't all that different after all, and it's certainly a change of pace from many of today's flash-before-substance anime. Definitely recommended viewing for the experienced anime fan, Touch reminds us that not every good anime has to be the brashest, newest, brightest, or craziest thing around to be worth watching. Sadly, its age, length (101 episodes is a LOT of translation work), and unusual character designs might prevent this wonderful series from being licensed in a market that is comprised of fans born after the series aired, but for those of you who can get a hold of it, Touch is an anime classic and a time capsule of when life seemed to be so much simpler (even when it really wasn't).
You won't regret this touching, lovable series. Not one bit.
Baseball fans will love this, and fans of romantic soap operas would be remiss in passing up this appealing, gentle drama. — Carlos/Giancarla Ross
Recommended Audience: Tacchan may be a wannabe lech, but nothing really happens in the story other than a few underwear shots and possibly a skin mag or two. Nothing really in the way of violence, either (unless you count Tacchan throwing out his shoulder, or Kacchan falling off the side of a house). Nominally okay for children, though the show would be over their heads. Actually intended for teens and up, really, as they would have the life experience to sympathize with these characters.
Version(s) Viewed: digital source
Review Status: Partial (4/101)
Touch © 1985 Asatsu / Toei / Group TAC
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