You could theoretically replace golf with any other sport without tainting the essence of Birdie Wing. Golf simply exists as the axle on which this wide world of high crime and high-stakes competition turns, and swapping that axle with anything from boxing to battlebots wouldn’t change the story or characters all that much. At the same time, however, there’s a certain quintessence to golf—perhaps its projections of solemnity, or perhaps its wasteful extravagance—that makes Birdie Wing‘s blasphemies taste all the sweeter. Real golf is cloying. Real golf is fussy. Real golf feels entitled to respect. And that’s exactly why it deserves none. Just as Eve aims to break her opponents’ minds with her Rainbow Bullets, so too does Birdie Wing nobly seeks to chip away all of the rules and restrictions of the fairway, until there is nothing left but two girls holding hands on an Earth scorched white and pockmarked by craters.
I hope you’ll forgive my somewhat eschatological introduction, but it’s hard not to feel introspective after finishing this episode. Birdie Wing just delivered all of the dramatic sea changes of a nail-biting season finale, yet it still has at least a month’s worth of golf hijinks left for us. Have we only finished the prologue? Does the real Birdie Wing start here? These are questions for later, because right now, I want to gush about the series’ masterful manipulation of tonal maximalism. This episode is everything everywhere all at once. Tragedy, comedy, romance, valor, excitement about free juice—it’s all here, and there’s no reason it should all fit together as well as it does except for the show’s evocation of ancient anime alchemy. Birdie Winglike its protagonist, is fearless, and if you’re confident enough, you can get away with almost anything.
To wit, Rose literally singlehandedly steals the show in this installment and emerges as its surprisingly effective emotional locus. I anticipated Vipère’s transformation into a goofy sidekick, but I didn’t expect Rose to bear so much pathos and look all the more badass for it. While her prosthetic’s shattering made for an unforgettable cliffhanger last week, it’s contextualized here as a physical reminder of Rose’s past failure and her subsequent entrapment in the seedy underworld of illegal golfing. This being Birdie Wing, the cold open shotgun blasts the audience with this information via a series of bloody and disjointed memories, and the episode’s pacing never lets up after that, carried by Rose’s unwavering bravado. She shakes off the injury with an “it’s just a flesh wound” attitude, and she plays out the hole of a lifetime as if possessed by a demon, one hand on her club, smirking all the way.
Last week’s revelations already established Rose and Eve as foils for each other, but this week we feel the tragedy of that. As much as I wanted Eve to win that match and buy her friends’ freedoms, I couldn’t help but root for Rose as well. She’s not a good person, but there was still a part of her that saw herself in Eve, and that part wanted to provide one last stepping stone on which Eve could prove herself and escape the mafia. Rose confirms as much in her final sendoff, imagining another life of golf glory before Catherine’s hitman pull the trigger. This scene is perfect: the glow of the sunset, the cocksure swagger of the cigarette smoke wafting from her mouth, the swell of the spaghetti western horns in the soundtrack. It’s a concatenation of clichés, but they’re good clichés, applied with a rakishness that fits the over-the-top tone of this anime and its characters.
Just consider the way Rose’s death then transitions, with spine-shattering tonal whiplash, into Eve going wide-eyed over free airplane drinks. That’s not by accident; this is the eighth week in a row with moments like it. That’s not “so bad it’s good”; it’s amazing. That is Birdie Wing‘s deliberately anarchic craft at work, and that’s why I love this show as much as I do.
This episode covers a lot of ground in order to get Eve onto that plane towards Aoi, but it feels full more so than rushed. It accomplishes this by homing in on scenes with purpose; Every line of dialogue here either pushes the plot forward or makes me laugh, and both are equally important to Birdie Wing‘s vibe. As always, the ridiculous characters help as well. Vipère gets a hero’s sendoff, lounging on a yacht with a piece of eye candy like she’s James Bond if James Bond were a snake woman. Anri commands a gleefully loud scene complete with pointless knife brandishing and a hysterical potty mouth. “I’m not dying for this shit” and “Just live your own life, and then die!!” are both incredible action movie-caliber lines on their own, delivered with utmost sincerity, but they’re enhanced severalfold when we remember that all of this has been wrought by golf. To that end, Leo probably provides the best performance. Between the bastard’s cold-hearted curtness and casual misogyny towards Rose, he fully embraces his role as Golf Char. In fact, I’m going to exclusively call him that from now on.
With Lily, Klein, and the adorable orphans all squared away, Rose dead (presumably, and Eve on an international flight after a tearful farewell to her old friends, it seems like the underground mafia golf arc is well and truly over. trepidation about that, because the phrase “illegal golf” is so good sans context that it’s become the default sales pitch for fans proselytizing the series. and I have no doubt that it can turn “legal” golf into just as much of a torrent of club-whacking chaos.My confidence is also boosted by the show’s frequent cribbing of Dezaki’s postcard memories, because if Dezaki was able to anything prove, it’s that there is no place on the Planet With a higher concentration of beautifully absurd melodrama than a private all-girls academy. I’m ready for Birdie Wing to turn into Dear Brother and, if Golf Char’s words are to believe, trigger Golfageddon.
Finally, I do want to acknowledge that Birdie Wing is by no means a perfect anime. Viewers with a low tolerance for complete nonsense (eg just look at the ages on everyone’s official documents lmao) are going to bounce the hell off this, and the animation looked especially rough this week. However, given how much I’ve been loving every minute of this golf insanity, and given how it’s still a very under-the-radar series, I just want to continue praising it while it earns the praise. It’s a scrappy underdog, and I’m in its corner draining the blood from its eyelid. It’s also I barely got any promotion on the Western side of things, so I feel a kind of moral obligation to utilize my limited platform in whatever small way I can. I will certainly call the show out when I think it falters, but right now, I want to both review and celebrate Birdie Wing with my biases on my sleeve and a golf ball lodged in my heart.
Cumulative score: -12
Birdie Wing -Golf Girls’ Story- is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
Steve is a world-renowned golf expert and commentator, but if you just want to read his thoughts on anime and good eyebrows, then there’s always Twitter. Otherwise, catch him chatting about trash and treasure alike on This Week in Anime.