As great as this show is turning out to be, I have to admit my enjoyment of it would probably be a bit less if I didn’t also love baseball. I think there’s plenty here apart from that, don’t get me wrong, but I really appreciate how Daiya no A goes the extra mile to get the little things right. In terms of the sports side of the equation this is something of a cross between Major and Oofuri – a hot-blooded story of a hot-blooded pitcher, but with a focus on the team and a more balanced view of what a ballplayer’s priorities should be.
On that front AoD threw us a bit of a curveball this week. The last episode was all about the virtues of the “mano-a-mano” fight to the death, strength vs. strength. But as I said in that post, real baseball usually doesn’t work that way – or rather, pitchers who can only fight that way generally have short outings and long showers. But as I also said in that post, Eijun is completely self-taught (the very word Kataoka used to describe him this week) and is pretty much incapable of any deception, on or off the field. It’s admirable in its way, but not something that’s going to work in an environment where anything less than a trip to Koshien will be considered a major disaster.
Enter Takigawa Chris Yuu (Namikawa Daisuke), the second-string catcher who’s put in charge of Eijun’s development. Takigawa is, presumably, “Hafu” – half-Japanese and half-European or American, in his case – and while that can be extremely difficult for a kid in Japan I suspect this show isn’t going to pursue that angle, and there are plenty of other reasons for Chris’ sour disposition. Namely that he’s been demoted to second-string in favor of Miyuki despite being a third-year, which means the latter is paired up with Furuya while Eijun gets Chris. As you’d expect Namikawa-san knocks it out of the park here – he usually does – no one can do simmering rage like he can.
Chris apparently has quite a reputation for having “ruined” pitchers, and superficially at least it seems this is set up as yet another Herculean trial for Eijun. Chris is all about 30-minute stretching session and endless workout routines, which predictably annoys the hell out of an already testy and envious Eijun. Chris immediately concludes that Eijun has “many qualities of a great pitcher” – loose joints, long fingers, etc. – but that he’ll never be the ace because he’s selfish. Chris ridicules the notion of the head-on power struggle in baseball, pointing out quite rightly that the pitcher is carrying the weight of everyone on the team on his shoulders. My suspicion is that Kataoka sees Eijun as rough clay that needs someone like Chris to mold him – to break him down to his component parts and rebuild him from scratch. He’s not going to move the mitt – Eijun is simply going to have to learn how to hit it.
Something of both Kataoka’s cleverness and the pressure he’s working under is seen here. For a baseball factory like Seidou anything less than total victory is unacceptable, and he’s been falling short of it. The money people are not pleased, but Kataoka isn’t keen to take advice. He does indeed see the “diamond” in the rough with Eijun, stating his opinion that despite his complete lack of polish and peripheral baseball skills like holding baserunners, he might end up being “better than all of them”. It puts me in mind of a story about the great football coach Vince Lombardi, who supposedly had two prospects working out for him at a Green Bay Packers tryout. One kid ran flawlessly, with perfect form, and posted a better time than the other – who ran with arms and legs flailing everywhere in ugly fashion. Asked which kid he was going to sign, Lombardi said the latter – because that was someone whose potential was nowhere close to being unlocked, and could be with great coaching.
Furuya is certainly ahead of Eijun at this stage, both in terms of effectiveness as a pitcher and situation – he’s on the first-string, and alternating with Tanba. But he’s a rough-cut stone, too – Miyuki says his control is terrible, and he’s clueless about fielding his position too (as Tanba reminds him) though it’s probably because he’s never had anyone be able to hit his blazing fastball. As for the third freshman, Kominato Hariuchi, he’s with Eijun on the second-string – because the first-string 2B is his older brother, Ryousuke (Okamoto Nobuhiko). There are hints of trouble in their relationship – Horiuchi clearly worships Ryousuke, but the older brother seems pretty contemptuous of the younger. There’s also a brief glimpse of Wakana, back home – who Eijun vehemently denies (under great duress, it must be said) is his girlfriend.