Aim for the Ace! (エースをねらえ!, Ēsu o Nerae!) is a classic Shoujo manga created by Sumika Yamamoto, which ran from 1973 to 1980 in Margaret. It was later adapted into an anime in 1973. Highly influential to shoujo, it had several series throughout the 70's and 80's and a live-action movie in 2004. It has been dubbed and distributed in Europe, in French, Italian, German and Spanish.
The story focuses on Hiromi Oka, who is an ordinary high school girl whose one wish is to be as good at tennis as the girl who is best in the school, the graceful "Madame Butterfly" Reika Ryuuzaki. Her coach Jin Munakata sees potential in her, and the rest of the series tells of her struggles and victories, on and off the court.
There was also a 1979 animated movie, which has higher quality animation, since movies have a higher budget than a TV series.
The first TV series note , as well as the movie and the OVA's were directed by Osamu Dezaki, who directed many classic anime including Tomorrow's Joe, The Rose of Versailles, and the OVA's for Black Jack.
Discotek Media note currently has the North American license for the 1973 series, the movie, and the first OVA series.
Aim for the Ace! provides examples of:
- Adaptation Expansion: The last OVA series (appropriately subtitled "Final Stage") picks up where the manga ended and wraps up some loose ends, most importantly Hiromi's relationship with Toudou.
- Alpha Bitch: Reika starts out acting like this, being the queen bee and at first angered that a newcomer like Hiromi could possibly have made the top five, but she warms up to her eventually.
- Art Evolution:
- The first two TV series (and to an extent the movie) basically had Sumika Yamamoto's artsyle with Akio Sugino's personal touches; in the OVAs, however, Akio Sugino's art-style is in full effect (so it's also an Art Shift at the same time).
- The manga started as what you'd expect from a shoujo manga of the time to looking more semi-realistic and defined by the end of its run.
- Back Story: Jin's expands on why he wants his girls to be strong after training.
- Chick Magnet: How many girls in the cast have feelings for Munakata?
- Cute Kitten: Hiromi's cat Goemon. As well as his white "kittymama" and their babies.
- Defrosting Ice Queen: Reika.
- Doorstopper: A 3000 page manga! Mostly because of its long running and popularity over many years.
- Ending Theme: One of the earliest examples of the "mellower, sad ending tune" formula, "Shiroi Tennis Court".
- Huge Schoolgirl: Ranko was this in the past, and her family introduced her to tennis to work through these issues.
- Locked Out of the Loop: When Munakata dies, Hiromi and the team are in the USA. Todou, Ranko and Oosaki find out but don't tell her so she won't lose her matches. (Todou has already lost his' due to the shock). Neither is happy about it, and specially since Hiromi has an enormous Heroic BSoD when she returns home and finds out...
- Love Bubbles: Happens when Reika's around.
- Love Dodecahedron: Hiromi and Reika are both in love with Munakata. (And Ranko also is attracted to him, though they're half-siblings. He falls for Hiromi. And then he kicks it. Additionally, Todou never really stops liking Hiromi after they break up due to Munakata's veto.
- Melodrama: There are a ton of dramatic moments that are exaggerated to the point of parody. It's also one of the reasons why so many Japanese people, male and female, love the show so much.
- Onee-sama: Reika for Hiromi. The two even play together as a doubles couple for a tournament. Notably, this was first written well before everyone had slash goggles built into their eyes.
- Ojou Ringlets: Reika's long blonde ringlets allude to her Ojou upbringing.
- Parental Abandonment: Munakata's mother was abandoned by her husband when Munakata was a kid, and then she fell victim to Death by Despair. (Meanwhile, Munakata's dad would marry Ranko's mother.) Munakata himself was Raised by Grandparents afterwards.
- Pastel-Chalked Freeze Frame: Being directed by Osamu Dezaki note , this is expected, especially in the movie and the OVAs.
- Precocious Crush: Hiromi crushes on her beloves Coach Munakata, big time. He also manages to swoon the other players with ease.
- Reasonable Authority Figure: Reika's father, the president of the Japanese Tennis Federation.
- Second Love: Played with interestingly. Hiromi's first love was her fellow tennis player Todou, but Coach Munakata vetoed their relationship because he wanted her to focus in her career first and foremost. Then he became this trope to Hiromi... and then he died of his illness. And later, Hiromi and Todou find each other again.
- Signature Headgear: Reika's big pink bow, the team captain's white barrettes, and Kyoko's orange bow-buns.
- Star-Crossed Lovers: Hiromi and Munakata, because he already was dying of leukemia when he met her and they fell in love.
- To Be a Master: Perfectly exemplifies the Japanese attitude of doing your best in everything (ganbarimasu).
- Your Days Are Numbered: Munakata's backstory. He was a great tennis player but was diagnosed with leukemia when he was atop of his career — and told that he had only three years from then on. He became a coach to find a heir/heiress before he died.