It’s heartening to see that, when removed from Eve’s action heroine antics, Birdie Wing can still pull off a relatively normal episode about normal golf. The conclusion to Aoi’s first pro tournament comes packed with sports anime standards: passion, strategy, and a little bit of luck all factor into her comeback victory against Reika. We can still taste the nuttiness of Birdie Wing‘s signature spice, and plenty of dialogue had me belly-laughing. Most prominently, however, this success story showcases Shinjo’s indispensability as both a caddy and partner to Aoi, and it gives the Amawashi x Amane shippers a smorgasbord of yuri delights to feast upon.
Let’s look at the lead-in. Analyzing the narrative as a whole, there’s no way Aoi was going to lose this match. Birdie Wing focuses its subversions elsewhere, and this was the next step needed to reach the Aoi vs. Eve showdown that’s been teased since the premiere. Therefore, it was smart of the writing to create tension by putting Aoi at such a large disadvantage on the first day before hammering in the enormity of the gap she’d need to make up during this final day. In these moments, the simplicity of golf’s scoring system works in the story’s favor. The rest of the cast reinforces this point with their color commentary, with gag-ridden scenes that break up the inherent monotony of “normal” golf while emphasizing the importance of this challenge beyond the main thread tying Aoi to Eve. These are easily overlooked fundamentals when it comes to sports anime, so amateurish storytelling often ignores these components to get to the “good stuff,” and it does so to its ultimate disadvantage. That’s why I want to highlight the fundamentals here because even when you strip away the absurdity, Birdie Wing is a solidly written piece of programming.
The crux of Aoi’s victory comes from the hands of Shinjo and her powers of meteorological manipulation (i.e. weather forecaster certification). It’s just normal enough to feel at home in Aoi’s storyline, while also being ridiculous enough to feel at home amidst all the other delightful bullshit in this anime. Shinjo’s smugness is what really sells it. The way she broadcasts her Machiavellian internal monologue directly to Reika’s brain is the perfect blend of cringe and amazing. To this point, I must draw your attention to the pun she inserts into her gloating: “I am Amane Shinjo! And the rain is on my side!” Her last name is written as 雨音, and the first character is the kanji for rain. What a dork. Aoi’s last name, by the by, is written as 天鷲, which is “sky/heaven + eagle,” so the atmospheric theming is consistent across their team, making the weather-based victory all the more appropriate.
With the strength of their golf bond settled the postgame coda provides a much more intimate conversation between Aoi and Shinjo. There’s an attempt at melodrama here, but it’s pretty weak. Even though this arc introduced us to Shinjo’s tragic background and indentured golf servitude, nothing we’ve seen in her interactions with Aoi ever suggested she’d quit being her caddy. The scene gets away with this in execution, however, by showing two girls in their nightwear making bedroom eyes at each other while they discuss their mutual love of putting things inside of holes on grassy mounds. Aoi taught Shinjo how to love golf, as we all know by now, golf in Birdie Wing is just a symbol of hot lesbian sex. The series is shamelessly homoerotic and all the better for it. Shinjo gets so many great lines too. I love the callback to her forecaster certification (I have no doubt the Amawashis paid to get her forklift-certified too), and she’s the latest character to extoll the virtues of dropping out of high school. Birdie Wing is telling kids that it’s okay to be gay and do golf crimes, and that’s so important for society.
Speaking of golf crimes, we have to talk about Eve’s appearance and how Birdie Wing‘s post-credits game remains unmatched. We begin with the inherent hilarity of the Scotland title card cutting to Eve standing in the stereotypically mist-drenched highlands. Then, we get a newtype flash by way of a golf ball, as Char emerges from the fog with all the misapplied menace of a Dark Souls boss. He hasn’t seen Eve in years, and the FIRST thing he says to his former student is that he’s glad her memories are back because it means he can finish chasing the most pyrrhic victory in history. The show isn’t even being coy about it now: this is literally Gundam (Eve’s use of the particular word “pressure” feels especially deliberate), and he is literally Char, down to the tiny protégé he picked up to satisfy the terms of his all-consuming rivalry with Eve’s dad. This is all topped only by the preview showing Aisha winding up to her drive with Happy Gilmore-esque footwork. I was howling for two minutes straight. This stone-faced embrace of silliness is why I haven’t removed the “Birdie Wing AOTY” tag from the Twitter display name.
The only disheartening aspect of this episode is the dire production quality. The characters melt quite noticeably in the flashback scenes, which isn’t in itself surprising. These are non-standard designs used in a small part of the episode, so it makes sense that the show’s limited resources weren’t allocated here. But it doesn’t bode well for the back half of the season if these fractures are getting wider, especially when paired with The Witch from Mercury‘s production troubles. I’m keeping my golf tees crossed.
Cumulative Score: -27
Disclosure: Bandai Namco Filmworks Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Bandai Namco Holdings Inc., is a non-controlling, minority shareholder in Anime News Network Inc.