Diamond no Ace – 05

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Damn – now that’s baseball anime right there.

A multiple-award winning 37-volume (and counting) manga, Madhouse, Production I.G., a rock-solid veteran director – sometimes things just turn out like they should, and this adaptation is one of those times.  It’t not as though Daiya no A is going to cross over and reach legions of mainstream anime fans, but this is pure candy for a devotee of sports manga like me.  One of the signature qualities I look for in a good sports series is that it always ends way too soon, and the countdown in my head until the next episode starts the second the ED credits start rolling – and this series has it.

In a sense Eijun is lucky he got the coach he did, funnily enough.  This is a kid that has basically no ability to fake it, so his chances of snowing a coach are nil – and he got a coach who doesn’t want his ass kissed to begin with.  Honesty is either going to work or it isn’t (it works in sports manga more often than real life, in my experience), you’ll know right away – and it’s honesty that finally digs Eijun out of the hole his honesty (and tardiness) trapped him in.  The scene in the bath was comedically effective, but also a good demonstration of why Eijun and Kataoka have at least a chance of being on the same wavelength.

This notion of “greed is good” is one we’ve seen in the world of sports manga – and sports – before.  I most often here it applied to strikers in soccer, where the quality of desperately wanting to score at any cost seems to be a vital requirement for success.  Good strikers are usually selfish, and so are aces in Japanese high school baseball – you have to want the ball so badly that it kills you to see anyone else on the mound.  That’s the “heart of an ace” that Kataoka speaks of, and love it or hate it that’s the reality of Japanese schoolboy baseball, where only person can ever wear the #1 jersey.

Eijun’s naked truth about why he hasn’t been to watch any games gets him a pass into the scrimmage between the first-years and the varsity (though not the starters).  The director is against it, worried that the confidence of the rookies will be shot, but Takashima-san counters that if they can’t survive this drubbing in a meaningless game, they’re “no use to us anyway”.  The reality is what would happen 99% of the time when these groups face off – two years is like a lifetime for high school athletes – and the results are predictable.  By using only the second-string upperclassmen Kataoka ensures that the older players are desperate, pissed and highly motivated.  For the peach-fuzz brigade the battle is not to win or lose, but not to have their spirit crushed – and this is what the coach really wants to see, who can keep fighting with their will intact (and who might actually have a freakish skill he can use with the big team).

It’s worth noting that Kataoka quite pointedly has Tanba pitch in this game – a humiliating reminder that he’s no longer first-string.  As for the freshmen it’s pretty much a washout, the speed and ferocity of the game far too much for them – and that doesn’t change until Furuya finally gets his chance in the 4th inning.  He throws exactly one pitch and his audition is over, but not before it almost takes the coach’s head off.  No, a baseball pitch can’t actually rise – but one thrown hard and straight enough can appear to, an optical illusion caused by the brain’s assumption that a normal pitch is going to have a downward arc.  This is the “rising fastball” of legend, the exclusive territory of true flame-throwers – and Furuya truly stamps himself as one with that pitch.  The veterans are disappointed not to get to face him, but he and the coach both have gotten what they wanted.

As for Eijun, he’s finally gotten his chance – but exiled to right-field, where he promptly muffs his first chance.  He also strikes out against Kawakami Norifumi (Hiro Shimono), the kid we met in the premiere pitching to the giant Azuma.  But we’ve known Eijun long enough to know he’s too GAR to have his spirit broken, and he fights on even as the rest of the team has given up – even becoming the first baserunner by beating out a dropped-third strike.  This meets with the approval of a diminutive ginger-haired boy on the first-years’ bench, Kominato Horiuchi (the very busy Hanae Natsuki), who likewise still has his head in the game.  All this is preamble, of course, to the moment when Kataoka finally lets Eijun take the mound – but will that happen in this game?  Don’t watch the preview if you don’t want to know the answer…

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  1. K

    "I look for in a good sports series is that it always ends way too soon, and the countdown in my head until the next episode starts the second the ED credits start rolling – and this series has it."

    This is what I tweeted last night after watching the episode: I guess I am really enjoying Ace of Diamond now when after an ep ends, I am thinking aww I need to wait a whole wk for the next one

    I am really happy I am enjoying this so much after my initial disappointment after the first episode.

  2. t

    "when after an ep ends, I am thinking aww I need to wait a whole wk for the next one"
    that's exactly how sports anime supposed to make us feel.
    and DnA is doing it gracefully.

  3. l

    Unfortunately it did not work for me in terms of wanting to watch the next episode. That's because I'm already at Volume 38 of the manga XD

    Seriously, all credit to Madhouse and Production I.G. for doing a fantastic job of transcribing the feel of the manga into anime. It's an excellent adaptation so far.

  4. i

    @lenogsh But it isn't translated past ch 132. Are you reading the raws from somewhere or do you just buy volumes in Japan? Seriously I want to know, put my Jap classes to good use for once if you're reading untranslated version (Gin no Saji is so hard to read because I don't know kanji and the Furigana looks like nothing but a smudge).

    Also GE is there any point blogging AnD – every episode is the same level of epic consistent GARness that never goes down but adds new characters and plots and battles each week. I mean beyond literally commentating on each episode what else is there to write about without spoiling?

  5. l

    @ishruns – I'm reading the manga raws downloaded from a few sites that cannot be listed here. Do a search using Google and you should be able to find those sites.

    I do buy the manga volumes whenever I get to my local Books Kinokuniya and they have the stock of the manga volumes that I need.

    If you're interested in another baseball-related manga but a more strategic and tactical point of view and less GAR, give "Last Inning" a try. There's about 169 chapters translated to-date. The most recent released volume of the manga is Volume 40 (30 October 2013 release and takes you up to Chapter 399) while the latest weekly chapter is Chapter 421 (which I'm at).

  6. Y

    15 years in the US didn't compel me to learn baseball's rules. 5 episodes of DnA did.

    Nuff said… 😉

  7. i

    There is actually an interesting reason for that. You see I watch Formula 1 but unlike a lot of my friends I also keep up with GP 2 and feeder series and recently I've found that they're a lot more interesting than F1. Reason that in F1 with politics, money and fear of mistakes the whole spectacle feels very sterile while in GP 2 etc. it is the opposite. These drivers are desperate, just like the third years in AnD, to get to the big league with the big boys in F1. They will do anything and everything to win and know that failing to beat other young drivers, especially if you cannot pay for a drive in F1, means that chances are that after years of trying they'll never get there after coming so close. That makes the racing, celebrations and antics of these young men hugely entertaining and engrossing and the same can be said of DnA. They're not just fighting for a place to fulfill potential but one to shine in bright enough to make the Pros. That for me DnA's greatest appeal – desperate GAR but a real one not a Kaji Yuki shrill stupid one.

  8. You should definitely read/watch Capeta if you haven't already.

  9. i

    I started Capeta but I stopped where I've forgotten. I think just as they moved to middle school. On my next internship I'll catch up on it.

  10. Manga takes him up through the F1 feeder system.

  11. i

    Considering current F1, I hope it's the Red Bull one, not the Mclaren/Ferrari Academy. That way he might actually win some races and a world championship lol.

  12. r

    Cho man. Future GPX cyber formula is where its at man. F-Zero mixed in with F-1 racing.

    But I love me some Capeta.

  13. e

    'Honesty is either going to work or it isn't (it works in sports manga more often than real life, in my experience)' No kidding, bro.

    Lips still looking plump. Check <3.
    Everyone still hot for Kazuya. Check. Gotta catch(er) them all balls. Oh yey. Ho yay (not).

    So many azure flames this time around 8D. Also coach is one hot buff dude. Must be the tyres training… Keep going Eijun dear :,D. And if your waterworks' intensity are any indication of da pouah…
    Eijun 's antics – it' s like there's no middle ground with his antics and his emotions and he sorta flipflops – could turn annoying so easily yet they never do. On the contrary he comes off as one very likable character and I just find myself rooting for him. Ah the enthusiasm of youth, such drive :,D.

    Bad puns of mine above notwithstanding the series so far is just so fun in the comedic moments and pretty engaging in the srs bsnsss ones. Holy ***t at Furuya's throw. Beware of the quiet ones I guess. I'm quite curious to see a bit more of his apparently blue oni character… the sequence at lunch displayed his competitive approach but also revealed a childish side – that seat cockblocking to claim THE KAZUYA*** . Really. Are you in kindergarten? X,D –
    Last but not least a ginger (I'd say borderline pink ) batter and likely ally – first string batter candidate this one yeah? – appeared !
    Next episode now please?

  14. Z

    Kazuya is the man. I look forward to his snarky comments each week.

  15. R

    Well, I'm just happy to see Miyuki-boy every week…lol.

  16. h

    I don't think of myself as a fan of sports anime. Giant Killing is the only one I have really loved. But this show has me. I compare it more to Kingdom than anything else. War and sport do have a lot in common.

    Kazuya, the coach, the approving guy at the back of the dugout, the one-pitch freshman pitcher, the woman who scouted Eijun. Lots of strong/interesting characters, and a story that moves at a good pace, so far. I guess I'll get used to games being spread over multiple episodes, as in Giant Killing and other shows.

  17. Giant Killing and OoFuri were especially good at endless game arcs, too much so sometimes IMHO. Though I do enjoy both shows, especially GK.

    I should mention Ginga e Kickoff, which is IMHO the best sports anime since GK (at least). Not anything much like Ace of Diamond but truly special.

  18. R

    Like hashi, I was also thinking of Kingdom, but it's more so how Eijun reminded me of Xin. At the same time, I couldn't help but think that Morita-san has got a successor who can almost deliver every line at the top of his lungs. It's pretty amazing that Ohsaka Ryouta just did Jun of RMZ last season.

    I like all the body movements in this episode, and the comedy works on me — it totally cracked me up when Eijun hit that runner's back. I also like how it shows what one needs to have to become a real player — it's really a serious business. I think all the build-ups will pay off later in the show.

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