What Is It?

Princess Nine is a sports drama by Phoenix Entertainment that tells the tale of nine girls united by a dream, and a game. The central character, Ryo Hayakawa is an ace pitcher with an arm that makes even grown men shudder at the thought of going up to the plate against her. However, due to her gender, Hayakawa’s dreams of baseball glory are nonexistent. Instead, Hayakawa’s real future seems bleak, as the reality of working at her family’s oden restaurant until the day she dies grows increasingly apparent.

Keiko Himuro, chairman of the prestigious Kisuragi School for Girls has other plans. She is tired of being seen as second-class, and having her girls be pigeon-holed into sports with no real future or prestige. To try to counter the stigma, she gathers nine girls for the first all-girl baseball team in Japan. With Hayakawa at the helm, the team’s goals are clear: to capture the national championship at Koshien, and prove that girls can play as well as any guy can.


Why Was It Passed Up??

Unfortunately, Princess Nine has a number of red flags going against it. The biggest, and most obvious is the fact that the show is based on sports. For many American fans, the very mention of “sports’ is an immediate kiss of death. Nevermind that the show only uses sports as a backdrop – shows that use a sports motif are doomed to bargain bins and obscurity, with very few exceptions.

Genre aside, the show’s first volume was released at a busy time of the year, and hit stores within one week of a number of heavy hitters. Notable releases around October 23, 2001 included the following:

  • Sailor Moon movies set
  • Tenchi Universe Complete Collection
  • Serial Experiments Lain Complete Collection
  • Dragon Ball Z TV sets 1 & 2
  • Dragon Ball Z Movies set
  • Vampire Princess Miyu DVD 2
  • Saint Tail DVD 2

Not to mention the fact that, at this point in time, lower-key dramatic genres were closer to the niche than the general appetite of the greater market. America was still feeling the rush of Gundam Wing, and Cowboy Bebop was just beginning to air on American airwaves.

Through everything, ADV remained silent. Aside from a few trailers on their DVDs, the market had absolutely no clue that the show came out. The show was released with an increased episode count (5-4-4-4-4-5…this was a lot back in the day!) and a reduced price point of $19.99 per volume. However, even these factors weren’t able to reverse the tide that the show was up against.


Why This Show??

Princess Nine’s biggest asset is its writing and cast. The characters show a depth and liveliness that is rarely matched. Whether they’re on the mound, or struggling to keep together as a team, the girls display a realistic, down-to-earth quality that just works. The plot follows the typical “sports anime” framework, but manages to tweak enough that the experience is fresh, and engrossing enough to keep viewers wanting more.


Closing Thoughts

Princess Nine is a show that I will always look at fondly. While I’m not a sports fan by any stretch, the show’s core is just so strong that one can’t help but fall in love. The cast is charming, the plot is solid, and everything just seems to work. As Hayakawa leads the team up the ladder, and the trials grow increasingly daunting, one can’t help but be hooked.


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