Play Ball (プレイボール Purei Bōru?) is a manga series by Akio Chiba which ran in Weekly Shōnen Jump from 1973 to 1978, which was adapted in 2005 and 2006 into an anime series by Magic Bus, aired across Japan on the anime satellite television network, Animax. The series was released concurrently with Chiba's other major work, Captain, the other series for which he won the 22nd Shogakukan Manga Award for shōnen in 1977.
Chiba originally wanted to make the series a rugby or American football, but he began to be held up by collecting all the materials needed to make sure he understood the rules well enough to draw an accurate depiction. In order to catch up, he began creating a manga about the high school baseball career of his main character, Takao Taniguchi.
This eventually developed into the series Captain. Play Ball follows the story of the junior high school years of Taniguchi and his fellow teammates.
Nearly twenty-five years later, in 2005 and 2006, the series was adapted into two seasons of an UHF anime TV series in 2005, which was broadcast across Japan by the anime satellite television network, Animax.
After fracturing a finger in a junior high school game, Takao Taniguchi is unable to play baseball. After entering Sumitani High School, he is constantly watching the baseball club even though he is unable to play. He catches the eye of the captain of the soccer club, and while he still has lingering hopes of joining the baseball club, he decides to join the soccer club. While he's a complete beginner, Taniguchi developed a strong spirit of hard work while in junior high school and his new teammates begin to see his potential. While he focuses all of his energy on soccer, he is unable to forget his youthful zeal for baseball and he begins umpiring baseball games in secret.
After someone leaks his secret to the captain of the soccer team, the captain becomes angry at him and Taniguchi decides that soccer is not really for him. At the recommendation of the captain, he resigns from the soccer club and joins the baseball club. The Sumitani baseball club would lose their big game every year due to the inexperience of the club members. After Taniguchi joined, however, the club begins to change for the better.
- Takao Taniguchi
- Voiced by: Kenichirō Maeda
- The main character. Plays pitcher (right-handed) and third baseman. He injured his finger in an accident when he was in junior high, and causing him to give up pitching because he thought it was too hard to pitch with a finger which caused him to be unable to pitch straight. However, through a great deal of effort and hard work, Taniguchi was able to overcome this and master the forkball (in the anime, his right index finger is crooked). After that, he had surgery to fix the injury to his finger (the anime has the order of events a bit different than in the manga).
- Voiced by: Yutaka Kōno
- Plays catcher. Was the captain of the baseball club when Taniguchi joined.
- Yutaka Kurabayashi
- Voiced by: Satoshi Hino
- Plays catcher after Tadakoro. Usually bats third.
- Voiced by: Yoshitaka Kuremoto
- Plays pitcher (left-handed) and third baseman. One year older than Taniguchi, and wears glasses.
- Voiced by: Shinsuke Fukui
- Plays shortstop, and can run 100 m in 12 seconds. One year older than Taniguchi.
- Voiced by: Takashi Senda
- One year older than Taniguchi. Plays right fielder, first baseman, and is a right-handed relief pitcher. Has an overbite.
- Voiced by: Kōichi Shibasaki
- Same age as Taniguchi. Plays second baseman, switches to shortstop in the second year, and third baseman in the third year.
- Voiced by: Kyōhei Tanaka
- Same age as Taniguchi. Plays right fielder.
- Voiced by: Ōki Sugiyama
- Same age as Taniguchi. Plays right fielder. Joined the baseball club at the same time as Handa.
- Voiced by: Kenji Iwama
- One year younger than Taniguchi. Plays third baseman.
- Voiced by: Naoto Seki
- One year younger than Taniguchi. Left-handed.
- ↑ Script error