“Birdie Wing”: A Golf Yuri Story Soaring to New Heights
On April 6, 2022, Birdie Wing: Golf Girls’ Story premiered on Crunchyroll. This series tells the story of Eve, a girl who plays underground golf games to support her friends, and their orphan children, who meets her match in Aoi, a wealthy Japanese girl.
Birdie Wing: Golf Girls’ Story is an original golf anime series directed by Takayuki Inagaki and written by Yōsuke Kuroda. Unlike other anime, it is not based on a manga or a light novel. Bandai Namco Pictures produces the series. They are a subsidiary of a company formerly named Sunrise, which produced series within the Love Live! franchise, Cowboy Bebop and Dirty Pair.
Trigger Warning: This post mentions sensitive topics such as bodily injury, blood, and bullying.
The first season of this yuri sports series began with a bang, with intense female sports rivalries, golf mafia, and smoking hot characters. Eve (Akari Kitō) defeats her opponents time and again with her golf style of piercing their hearts (and minds) with her “rainbow bullets”. Aoi Amawashi (Asami Seto) changes everything for her and makes her excited, ecstatic to play against her in golf. As a warning, this post has spoilers for the first season of Birdie Wing.
This series is unlike any other sports anime I’ve ever seen. It fulfills what some reviewers, like Yuricon founder Erica Friedman, hoped for in the past. It is not perfect, but its absurdity and clear yuri themes mix well together.
Birdie Wing is, by far, the best anime I’ve watched this year, much better than Komi Can’t Communicate, A Couple of Cuckoos, and Shikimori’s Not Just a Cutie. All those series have their merits, but are not as intense, wacky, or relatable as Birdie Wing by a long shot.
The last seven episodes of Season 1 had even higher stakes than the first six episodes which I reviewed in mid-May. Eve plays an “ultimate” golf game against Rose and wins. She then flees the European country of Nafrece to Japan to escape the golf-obsessed mafia who wants to kill her. The later episodes have Eve enrolling in a prestigious Japanese golf academy. She gets closer to Aoi, who has a crush on her, as she tries to fulfill her promise to play her once again and win.
One of the best parts of this anime is the intensity between Eve and Aoi. While some criticized possible “questionable tropes” in Birdie Wing, the absurdity and series’ unrealistic nature puts those claims into question.
The series is weird in a good way and has a sports angle which is extreme at times. Even so, it is hard to say it is trading goods for fanservice, as some critics argue, with those same critics even becoming invested in Eve and Aoi.
The series has garnered a significant following. The official Twitter account has tens of thousands of followers. Over 270 people follow the /r/BirdieWing subreddit. Fan art is spreading across social media. This undoubtedly played a role in Birdie Wing’s renewal for a second season. It will premiere in January 2023.
Filled with Yuri
As I noted in my series recommendation, I became interested in this series after reading an article by The Mary Sue fandom editor Briana Lawrence highlighting yuri themes. She later described Birdie Wing as a “fantastically campy golf (love) story”. There’s more than that.
Aoi openly crushes on Eve, who uses her charm. In the above scene, Eve flirts with two Japanese girls and hangs out with them all day. Although this annoys her wannabe caddy, Ichina Saotome (Saki Fujita), this doesn’t worry Eve.
In some ways, how Aoi feels about Eve is akin to Akari Tokitō’s behavior toward Menou in The Executioner and Her Way of Life. Unlike that series, Eve often embarrasses Aoi and does things that make her heart beat fast.
For example, she lovingly touches Aoi in the head, demands Aoi play her while coming out of the shower naked, and kisses Aoi on the cheek. In the latter example, she says this is “normal” for girls to do. Aoi’s caddy, Amane Shinjō (Ami Koshimizu), and Ichina are flabbergasted. Amane declares she can’t do that in front of the press. Ichina mentions lily flowers blooming, a reference to yuri.
As reviewers have pointed out, Aoi and Eve are “super gay”. There are also characters like Vipére (the snake lady). She inappropriately flirts with Eve during a golf match. Her affection is ignored because she focuses on Aoi instead.
The snake lady later becomes a friend of Eve. She helps get Eve, her friend Lily Lipman (Akira Sekine), Lily’s sister Klein Clara (Sayaka Kinoshita), and their three orphan immigrant children, the adopted sisters of Eve and Lily, the proper forms. With the documents they can live free from the Mafia.
Others pointed out that the series is able to flex its “sapphic muscles” more once episodes take place at an all-girls academy. This theme is common to many yuri series. Adachi and Shimamura, Bloom Into You, Sweet Blue Flowers, Kashimashi: Girl Meets Girl, Dear Brother, and Blue Drop, are all set in schools.
Yuricon founder Erica Friedman added that the series is similar to I’m in Love With The Villainess, with a “hefty splash of…yuri”. She asked whether the audience will get “passionate platonic sisters or passionate platonic partners in golf” or something else.
Friedman said we probably won’t get the end we want but gave the series a top score for yuri. She further argued the series is close to “being the greatest Yuri sports anime of all time.”
The Most Birdie Wing of Them All
Certainly, sports anime are relatable. Birdie Wing is nothing like any of the other golf anime or manga out there, including one short film centered on golf girls, Sorairo Utility.
This series flaunts the rules of the sports genre, with characters either arrogant or supremely confident in their skills. They are competent enough to back up those feelings. Any of their errors turn into comedic moments, often with a yuri tinge when Aoi and Eve are involved.
This makes the series fun to watch. Although some have voiced concern that the series will “run out of crazy ideas” which make golf interesting, I doubt that will be the case. Instead, the series has beautiful musical montages of golf bullying. It has underground assassins trained in golf techniques. U.S. corporate executives sitting in their plush chairs, cancelling queer shows, would laugh off this series.
Birdie Wing is filled with terrible women, from top to bottom. It features golf crime with Mafia who believe that golf games are a way to solve problems. What other series out there are like this? I can’t think of anything remotely similar other than the yuri comedy, YuruYuri.
It is an over-the-top series with dramatic tension and absurdity which pulls you in. It makes golf, a disgusting elitist sport, interesting to watch. How this series got made, and why, I don’t know. But, it’s here for us to enjoy.
After all, golf competition and rising the ranks is central to this series, with Eve and Aoi wanting to have a rematch. Both have a dream to become professional golfers The series follows them as they “battle it out in the biggest tournaments” as the official description says.
Birdie Wing is nothing like other-girl focused sports anime, such as Kandagawa Jet Girls, Iwa-Kakeru! Climbing Girls, or Tamayomi, some of which have yuri subtext. It is in a league of its own. It is not on par to any other sports anime I’m aware of currently.
The interaction between Aoi and Eve is one of the best parts of the series. They often tease each other and have a good time, even able to work with one another despite their different styles, even making bets. In one episode, Aoi says that thanks to Eve’s influence, expectations on her will not tie her down, which surprises Amane.
Handling Heavy Themes
Some criticized the series of running the risk of “mishandling heavy themes” in the midst of its “high-octane action”. This includes the claim that issues of police brutality and Eve’s undocumented family fade into the background. For a series which can accurately be called “Birdie Wing : Yuri on Green” and with adorable golfer lesbians (Eve and Aoi), this criticism might seen to ring true.
It is a faulty criticism. The series does focus on heavy themes. The show’s seventh episode is the first time the audience learns the names of Klein’s immigrant orphan children: Emily, Charlotte, and Jessica. Thinking of her adopted sisters gives Eve the strength to defeat Rose Aleon (Toa Yukinari), who is a go-between for Eve (and Klein) to the underworld.
The snake lady gives them the proper identification forms after Eve’s victory over Rose. All the while they are flush in cash. Later Anri (Chiaki Omigawa), one of Rose’s subordinates, lashed out at Eve, for Rose’s defeat, advising her to travel abroad to Japan. At the same time, Rose is assassinated by the Mafia after talking to Leo. Some heavy stuff!
We also learn, in the eighth episode of Birdie Wing, that the orphans are from Syria (Charlotte), Somalia (Jessica), and Palestine (Emily), as stated on their new IDs. Although this is not a major focus of the series after Eve goes to Japan, we do see the orphans going to school. In another episode, we see Lily and Klein are working at their new legal restaurant/bar, The White Hart.
This is an improvement for Lily and Klein. As one fan pointed out, they were implied in episode six of Birdie Wing as working as underage prostitutes in the Nafrece slums before Klein got her past restaurant which the Mafia destroyed in their crooked “redevelopment” effort.
In some ways, the series focuses on the exclusivity of golf. This is something that Malvina Reynolds sang about in her 1963 folk song, “Little Boxes”. In the song, she sings about people in suburbia playing on the golf course and drinking dry Martinis.
Aoi, as a daughter of a business executive, is tied into the high life. However, Eve would never forget where she is from. Her presence and demeanor stands against the “professionalism” of golf, putting her street smarts to good use.
This fits with her utter disregard for academics. She is no Kim Possible and trying to excel in her classes. Instead she is a transfer student at a premier golfing school, Raiho Girls’ Academy, backed by a golfing brand.
She likely sees the school as stuck-up. She gives it a bad name by declaring war on Japanese golf champion Mizuho Himekawa (Yukari Tamura). It is implied that she isn’t a good student, even sleeping during class. Somehow she stays there without being expelled, suspended, or the like. Possibly, the academy’s shady golf club adviser, Reiya Amuro (Tōru Furuya), wants her around.
Compelling Characters and Plot
The plot and characters of Birdie Wing are some of the series’ strong suits. The show’s official website currently lists 24 characters. While Klein appears to be the only character listed with brown skin, the opening sequence shows a Black woman at the end. This implies that Eve and Aoi would face a Black female golfer in the show’s second season.
Episodes of Birdie Wing are filled with high-stakes golf matches. Signature golf drives by Eve, often terming it the “rainbow bullets”, which come in many different colors, are at the center. There’s also Rose’s “Crimson Rose Bullet” and other “bullets” Aoi declares.
In keeping with the show’s yuri themes, the series’ opening sequence shows golf drives of Aoi and Eve intertwined. In the ending sequence, Eve and Aoi are lying side by side, with their silhouettes touching.
Leo Millafoden (Shūichi Ikeda), former legendary golfer, who trained Eve and other golfers, casts a shadow throughout the series. His motivations are unknown. They will likely be explored more in a second season.
The technologically advanced golf course owned by a mafia boss, Catherine (Umeka Shoji), added an interesting flair. The design of the course can be changed in an instant, even though it requires a lot of power and electricity.
The series became a bit sci-fi when it was revealed that Rose’s arm is cybernetic, giving her an unfair advantage. The fact that her arm breaks off and falls to the ground, shows the stakes of the golf games.
The first season is divided into two arcs: Nafrece (episodes 1-8) and Japan (episodes 9-13). This is similar to the division of Disenchantment into various parts or acts which divide the first season of Arcane.
Even Ichina, who seems annoying at first, comes around to be a more compelling character. She becomes Eve’s caddy and competes with Amane, Aoi’s well-versed and tech-savvy caddy. Ichina grows over the course of the season.
There are funny moments, too. In one episode they talk with each other in internal monologues. In another, Aoi jumps toward Eve, overjoyed to see her, but Eve jumps out of the way. This series is filled with comedic moments, providing some levity.
The reaction of others to Eve makes the series interesting. For instance, students at the elite golf academy are intimidated by her, as she looks angry and pissed. Girls at the competition see Eve as scary, and mean, but pretty. They are taken in by her beauty.
Talented Cast and Crew
The amazing animation and backgrounds by Bandai Namco Pictures would be nothing without the efforts by the staff and voice actors. The show’s writer, Yōsuke Kuroda, was a head writer on Kokoro Library, Puni Puni Poemy, and Valkyrie Drive: Mermaid. The latter series is set in the same universe as Birdie Wing!
One of the two series composers, Kōtarō Nakagawa, is well-known for his anime work on the Code Geass series, Gosick, and Active Raid. The other composer, Hironori Anazawa, is known for her work on Scarlet Nexus, Shûkatsu Kazoku: Kitto, Umaku Iku, and many other series.
Takayuki Inagaki, the show’s director, worked as an episode director on Chio’s School Road, Sky Wizards Academy, and Rosario + Vampire. The show’s animators and other crew worked on Azumanga Daioh, Revolutionary Girl Utena: The Movie, and Sailor Moon Crystal.
The show’s cast are as talented. Some have lent their voices to characters in series with yuri themes, either indirectly or overtly, like The Demon Girl Next Door, Adachi and Shimamura, Love Live! Nijigasaki High School Idol Club, A Centaur’s Life, and Akebi’s Sailor Uniform. Others voiced characters in the trans-centered slice-of-life drama, Wandering Son, and The Great Jahy Will Not Be Defeated!
Tōru Furuya, especially, brought back a similar voice to many Sailor Moon fans. In that 1990s anime series, he famously voiced Tuxedo Mask, a masked hero who has a crush on Sailor Moon.
Additionally, I recognized that the voice actors of this series provided voices in Simoun, Yurikuma Arashi, Princess Connect! Re:Dive, Princess Principal, Asobi Asobase, Girl Friend Beta, Strawberry Panic!, and Maria Watches Over Us. Many of these series have yuri themes, something the voice actors could tap into for this series.
Looking Toward a Second Season
There are many avenues to explore in the next season. The above preview premiered after the airing of the season one finale. It shows that the stakes are higher than ever, with games against students from other schools. This includes Mizuho Himekawa (Yukari Tamura), Kaede Oikawa (Yu Kobayashi), Kaoruko Iijima (M・A・O), and Kuyou Iseshiba (Satomi Arai).
The preview shows the tough nature of golf, backstories of Aoi and Eve, and a possible assassination attempt against Eve. There are hints that Eve and Aoi are sisters. The status of Aoi as “totally bourgeoisie”, as Ichina put it in one episode, could be a topic of episodes. This could manifest itself in Aoi losing her privileges or those privileges being threatened.
Predictably, the second season will focus on Eve. It may show she is a golf supersoldier trained as a tool of the Mafia. Maybe there is a trigger word which makes her subservient. Likely any past traumatic experiences she relegated to repressed memories will come flooding back.
However, Eve has no reason to go back to Naeferce and will stay in Japan for the foreseeable future. The same is the case for Eve’s aggressive and brutish golf style, which will remain intact. However, they may end up losing the championship match.
Undoubtedly, the romantic feelings between Aoi and Eve will continue. They may even share the same room! I’m hopeful the series will not go the route of the problematic yuri romance Citrus or romantic comedy, Candy Boy. Both have incestuous romances between sisters, which cheapens representation.
I look forward to seeing how the series improves and changes in the next season. Unlike what I wrote about The Executioner and Her Way of Life, I don’t see any issues with tone and don’t believe there need to be stronger storylines.
The success of this series could pave the way for more original anime series from Bandai Namco Pictures and those licensed by Crunchyroll, perhaps with yuri themes. I wait in anticipation for the show’s next season.
So, spread your wings and watch Birdie Wing: A Golf Girls’ Story on Crunchyroll!
Author: Burkely Hermann
Burkely is an indexer of declassified documents by day and a fan fic writer by night. He recently earned a MLIS with a concentration in Digital Curation from the University of Maryland. He currently voraciously watches animated series and reads too many webcomics to count on Webtoon. He loves swimming, hiking, and searching his family roots in his spare time.
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