This is real golf. I’m talking back-alley ball divot backspin beat-em-ups. This isn’t your dad’s golf. Take your putters and plaid pants to the municipal course and bury them and yourself six feet under the fairway. This is the sport of kings, writ in the blood of your enemies. Fly their limbs. Splay them on flagpoles like the Vlad of the sun visor. You are the lord of the links. Your wedge was tempered in Hephaestus’ forge. Your driver was hewn from the trunk of Yggdrasil. Your irons are irrational numbers. Your tees are the scrimshawed bones of any loser who ever hit above par. You’ve never even seen par. You’re an ornithologist of the outward nine. You clobbered the ancient mariner in the ribs and slung that albatross around your neck like a feathered boa. They’ll need to invent new birds for the kinds of shots you’ve been sinking. This is real golf. I’m talking quicksand traps pushing grit and shit through clenched teeth. Pull a polo shirt over your crown and paint your face with caddy entrails. You’ve got a sack full of wood and 18 holes to fill. Go club up and smack some balls into oblivion. You’re the fell apparition that strikes fear into every pitiful soul who ever bogeyed out of a bunker. You’re golfing now. God help us all.
The prior paragraph was my feeble attempt at emulating the experience of watching the premiere episode of Birdie Wing -Golf Girls’ Story-. If you enjoyed that, read no further and give the show a whirl. I promise it’s worth your time, regardless of your relationship to the sport. And if you’re already caught up, or if you just want to read on anyway, then I bid you a humble welcome to the high octane world of the underground LPGA.
Birdie Wing, in a sentence, is about the electric intersection of two putting prodigies from opposing ends of the links life. One on end, we have Aoi Amawashi, born and bred into sports royalty, who represents the zenith of sheer privilege and raw talent in one witheringly chipper package. On the other end, we have Eve, an orphan who’s learned to survive the mean streets by peddling her incredible athleticism against other players looking to make a quick buck in the seedy world of illegal golf betting. When these unlikely rivals meet, sparks fly, and so do the golf balls.
The anime, smartly, focuses on Eve in its opening act, because hers is by far the more ridiculous, more amusing, and more accessible story. You don’t need to know anything about the rules and protocol of golf to enjoy the sight of her grinding her opponents down with drives powerful enough to shatter bone. It’s hilarious, but it’s only as funny as it is due to how absolutely straight the show plays it. The audience is forced to care about golf, because golf is the single most important activity in this series’ world. It’s big enough that Eve is outfitted with state-of-the-art spy technology in order to substitute for an injured star player. It’s big enough that Eve is able to support a gaggle of adorable orphans purely through her illegal winnings. It’s big enough that Eve gets an overwrought sepia-toned montage in which she poses for the camera like an indie rock frontwoman staring into the distance in deep contemplation—and this all happens in episode ONE. There are no breaks on this golf train.
Arguably the most important influence on Birdie Wing is Osamu Dezaki‘s legendary anime adaptation of Sumika Yamamoto‘s shoujo tennis manga classic Aim for the Ace!. It’s a show I wish I were more familiar with (ie I’ve been dying for somebody to license it), but its impact has trickled down into everything from Gunbuster to Keijo!!!!!!!! Dezaki’s trademark is his florid encapsulation of melodramatic extremes. He treats sorority drama with the same gravitas he lends to the French Revolution. It all comes down to execution, and while Birdie Wing can’t hold a candle to his directorial eye (and precious few modern anime can), the spirit remains. There’s even a nod to Dezaki’s trademark “postcard memory” style towards the end of the premiere, accompanied by Eve’s deadpan confession that she’s not a pro, she just “hit[s] a ball with a stick to make money.” I can’t tell you how much I love this stupid anime.
While the premiere is a beast all on its own, the two follow-up episodes haven’t been slouches either. Aoi in particular has been a fun addition and a good foil to Eve’s purposeful abrasiveness. She’s no less of a golf monster, but Aoi kills with her ever-effervescent kindness. This contrast extends to their playing styles too, with Eve favoring brute force daredevil drives while Aoi executes pinpoint strategic lobs. Again, the exaggeration is key here, because it transmutes golf from a plodding and esoteric experience into a blood-pumping duel between gladiators on the green. It also leads to fun moments like Aoi introducing herself and her 4-foot-long club with striking, hentai-specific framing. Meanwhile, Eve’s gimmick is rainbow colored, and she can’t stop talking about penetrating her opponent and/or being penetrated by her. Like any sports anime worth its salt, Eve and Aoi’s rivalry is just as much a romance as anything else. I don’t care if they’ve already heavily hinted that the two are long lost sisters. Subtext is always more powerful than text.
Furthermore, I hope the series never stops plumbing the depths of this golf-obsessed crime syndicate, and my hopes are high considering Eve made a mysterious Faustian bargain to play in the tournament against Aoi. Rose, who seems to be a rough capo in multiple senses, apparently has her own agenda, and I wouldn’t trust her as far as I can chip her. My best guess right now is that she’s using the tournament as a means of “advertising” Eve’s existence to other golf weirdos across the globe, with the ultimate aim of using Eve as her lackey to fleece them for as much money as possible. And considering we’ve already seen Eve short-circuit the brain of every normal golfer she’s come into contact with, it makes sense that the story would need to introduce characters who are unhinged enough to pose a challenge. This plot would also have some nice ironic synergy with Eve’s immediate willingness to sell her body for a chance to golf a single round with Aoi. That really happened, and it’s just one of dozens of insane things to have happened this week.
I don’t know who out there was asking for an anime version of Happy Gilmore, but your prayers have somehow been answered with one of the most promising women’s sports series I’ve watched in years. And I’m not joking. For as much as I’ve lauded its absurdity, Birdie Wing is a tightly written and legitimately engrossing narrative full of colorful characters and a world that just keeps expanding. It’s liberally borrowing broad thematic strokes about rivalry and fulfilment from other successful sports shows and movies, but there’s absolutely nothing wrong with cribbing from the classics. In fact, its strong fundamentals make its ridiculousness soar that much higher. I’ve been pierced by Eve’s Blue Bullet, and I’m begging for more. Let the season of the golf girls commence. Fore!
Birdie Wing -Golf Girls’ Story- is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
Steve is a world-renowned golf expert and commentator, but if you just want to read his thoughts on anime and good eyebrows, then there’s always Twitter. Otherwise, catch him chatting about trash and treasure alike on This Week in Anime.