Tribe Nine: Episode 1 Reveals How the Dystopian Anime Subverts Character Clichés

WARNING: The following article contains significant spoilers for Episode 1 of Tribe Nine, currently streaming on Funimation.

Fans of Danganronpa and Akudama Drive have been looking forward to the premiere of Too Kyo Games' newest anime, a dystopian tale of a world in which gang disputes are solved with an explosive variation of baseball known as "Extreme Baseball" or "XB." Fortunately, the fun and inventive first episode shows that Tribe Nine is much more than simply co-creator Kazutaka Kodaka's follow-up to the Danganronpa project. The characters introduced in Episode 1 have the potential to surprise fans with their unexpected personalities, especially Shun Kamiya and Haru Shirokane.

Kamiya has a reputation as the greatest XB player in Neo Tokyo. Haru is a shy young man who is targeted by muggers. Kamiya has an eccentric, confrontational personality and Haru is reluctant to engage with his new XB team. This may seem expected for characters in these roles, but further developments in the episode reveal that there is much more to both of them.

Shun Kamiya holds a bat in Tribe Nine.

In the opening scenes, tuna fisherman turned baseball player Taiga intervenes when Haru is being mugged, but Haru uses his incredible reflexes to warn Taiga of an attack. Kamiya leaps in, incapacitating the muggers with an unbelievably precise hit to a water tower with an empty soda can. The way he relishes the fight and threatens the muggers makes him seem creepy as well as firmly in control. Just when Taiga challenges Kamiya to a game of XB, Kamiya throws up, puncturing the cool, untouchable aura he had established with his decisive victory over the muggers.

Back at his "Minato Tribe" headquarters, which doubles as a diner, fellow XB player Manami Daimon reveals that Kamiya is sick because he's hungover... from coffee. Another teammate, Santaro Mita, offers him a "hangover cure" -- more coffee. Kamiya's hangover and more importantly, his dependence on his teammates for the "cure," reveals a level of vulnerability that audiences might have expected to be a turning point in the character's development, not part of his introduction.

Shun Kamiya plays with a cat toy as Santaro Mita looks on in Tribe Nine.

Also at the hideout, Haru describes himself as "boring." Kamiya reprimands Haru for this, teasing him that he likely expects him to disagree but instead accuses him of being arrogant and nicknames him "Boring," which sticks with Haru for the remainder of the episode. Perhaps Kamiya thinks Haru is downplaying himself to lower others' expectations of him so he won't have to work as hard; someone with a veneer of false modesty. Calling Haru out like this not only complicates Haru's initial impression as a humble everyman character, but anticipates Kamiya pushing him into joining the team after accepting a challenge from the Shinagawa Tribe, who have access to more tech resources than Minato.

This is another way in which Kamiya defies potential expectations of his character. Being the best XB player could have made Kamiya into an arrogant ace, lording his superiority over other players as he dominates the field. Instead, Kamiya encourages the strangers he has met to join his team. On the field, Haru is reluctant to take up the bat, saying "I can't! I've never played!" to which Kamiya replies, "You know you can't without ever trying?" Kamiya tells Haru to "Try your best!" but Haru cringes at the cliché, saying, "You're kidding!" Kamiya reconstructs the old standard, saying "Is trying your best too much to ask? I think it's a wonderful thing." His sincere encouragement is a big contrast from the cynical first impression he makes in the opening.

Kamiya finally convinces Haru to step up to the plate as a batter, and his excellent reflexes lead him to successfully reach base. After Minato Tribe wins the game, Haru smiles a determined, almost vicious-looking smile and admits how much he has come to appreciate XB, saying, "When I was part of the game, it was so exciting!" At the end of the episode, Haru returns to confront the muggers, coming back to the Minato headquarters bruised but victorious. Haru's development from a meek, reluctant XB player to someone who loves the game and seeks out gangs for vengeance is something that other anime might have stretched out over the course of a season, but it all happens in one episode of Tribe Nine.

Haru Shirokane flashes a determined smile in Tribe Nine.

Kamiya's vulnerability and inclusivity, as well as Haru's newfound confidence, mean that Tribe Nine has no choice but to develop these characters in a completely original way. Kodaka's game Danganronpa and its anime adaptation star Makoto Naegi, a "normal" boy who gains confidence throughout the story. As another multimedia project, Tribe Nine necessitates comparisons with Danganronpa, but Haru's marked differences from Makoto as a protagonist help the series strike out on its own.

Danganronpa has plenty of insufferable genius characters, such as billionaire snob Byakuya Togami, but it also has characters who are the best at their sport yet still encourage others as Kamiya does, such as mixed martial artist Sakura Ogami and swimmer Aoi Asahina. In this way, perhaps Tribe Nine is continuing Kodaka's trend of characters who are more than the tropes they appear to be at first glance.

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