There will be no seventh season. This is it: finito. Any wrapping up will be left to the OVA released with the final volume of the manga. I suppose Major could have concluded in much worse ways, but it also deserved much better. Considering the pummelling of mopey drama that plagued the most recent instalments, Season Six’s inability to take off rocket-like – with a final bang, if you will – feels a bit like the additional kick in the shin.
The first clue of something amiss is the slew of generally uninteresting persons gobbling up screen time that used to belong to the baseball games. Season Six wheels in a psychiatrist, a personal trainer, and several recurring major league players, all ready to air their problems or jump into Goro’s. This means plenty of trivial subplots and none that hang together. The best of them is new Hornets player, Murdoch, who performs with an intriguing blend of exceptional skill and exceptional anger. Watching him fight the bitterness of past betrayals while his daughter weeps from the sidelines brings an emotional tang that the rest of the show desperately needs. And Gibson Junior continues to lurk in the narrative's crannies like an ambivalent weed, desperate to grow to his father's heights but unable to overcome his plummeting average. He's mostly no fun.
The second clue is that the already sparse games deliver little progression or continuity. The script hovers over a particularly intense confrontation – Goro dealing with a tough umpire, for instance, or Junior facing his father’s pitches for the first time – but once that's over, it cuts to the score board announcing the results of the entire match. As a result, not only do we never stay with one game long enough to settle into its flow, but the bulk of the action occurs off-screen. Such frustrating, halting development means the show never gathers enough momentum to sweep us along.
Considering I voiced similar reservations about Season Four and the movie, the failings here deserve special attention only because they could have been avoided. For the first time Major introduces significant elements of filler: there's one where Goro refuses to star in an advertisement, or another where opponents wound Goro's ego so he can't perform, and generally Goro just losing over and over until it hurts even the viewer. Although these insertions bulk up the source material without undermining its original theme or logic, they also drag out the weak links and create long periods of lag. As a result, the middle feels less like feverishly exciting vintage Major and more like a lukewarm approximation.
Thankfully, the quality works like an inverted bell curve so that both the start and finish deliver something we recognise. At first we find Goro in the grip of a psychological crisis called yips, which seems a good opportunity for the show to cure him of his loser’s streak. Our hopes and interest rise accordingly. 'Yips or hops or chips,' as Goro dismisses it in one impassioned speech, but it could be alcoholism or an unhealthy foot fetish for all the difference it makes to the flimsy middle episodes. They're diversionary and only delay Goro's return to form. Thus, the explosion of nail-biting action at the end (sweetened with a little romance) comes like a heartfelt apology. Sure, the exact same thing happened in Season One, but we are so grateful for this last shot of Major’s euphoric drug that bad feelings melt away in the high.
Major hinges on baseball in more ways than the obvious. Still shots of this anime appear flat because of the simplistic concept design, but the show always ensures plenty of frames and inventive camera placements during games to convey the dynamism of baseball.
With this in mind, Season Six's banal appearance will come as no surprise. While technically similar to the previous season, this one has so few continuous games that its visuals have few opportunities to do anything more than look functional.
My order of favourite Major opening themes places Season One at the top and Season Four in last place. Fans with a similar ranking will be ecstatic to know that Season Six returns with a revamped version of ‘Kokoro e’. Band TRIPLANE reworks Road of Major’s bubbly rock sound into a mellower pop version that still allows the song's optimism to shine through. Since this constitutes the end of Major’s successful run, coming full circle musically seems an appropriate and touching tribute.
Other than that, we get the usual score of synthesised rock and instrumental pieces. Again, though, with so few grandiose baseball sequences, the music constrains itself to the banal, everyday themes - no rousing stadium chants or head-banging rock riffs to inspire excitement.
Confusion still hangs over Goro like a rumbling cloud. We noticed for a couple of seasons now that his confidence is no longer the impenetrable bastion it once was, but here it is particularly disappointing to realise he hasn’t swapped it for a more sensible attitude. He marches gung-ho onto the pitch, sometimes complaining, sometimes not, and often with little reason for switching from one attitude to the other. He may not be verging on unlikeable, but neither has he remained unquestioningly charming. And this is a problem. Once, when clichés tripped up the narrative or recurring gimmicks dulled the revelations, Goro’s immense charisma could convince us of this show’s magic; here, he walks through the narrative without so much as a confident grin.
Rather than fix the main character, the anime flirts with the secondary lot milling about in the vicinity, cozying up to one only to move on quickly once their trite little issue is resolved. This conveyor belt approach gives us a broad assessment of Goro’s teammates without actually making them matter. Sanders with his enormous moustache, for instance, has cluttered the narrative since Season Four but I cannot for the life of me remember why.
To those bemused by my late mention of Shimizu, just consider how much of a footnote she has become in the anime, and more specifically to Goro. She long ceased mattering to the games and her role as desperate girlfriend awaiting calls from a man whose idea of a relationship is not to think about it makes her painful to watch. Does she stop sulking, call him, and demand his respect like she should? No. But the script throws her an acceptable conclusion nonetheless, if only to serve the plot.
There is a point in the middle when Hornets catcher Keene delivers a speech to inspire his colleagues to stick together and focus on the title. My immediate thought was ‘Wait, shouldn’t that be Goro’s line?’ Indeed, with Joe Gibson and Junior and others also receiving a respectable portion of the screen time, this season feels like it belongs to all the characters around Goro rather than the boy who kept us addicted for many years.
But that’s probably just the filler talking. Stilted middle section with lags in action aside, there is a dramatic Goro-centric start and an even stronger thrill ride ending to enjoy. Major Season Six is no embarrassing strike out or a bad effort generally, but neither does it constitute the sayonara homerun we dreamt of for the finish.
Having had the opportunity to challenge Joe Gibson for the world cup, Goro's only dream now left is to prove his mettle in the American Major Leagues. This is easier said than done when opponents such as Gibson Junior await him for the sole purpose of bringing him down. Not to mention that Major League matches are a whole new psychological ball game that will test not just his body, but his confidence. Then again, the only thing bigger than the obstacles in Goro's way is his will to overcome them; now more than ever, he'll need it to make his name ring through the Major Leagues!
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