A 50-minute TV special about baseball manga with a focus on Hiroshima Carp pitcher Kenta Maeda (前田 健太) is scheduled to air on NHK BS1 this Friday (Jan. 30th). It will be presented by Alice Hirose (広瀬 アリス) and it’s actually the second program in this series she has hosted. The first aired last year and focused on tennis manga such as Aim for the Ace! and The Prince of Tennis as well as current tennis player Kei Nishikori (錦織 圭) and former player Shuzo Matsuoka (松岡 修造).
In the description of this week’s special on NHK BS1’s site, Ace of the Diamond and MAJOR are mentioned and former Yomiuri Giants pitcher Masumi Kuwata (桑田 真澄) makes an appearance. Voice credits include Showtaro Morikubo (voice of MAJOR’s Shigeno Goro), Ryota Osaka (Ace of Diamond‘s Eijun Sawamura), and Kaori Nazuka (Haikyu’s Kiyoko). I’m not quite sure why Nazuka is contributing a voice to the program but I guess we’ll find out this week.
The first special (青春！アリスポ ～SPORTS×MANGA～ テニスを変えた“王子様”) was originally broadcast August 8, 2014 and then re-broadcast about a month later, according to a news item on the Prince of Tennis franchise website. (It’s not officially streaming online but you can find it by searching the Japanese title.)
Early in the program, a graph is displayed showing a rise in tennis club memberships among Japanese boys (the blue line) after the Prince of Tennis manga began publication in 1999. A similar boost in young go players in Japan was noticed following the debut of Hikaru no Go in the early 2000s.
Takeshi Konomi (許斐 剛), the creator of the Prince of Tennis manga, was interviewed for the episode as well as former tennis player Shuzo Matsuoka in relation to Aim for the Ace and Tokyo Gakugei University sports sociology scholar Keiji Matsuda (松田 恵示) about researching sports manga. Matsuda once co-authored a paper with Hitoshi Shimazaki in the Japan Journal of Sport Sociology in the 1990s called The Double Meaning of ‘Play’ Observed in the Manga ‘TOUCH’.
In the opening to the first special, the narrator says that baseball star Ichiro Suzuki read Captain when he was young and Olympic gymnast Kohei Uchimura has said he was inspired by Shun from Ganba! Fly High. (Here’s an ANN story and a Manga Bookshelf blog post after Uchimura won in a gold medal in the men’s all-around competition at the 2012 London Games.) It’s not entirely surprising to hear that many athletes in Japan have been driven to a particular sporting discipline through anime/manga and I imagine there might be a couple more specials that could be done in this series, though I can’t think off the top of my head which sports and athletes could possibly be profiled next.