BBM's 1st Version set came out in mid-April and I got mine about a month ago, but I'm just now getting around to writing about it. At 442 total cards this year's set is a little larger than last year's, but I'm still pretty disappointed in it.
Like last year, there are 27 "regular" cards for the manager and players for each of the 12 teams. This can lead to some people that you might expect to have cards not having them (like, say, Masahiro Yamamoto). This year's card design is very similar to last year's - a white border on the bottom of an otherwise borderless photo. While attractive enough on their own merits, after a couple of years of similar designs, I'm kind of getting a real "meh" feeling towards the designs. Good thing BBM puts the year on the front of the card or it'd start getting hard to really figure out which set a particular card is from. And while the photography remains outstanding, I'm surprised by the repetition in some of the photographs. For example, Keiichi Hirano of the Tigers is depicted making a headfirst slide into a base, just like last year. Last year, that was a really cool shot. This year, my reaction is more of "Really? You used that idea again?" Here's some example cards:
Like the "Cross Stream" cards in 2010, the "Cross Blaze" cards feature an image of the player superimposed on a background - for "Cross Stream" it was water; for "Cross Blaze" it's fire. The back of the card shows the original picture that the image on the front was taken from. Here's the front and back of Shinnoske Abe's card (#CB074):
You can see all the cards (including the "Cross Blaze" cards and some of the parallel and inserts) here.
The 1st Version set is not a bad set - it's just frustrating looking at it and knowing that it could have been better. Like this year's Calbee 1st Series, there's an inconsistency in how the Dragons and Baystars (the two teams with new uniforms) are pictured - the Dragons are mostly shown in their 2011 uniforms while ALL the Baystars are in their 2012 uniforms. So obviously, BBM could have had all the Dragons in their 2012 uniforms as well - they just decided not to. They could have had a design that didn't look like the design for the last two years, but they decided not to. They could have shown a little more imagination in picking photos, but they didn't. BBM doesn't have to really make any effort in their sets since they are really the only manufacturer in Japan making a comprehensive set of baseball cards (Calbee, Konami and Owner's League don't feature as many players) - if you want a set of everyone who's playing in Japan, you'll either buy BBM or you'll go without. It reminds me of how lazy Topps got in the late 1970's when they had virtually no competition at all. It'd be interesting to see if someone else could step in (like Fleer and Donruss in 1981) and stir things up a little bit.
(I know it's probably unfair that I'm beating up BBM for unorginal card designs while NOT beating up Calbee for having pretty much the exact same card front for the last 12 years or so, but I expect more from BBM.)