It’s 9:35 PM in Tokyo, and another excellent sports anime is going virtually unnoticed in the English-speaking world. I’m used to it by now but that doesn’t make it any less disappointing to me, yet it’s an inescapable fact – sports anime just don’t much interest Westerners. Even the second season of Kurobas – a bonafide sensation in Japan – has a minuscule 73 posts on ASF (even Diamond no Ace has more). It’s funny because there are a fair number of anime fans and a huge number of sports fans – but it appears that apart from a tiny sliver (most of whom seem to frequent here, seemingly) there’s just no overlap between those groups. Their loss.
The post headline wasn’t actually referring to that issue, though it certainly could, but the fact that Daiya no A is taking a very interesting route in telling its story. Rather than focus on the opponent, the real rivalry here is internal – there can be only one ace, and right now Furuya is leagues ahead of Eijun in the race to wear the #1. This is the nightmare of every first-year, and the risk of attending a power school – a kaibutsu who plays the same position arrives at the same time, and you’re looking at their dust for your entire high-school career. This is the spine that runs through this series, the quest for that jersey – and it represents a different dynamic than what we’ve seen in previous baseball manga that have found their way to the talkies.
There can be no doubt that Furuya is a monster, not after he took the mound and struck out all six Yokohama batters he faced in the Kanto tournament, displaying a distinctive whirlybird finish to his delivery. Of course the game was already lost at that point, with Seidou facing a 6-2 deficit even the momentum burst they got from Furuya’s performance could lift them to overcoming. But the Kanto tournament is small potatoes, and it’s Koshien that’s the main dish – so from Kataoka’s perspective he lost the battle, but won the war.
In fact just as much drama is happening in the grandstands, where Haruichi has dragged a reluctant Eijun along to watch and scout future opponents. Life is a series of galling humiliations for Eijun at this point – he sees Furuya with the easygoing Miyuki, while he’s stuck with stone-faced Chris. Furuya is throwing all the pitches he can handle, and he keeps getting handed scrolls with increasingly rigorous training menus. He’s embarrassed when his ignorance of fundamentals is revealed at practice – he doesn’t even know when to cover first base and where he’s expected to back up throws. So Chris’ declaration that he’ll never be the ace as long as Furuya – who Eijun is currently watching pitch in a tournament game – is around pushes Eijun over the edge, and he lets Chris have it pretty hard. The clincher: “I don’t ever want to end up like you.”
When the truth is revealed – Chris has in fact lost his position because he was playing with an undisclosed shoulder injury and he’s been leaving early because he goes to rehab every day – it hits pretty Eijun pretty hard. So does Miyuki, almost, when Eijun (still not knowing the truth) blurts out that if Chris doesn’t want to practice, he should quit. It’s the first crack in Miyuki’s happy-go-lucky facade, but in truth I can’t really blame Eijun here – it was Chris’ choice to keep the truth from him. And as always, Eijun knows no other way than to say exactly what he thinks, and to bull straight forward.
This phase of the story is all about the learning process for Eijun, and it reveals just how ignorant he was when he arrived at Seidou. Not only is he self-taught, but spent his childhood never watching games he wasn’t involved in – and one of the lessons of this episode is that as Takashima says, watching is a great way to learn. He’s indeed the rough jewel (I think Biscuit Krueger-chama would love this kid), but with the right sort of polish he has much more room to grow than Furuya, whose main attribute will always be raw power – which he already has in droves. For now the process for Eijun is basically storm in, screw up, apologize and try again – a good way to build up a lot of scar tissue quickly, if nothing else – but a keen eye will have spotted the advantages he already holds over Furuya, and know how important they’ll be later on.