Tribe Nine’s Explosive, Bittersweet Finale Confirms the Series’ Biggest Message

WARNING: The following contains spoilers for Tribe Nine Episode 12, now streaming on Funimation.

The first season of sci-fi sports anime Tribe Nine concluded as Minato Tribe finally faced the despotic Ojiro Otori in a game of Extreme Baseball. Ojiro had changed the law to make XB even more bloody and brutal, and Minato's Saori, Haru, Kazuki and Taiga wanted to change it back to how it was before. This dispute revealed the central theme of the episode and the series regarding what Extreme Baseball is supposed to be about. The game resulted in a triumphant finale, but not every character's story had a happy ending.

When Ojiro Otori stood between his ruthless second-in-command Yui Kamiki and Taiga's mentor Hanafuda Sakura, he chastised her for her poor sportsmanship and banished her from his sight. Kamiki responded by deactivating the anti-gravity technology that kept Chiyoda Tribe's castle suspended over the arena of Chiyoda City. The crumbling castle provided a stunning backdrop to the climactic final game as Kazuki and Taiga risked their safety to help Haru complete his decisive run before Ojiro could tag him.

This finale's striking visuals exemplified the sheer fun of Extreme Baseball, foreshadowing the episode's strongest theme. Ojiro's initial pitch was cast in glowing red light, while Haru's batting exploded in an aura of vibrant green and blue. The falling castle and the collapsing city were also an impressive sight, with the aura of smoke and rubble in the city animated with so much detail as to make the impending threat palpable.

Haru Shirokane bats an explosive pitch in Tribe Nine.

When Ojiro beat Kazuki in hand-to-hand combat, Taiga asked him if it was "fun" beating everyone on his own. Ojiro tried to tag Haru, but Taiga punched him to the ground. Ojiro was so distracted that he failed to notice a train emerging from the smoke behind him, but Kazuki stood in front of it to protect him. This would of course prove fatal for the pair in real life, but Tribe Nine characters have been shown to be supernaturally durable by the laws of animated physics. Both Eiji Todoroki and Kiyoshiro Haneda, for example, somehow apparently survived their own explosions.

The episode flashed back to Kazuki and Ojiro's childhood. The two promised to join the same tribe, but Kazuki joked that Ojiro would just be his substitute. Kazuki often mocked Taiga throughout the series, but this boastful joke was very Taiga-esque. This playful approach to XB and how much Kazuki had changed since then reinforced the ultimate theme of the episode: Extreme Baseball is supposed to be fun, not a violent tool. Haru also flashed back to a memory of beating the late Shun Kamiya in a practice lesson. Kamiya taught Haru about the love of playing XB -- a philosophy that Saori taught Kamiya in his days as "The Destroyer," and which Kamiya tried to teach Ojiro in their fateful final encounter.

Kazuki Aoyama and Ojiro Otori look out on Neo Tokyo as young children in Tribe Nine.

When Kazuki awoke, he symbolically offered to join Chiyoda Tribe. Revitalized, Ojiro tried again to tag Haru. Playing with a teammate again, Ojiro couldn't help but smile. Haru said, "XB is fun! Do you feel it too?" and Ojiro's face fell into a frown of shock before he smiled again: he could no longer deny that Minato's way of playing XB and having fun with teammates was superior to his violent and solitary mission to be the best. As Ojiro and Haru fought, Kazuki and Taiga punched away the falling debris. The tribes finally stopped fighting for their lives, but the collapsing city made no such promise.

What are the real-life applications of the episode's message that Extreme Baseball should be fun? Perhaps it represents being able to enjoy sports and television without becoming obsessed like Ojiro was. Maybe it's a simple reminder for people not to take life so seriously that they can't appreciate it, just as Haru appreciated the game even as the city fell around him. Ojiro's fixation on obtaining ultimate strength could also be seen as perfectionism, and Minato's enjoyment of XB for the game's own sake in spite of the potential outcome could represent being able to accept failure.

Ojiro Otori smiles as he fights Haru in Tribe Nine.

Haru ultimately defeated Ojiro, and after the wreckage settled, Kazuki rescued his old partner. Kazuki once again joked about Ojiro being his substitute, showing that he was finally ready to have fun with XB again. In a cruel last-minute twist, more debris appeared to fall where Kazuki and Ojiro were, and a news report implied they hadn't been heard from since. This seemed abrupt, but the Tribe Nine project is set to include a video game and Webtoon comic series, which may well provide some answers as to the duo's fate.

Haru told Saori in Episode 11 that he had romantic feelings for her -- a refreshing moment that defied the anime trope of characters not being able to get the words out. The epilogue of Episode 12 revealed that she turned him down off-screen, as Taiga awkwardly mumbled some uncharacteristically straightforward words of sympathy. Haru responded that he understood Saori's feelings and still wanted to keep honestly expressing his own in the future. It was positive that the episode showed Haru moving on from his disappointment in a healthy way and accepting Saori's response.

This positive tone continued as the final shot showed Minato Tribe playing once again in the Minato City arena. The team smiled on as Haru stepped up to the bat and echoed the mission statement of the series: "Let's play ball and have some fun!"

The unnamed protagonist of Gundam: The Witch from Mercury, alongside her Gundam, "Aerial".
About The Author