You know that feeling you had when you first walked out of your favourite Rocky movie? Triple it, sprinkle with some steroids, and you have a great concoction called Major Season 3 which I recommend taking twice daily. Seventy-eight episodes on, and this show has not lost its motivational effect at all.
Season 3 returned to a more streamlined form of storytelling compared to Season 2 and even managed to pull off a political angle. Again Goro's ability to learn and adapt was tested to great effect as Edawara's manipulations forced Goro not just to defeat great players with a poor team, but to fight passionless convention with nothing but his own tenacity. I found the emphasis on him as a leader with responsibilities (not just a stand-alone ace) added exponentially to my respect for him.
I also found the emotional stakes had been raised just that little bit more with Goro's father experiencing a rather disturbing kind of midlife crisis. Bringing Goro's family life back into focus even just for a short while was rewarding because I had come to miss Momoko and Shigeno's influence on the story. Moreover, the romantic subplot usually bubbling away in the background came a bit more to the fore this time around. Watching Goro and Shimizu's interactions here made the possibility of an evolving relationship a little more apparent but, frustratingly, it stalled again because Goro was too clueless. Frankly, this barely recognisable will-they-won't-they problem was best treated like garnish on a meal (valueless by itself, but makes everything look more complete) because there was just too much going on to realistically allow for any substantial side-plots.
As always, the heights of the show were the baseball games, which, for some reason, never got old no matter how many times I had seen them before. When you think about it, there were only so many kinds of obstacles the series could ever throw at Goro during the games - injury, lack of motivation, strong opponents - so how it wrung out nail-biting tension with essentially recycled ideas was almost mystical. I can only assume that it's because each conflict pushed Goro to new and crazier limits.
As with the first two instalments, the production values did not improve much at all; movements were smoother, if not fully smooth, baseball games looked marginally better, although not that much had actually changed, meaning Major still lags behind many of its contemporaries looks-wise. As always, this did not impact upon the quality of the show as a whole, because the other, more important elements of the series were so strong.
Having an excellent opening theme that really geared you up and two ending themes that were catchy and melodic, it was all the more disappointing that the tunes during the episodes were so lacklustre. The saddest thing about Major is the lack of a stunning theme, since it would be nice to have something on my mp3 to remind me of the show's climactic energy. In terms of voice acting, I had no complaints whatsoever, however, Goro and Fuji stole the show.
If there are more charismatic anime characters than Goro out there, I have yet to meet them, and if Goro continues like this, I see no reason why he should ever be usurped. He was cocky as ever, stirring as ever, inspiring as ever. I would also say that the way his relationship with Toshiya took a cooler turn (in a complete switch from the season before) was interesting to watch.
As for the rest of the cast, some of the lesser ones were actually returnees from the previous two seasons, for example Ryoko the female pitcher, Komori and Oobayashi, and even the old Yokohama coach made a cameo appearance. Seeing them again was a touching reminder of how far Goro had actually come, but more importantly, they returned to teach him old lessons. The more permanent cast members included Kaoru Shimizu and a brother (yes, brother!) called Taiga that we never knew she had, Miho Nakamura, who seemed to have the least point except to provide another emotional back story, and most notably Fuji, who, as well as being amusingly goofy, had to develop from a pathetic, goalless drifter to a purposeful individual through baseball.
There were a lot more characters here than in previous seasons, but many of them seemed to pop up solely as an implicit gesture of farewell since the coming season would see Goro far from home. Although the new characters were more engaging as developing personalities, it was nostalgic to catch up with the old ones, and the fact that all their journeys with Goro came to an end here was surprisingly sad.
After all this time, Major still makes me feel that anything is possible as long as I stick to my guns and don't let problems perturb me. Admittedly, this is a timeless theme repeated in almost every work of fiction you can name, but here I don't just accept that as a valuable message, I get genuinely psyched up by it. As far as ongoing series are concerned, Major is the drug where the high never stops.