Diamond no Ace – 02

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Audience-wise, I think this is where Diamond no Ace starts separating the wheat from the chaff.

Considering that the source manga is 38 volumes and counting, an awful lot happened in the first two episodes of Ace of Diamond.  This isn’t an entirely unusual scenario for sports manga, where there’s often a preamble that establishes the main character just as he’s about to go through a major transition.  But it does present a bit of a challenge to viewers more used to a traditional narrative structure, where the cast that’s introduced in the first place is the one we’re going to be spending our time with for the rest of the series.

I haven’t read anywhere close to the entire manga, and I won’t spoil as to what’s coming up in the parts I have.  But you can trust that what we’ve seen – and who we’ve seen – at the start of Daiya no A are important as the story progresses, and not just as character-builders for Eijun.  Again, my basic take on this series is that trust and team are the main components, and we’re going to see that play out from many angles.  That being said, though, every sports series has to have an athlete at its center no matter how important the supporting cast is, and Eijun is certainly that person here.

In purely baseball terms, Eijun is a pretty typical phenom – a kid with great natural talent who never got any real coaching.  His duel with Azuma shows this off pretty well, as well as being a showcase for Kazuya’s keen eye.  If you watch enough baseball you’ll hear a lot about how pitchers with “late break” are highly prized, and that’s what sets Eijun apart.  In his own mind he throws nothing but fastballs (“straights” is the common term here) but as Takashima-san spotted and Kazuya soon discovered, none of the pitches he throws is actually straight.  His loose shoulder and whippy arm motion imparts a ton of spin on the ball as he releases it, causing late movement as it approaches the plate.  Likely because he’s never had proper instruction (remember he said he doesn’t even like to watch baseball) Eijun never puts the exact same spin on the ball twice because he never repeats his delivery exactly.  There’s a danger of getting too geeky here, but that’s the key to understanding Eijun as a pitcher at this point in the story, and both his strength and weakness.

Of course, if Eijun never knows exactly where his pitch is going neither does the catcher – or the hitter.  Kazuya being a smart kid knows that Azuma merely wants to humiliate the snot-nosed brat who mouthed off to him, so there’s no need to challenge him with strikes.  That won’t work nearly as well in real games but it works just fine in this steel cage match, as Eijun scores a victory that changes the way he looks at baseball.  The implication is that Eijun himself has been holding back because he knows his catcher simply hasn’t been good enough to catch his pitches if he turns it loose – but Kazuya is good enough, and then some.  This is a different sort of teamwork theme, but teamwork nonetheless – the partnership between pitcher and catcher where every pitch is a jointly created work of art.  As different as the pitchers and the series themselves are, this is an element that Daiya no A has in common with Oofuri, the focus on the strategic and personal relationship between the pitcher and the catcher.

This, of course, is a hard lesson for Eijun – not because he’s too dumb to learn it (he’s not) but because the implications are unpleasant.  The fact is that if his talent is going to develop, it can’t do so if he’s hanging around with the same kids he went to middle school with, no matter how much he loves them. They know it too – they probably always have – and they do what good friends have always done, hide their own feelings in order to convince their friend to do what’s right for them.  Effectively Eijun’s whole Nagano circle is manipulating him into doing the best thing for him – his teammates, his Dad (asking him if he’s scared), his Grandfather.  But the truth comes out in the end, where his teammates finally break on the day Eijun is leaving for Tokyo and admit that what they really wanted was to stay together.  I like the fact that Diamond no Ace acknowledges this in the end – this is a kind of abandonment no matter how you spin it, and that’s something Eijun is going to have to live with.

Eijun could have stayed in Nagano, and we would have had a different sort of series – other sports manga have gone that route (including Major, though the situation isn’t 100% analogous).  But this is the road Ace of Diamond has chosen for Eijun, and it’s likewise a classic sports scenario – he now has to challenge himself against the very best with the hopes of all the teammates he left behind on his shoulders.  If you look at the first two eps as the preamble, the series effectively starts next week with Eijun’s arrival at Seidou – the eternal quest for Koshien, the beating heart at the core of so many manga over the decades.  Fans of sports manga will surely appreciate the way this series honors the spirit of the genre, but equally rewarding will be the way it forges its own path in telling the story.

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  1. A

    I've reading the manga and really enjoying it; the adaptation is quite good so far, too. I'm worried that the relatively slow pacing of the series (Which I feel is a strength) is going to put a lot of people off, though, to be honest. Unless the pacing is normal for baseball manga/anime, I have no idea since this is essentially my first one, but it feels slower than what I'm used to in other sports series.

  2. Sports anime definitely have a slower pace than most other genres. Major went for something like 150 episodes, three OVAs and a movie and didn't completely cover the manga, for example. So I don't think the pacing in Daiya is so unusual for the type of series it is, but whether less experienced viewers will be willing to stay the course is a fair question.

  3. i

    I also read the entire manga, or at least what is translated of it. It really is very fun but almost all sports series are really fun for me because of how much I love sports in general. Thanks for the extra exposition on Eijun's 'fastball'.

    One thing I found I really liked about this series is that it didn't go for the Cross Game route where a couple of amazing talent creates a miracle by taking a weak team to Koshien. Seidou is anything but weak and that internal competition really makes it very interesting, just like how back in school we would jostle for spots on the soccer team.

    From what I've seen though, I disagree now with what you said last week about Eijun's Akagi teammates being important. I think the nature of a powerhouse team like Seidou is a far bigger driver of the plot and character development.

  4. As people watch, they'll have to make up their own minds about what's important and what isn't. There's room for more than one important element in a story, and I don't think the two parts of Eijun's story are mutually exclusive.

    I would also argue that Seishou (Cross Game) was a pretty strong team. Azuma was certainly the best hitter in high school baseball – Kou was a damn fine hitter too – and they had several other very good players.

  5. i

    I included Azuma into Seishou when I said 'a couple of amazing talents' but none of the other players (besides maybe Akaishi) were up to the level of a strong team like Seidou. And unlike so many other mangas Seidou is not an underdog, not by a country mile. They are one of the best teams in one of the most competitive prefectures.

  6. t

    Ep 02 was great.
    in that episode I think we could really see the fruits of cooperation between madhouse and IG. surely we haven't seen that much in terms of baseball yet..it doesn't even get close to the stuff which suppose to come later, but it was a good glimpse. and there was all the feels of Eijun and friends, that OST really did the job in those scenes. it has approved the combination between the two studio. this anime has also some…scent of an old-school one, I mean it feels a bit nostalic yet it's new one.
    for now we only focused mostly on Eijun(we saw some sides of him), but we'll see a variety of interesting characters down the road.
    I think those 2 eps were a good intro, but now the rea fun is about to start. I look forward more of DnA (:

  7. i

    I won't lie, I cried.

  8. e

    Ah, how can you not root for earnest guys crying tears and snot from the heart. Where are my tissues T3T.
    I really like the little details in chara and animation (both lower and upper lip are hinted at, the teeth structure when they smile and the tendons and tension in the hand even when it's just a peripheral detail for instance) too. I thought the pacing so far is just right and doesn't feel slow at all by the way.
    Gramps is a tad too punchy but Eijun's family is a lovely bunch. On the non-Tokyo characters side I'm feeling a bit extra sorry for Wakana (perceptive and level-headed girls ftw), the girl in the ED doesn't look like her. C'est la vie. And as the sliding doors shut the Spring of our MC's life begins. Bring it on! And don't dislodge that whip-like arm of his in the process…

  9. I believe Madhouse and I.G. are each handling one lip.

  10. e

    *chortle* ah, if only Kingdom could benefit from such level of service too. Wang Qi! The mind kekekes at the thought.

  11. M

    The beak lip makes some of the characters look like perverts when they smile.

  12. e

    YMMV. Personally I dig them. They have been around since the '70s (at the very least) in manga and anime and they don't give me the perv vibe at all. Unless you mean they might look extra kissable ;p…

  13. M

    I dunno about that Akagi sensei…

    Yeah, I know it's been around, and do I like to see the extra effort. In this case it must be the combination of the sharply accentuated upper lip coupled with the blushing that amuses me so.

    I dig the hand porn though.

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