Diamond no Ace – 04

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“Rival” can have more than one meaning, as this episode proves.

In Japanese high school baseball, things are a bit different than what fans of American pro ball might be used to – as fans of baseball manga know very well.  While there are multiple pitchers, there are no rotations like a pro team would use, and the position of “Ace” isn’t a rough concept – it’s as clearly defined a position as catcher, second baseman or right fielder.  Every team has an ace, and every team has only one – and that’s the guy that gets to wear the coveted #1 to prove it.

This is a critical component of Diamond no Ace (it’s in the title, after all), as it is of many baseball series, and we see it play out in multiple ways this week.  The main team is off to play their first game of the Spring Regional tournament – not as important as Summer Koshien by a long stretch, but the first test of the year and in this case, a chance for revenge against the team that knocked Seidou out of the Fall Invitational the prior year.  And that means the ace takes the mound – Tanba Kouichirou (Morita Masakazu).  And he struggled, though Seidou roughs up the opponents ace on the way to a 13-9 win, led by Kazuya’s three-run homer and the hitting of cleanup slugger Yuki Tetsuya (Hosoya Yoshimasa).

Veterans of the genre can see where this storyline is going pretty quickly, but this is not the sports anime that’s going to surprise us every week – it’s more about the execution of traditional sports shounen themes than reinventing them.  Seidou is, fittingly, a powerhouse – but they have one weakness, and that’s the fact that they don’t have a true ace.  Tanba is coming off an injury but he’s on a short leash, and his tentative form in the first game is enough to get him stripped of his “official” ace title.

Meanwhile, Eijun has skipped out on the bus ride to watch the team on the grounds that if he can’t officially practice, he needs to work his butt off every second he can.  And it’s on the deserted practice field that the matter of rivals takes form – first with Yoshikawa Haruno, the clumsy first-year manager trainee (yes, it’s pretty sexist to have a girl talk about how her dream is to support the boys as they chase their dream, but the girl manager is as much a staple of baseball manga as the bat and glove).  She’s seen a kindred spirit it Eijun – an “onaji taipu” – especially when he makes a fool of himself in class defending himself against the mockery he’s receiving for not being officially a part of the team despite having a scholarship.  “It’s wonderful that you can be such a baka!” she tells him, just after clocking him with a tire.

Haruno, of course, is a rival for a certain someone back home, but there’s another onaji taipu and another rival on the field – Furuya Satoru (Shimazaki Nobunaga).  He’s likewise a first-year but the only reason he’s not watching the first-string is that he was in the bathroom when the bus left.  He happens upon Eijun when the latter is testing the limits of just how much fun a boy can have playing with himself, and the two end up playing catch.  This is certainly one of those “fated moments” sports series are known for – Furuya-kun has trouble catching Eijun’s “disgusting” ball because he can’t throw straight, then – once his shoulder has warmed up – unleashes a straight-o that almost takes Eijun’s head off.  Turns out Furaya is a walk-on (no scholarship) player who tested into Seidou because he wanted to find someone (Kazuya) who could catch his best heater.

With that, the pieces are all in place for Ace of Diamond to begin it’s first major storyline.  Things are worrisome enough for Kataoka-sensei that he actually has to consider letting the first-years play – which means forming a team out of them to take on the big boys, in order to see which of the youngsters has what it takes to contribute right away.  There’s no secret what this really means – the beginning of a long rivalry between the lefty who can’t throw straight and the righty who throws pure heat.  But as anyone who knows sports manga (and fans of Chihayafuru, though not its CR translator) knows, teki is a very complex concept, a relationship that transcends friend or enemy and becomes something else entirely.  And without it, it just doesn’t feel like a sports anime.

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  1. e

    That opening line I can fully agree with ( oh my Wakana ;_;)
    but I'd also say everyone is hot for the catcher (oh my Kazuya :DDD ).
    Eijun is one entertaining guy for sure. I wouldn't like to be in his shoes when the girls get back to find out balls scattered everywhere though.
    About the new guy his deadpan bathroom line delivery gave me the biggest laughter of the episode (I'm one refined ojousama ). It was just so deliciously prosaic vs the grand athletics and the flaming spirit and the silly.
    Waiting for the next episode with gleeful anticipation.

  2. e

    P.S.: the teacher laughing in his face was plenty rude.
    P.P.S.: gotta snicker at the teki bit. You're not living it down aren't you? Not that I disagree. I did wonder about a single-word translation that could convey as much of the original meaning as possible in that instance. Suggestions?

  3. Teki is one of those words like schadenfruede – you can't translate into English in one word. But I can say this much – "enemy" was the wrong one word to use. At least "rival" conveys something of the nuance intended.

  4. K

    "but I'd also say everyone is hot for the catcher (oh my Kazuya :DDD"

    I fully admit I fan girl the catcher. Doesn't hurt he is voiced by Sakurai lol

  5. R

    Count me in…Kazuya is hot…lol.

  6. Z

    Not to mention his name is awesome too.

  7. Y

    As someone who's read the manga, do you think it's possible to enjoy the story if you don't know squat about baseball? I'm not American and I really no NOTHING about it… For the first time in this episode, I got a bit worried about that because I already didn't get what was going on during the game. I dig the old school vibe and the characters but… I'm thinking I might not be able to enjoy it much once it gets into the meat of subject? I did love Chihayafuru even though to this day I still don't really get the details of Karuta though…

  8. e

    Similar boat. For what s worth I'm enjoying DnA it a lot all the same in spite of all my (risible) baseball knowledge being 1) in Italian 2) limited to other anime/manga titles 3) playing catch and batting in high school for a grand total of three times.

  9. K

    Although I do know the rules of baseball (it is one of the most straightforward American sports) I am not a fan of real life baseball or any sports for that matter, yet I love sports series.

    So I don't think understanding the game or rules is a prerequisite to enjoyment. Although I expect you will pick some rules up from watching.

  10. I more or less agree – I don't think it's necessary to know baseball, though it helps. I won't say Daiya has the sizzling character dynamics of Chihayafuru, so that comparison isn't 100% accurate for me – but FWIW I did actively study the rules of Karuta once I got into that series, just to give myself a crude understanding of the game, and it helped immensely.

  11. t

    well DnA has just announced itself as an old-school sports anime.
    let's test it: we have rivals, veteran players, struggling ace, cuteeeeee(and clumsy) manager (actually a trainee but who cares about terminology). and not surprisingly Eijun somehow remembered today his childhood "girl-friend" (not actually his girlfirend but you got the point).
    oh and we have a strict coach who wishes for an ace.

    so basically, DnA has everything that sports anime is needed. and it is indeed pure-sports anime, even the comic touch is so alike other in the genre (YP doesn't count).
    they actually set all those aspects in the last 2 eps.

    that doesn't mean DnA is "generic" or something. although it did has the hard-core features of sports and the nostalgic scent of an old-school sports anime, it also has something else that makes DnA unique. sort of like a mix between all those aspects when each aspect bear something new and is interacting with the other features the create this..uniqueness of DnA. I believe it's mostly the characters, but we'll keep seeing interesting stuff indeed.
    enjoyment is guaranteed!

  12. K

    Well I guess you gave a very good reason why they can only have 1 pitcher or Ace for the team (even though I still say if no for that coveted No. 1 I think it makes a lot of sense to have two).

    Still yes I do love Rival characters. You mention Taichi & Arata but I think one of my favorites is Akira & Hikaru. I do tend to prefer when they gravitate more towards friendly terms in the end though.

    On another note I asked on AS but I will ask here as well. When they say they are aiming for Nationals is that the same thing as Koshien or something different?

  13. l

    When they say they are aiming for Nationals is that the same thing as Koshien or something different?

    The same. The National High School Baseball tournaments are held at Hanshin Koshien Stadium near Kobe, and thus, is more popular called Koshien.

  14. You certainly do have more than 1 pitcher, but only one "Ace". It's just how it is – that's the thing everybody shoots for.

    Akira and Hikaru (just kiss already!) are indeed great rival characters.

  15. i

    'Akira and Hikaru (just kiss already!) are indeed great rival characters'

    This is the rivals from Hikaru no Go, right? I like hnnging over moekyun boys like Aladdin and Onoda but that's a step too far for me.

  16. e

    Isn't the kiss bit tongue-in-cheek (ohohoh)?

    I believe it's them yes XD.

  17. Yes, that is Hikaru no Go . And yes, that was tongue-in-cheek. So to speak…

  18. i

    Kinjo and Yuki from YP and DnA are probably my favorite male characters this season (although the whole cast of those two shows are great). They fill the same roles and its the kind that I looked up to when I trained with senpai.

    DnA isn't a revolution, it's an optimization. I think it takes all the tradition of one of the most loved and written genres of manga, adds it's on fresh layer and creates something that is tantalizing. It doesn't have the hnnng of YP but its got a great cast in its own right. The other thing is that the desperation to play official games is such a great theme in it and feels so heartfelt whereas the same desperation in to seriously silly anime just comes off as stupid… IMO WWC.

    DnA won't make new fans of baseball anime but it'll keep the love affair with its current one up.

  19. R

    To me, this feels the most shounen of this shounen show — there is lots of shouting and a clumsy female character whose role is to serve. Well, I'm still game for the show, and I like adding Furuya into the mix — he's like the polar-opposite of Eijun, or at least there's someone who is more quiet to balance Eijin out…lol.

  20. Z

    He's the ice to Eijun's flame.

  21. n

    Another sports club captain role for Hosoda Yoshimasa…

    What I actually like about DnA in general is that there's (a friendly) intra-rivalry in this one and not interrivalry like in other baseball anime. Now, the team have 4 pitchers in tow (Tanba (the 'current' ace), Kawakami (the sub-pitcher), and the freshies). Now, we only need to be introduced to that 'other pitcher' in the OP song…

    Our hero's not the immediate ace (unlike in Cross Game, Major, and OoFuri) and that gives us the fun ride on how he'll become it. Well, he's a non-irritating dumb pitcher to begin with… all the more fun lol

    (Oh an I really love how some characters have this cheeky smile with their teeth in full view hahaha)

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