Another carryover, another anime with no moe and no idols and no badly written romance and ecchi comedy. Uchuu Kyoudai and Diamond no Ace have hit me like a B-12 shot, and it couldn’t have come at a better time – one more premiere like most of the ones we’ve had this week and I would have been dressing in black, reading Sartre and watching the “Exit Meeting” arc in NHK no Youkouso again.
It’s kind of funny that Daiya no A and Yowapeda are in the midst of grueling training camp arcs at the same time. As different as these two shows are they’re still sports series at the core, and there’s no convention that’s more crucial to the character and story arcs of a sports series than the training camp. It’s no news flash that this series is terrific at digging into the details of the sport at its heart, and thus no surprise that it should handle this development in stride.
Ace of Diamond wasn’t as attention-grabbing right out of the blocks as Yowamushi Pedal – that show hit the ground at full speed, but it’s been more of a building process here. I don’t know what Madhouse/Production I.G. have planned for this series in terms of episode count but they’re treating development very much as the long-running manga is – carefully and deliberately. The sports is definitely the focus and the team more important than the individual, but we’re slowly learning more and more about the kids that make up the Seidou roster and yes, they’ve become fascinating as individuals. There was no rush to show us everything the likes of Chris and Furuya were made of at first glance – it’s only over time that we’ve come to realize that they have depth and subtleties of personality that make them much more interesting people.
I think the core relationship in the series so far is that of Eijun and Chris. It’s heartwarming to see just how thoroughly Eijun has come to idolize Chris (not at all unusual given their respective ages, especially in athletics), and the fact is that Chris has changed for the better as a result of realizing the impact he’s had on Eijun. Eijun’s response to his grief over Chris’ setback has been much in character – to drive himself even harder. It’s up to his sempai to “leash” him – prevent him from running himself into the ground before the real work has even begun, and it’s clear that Eijun and Miyuki (in part because of the latter’s uncharacteristic flash of anger) don’t have the level of mutual trust that Chris and Eijun do. Ironic, given that just a few weeks earlier Eijun was begging to work with Miyuki instead of Chris and envying Furuya for being able to do so. That relationship will come in time – it has to, given the roles each plays on this team.
One aspect I really like about Diamond no Ace is the way it focuses on all the less glamorous aspects of pitching – stuff like covering first, backing up the plate, and pick-offs. Chris sums it up well – the pitcher has to take all of this into his mind before he ever delivers the pitch, and that’s a lot to ask of a nervous and amped-up freshman. Eijun and Furuya are equally awful at all this, and it’s up to Chris and Miyuki – with a lot of help – to bring them up to snuff quickly. We’re seeing Furuya very much in a new light these last couple of weeks – it’s he who’s envious of of Eijun now, because he can see that Eijun has the ability to form a “circle” with other people that he lacks. As Miyuki tells him that’s just the nature of his personality – the strong, aloof leader – but the takeaway here is that Eijun and Furuya are going to learn a lot from each other as they fight for the Ace number.
Of course, that’s not just their fight. Tanba doesn’t intend to give up that number easily – he’s working on a “new pitch” – and this is his last chance to taste glory in the game of baseball. But Kataoka’s words are the key – if a pitcher gets on a roll he’s going to pitch, and “I don’t care what age he is”. We also have the complicated issue of the Kominato Brothers, where Ryousuke doesn’t just have to worry about a freshman taking his job, but his own brother at that. This is a story whose surface has barely been scratched, but I sense we’re going to be digging a lot deeper into it – this sibling relationship doesn’t seem like a healthy one. Hariuchi is normally very calm and good-natured, but his brother – and his determined indifference – bring out the insecurities in Haru-chin in a big way.
As if all that weren’t enough we seem to be seeing the faint stirrings of a romantic subplot on the horizon. The new ED (no new OP) is all managers, for starters, but in the episodes themselves we’re starting to see more and more reaction shots from Haruno. And most of those are with her staring intently at Eijun with what’s increasingly looking like infatuation on her face. Eijun may not realize he has a girl back home who feels that way about him too, but he does, and Haruno’s feelings could make this pretty complicated when they’re brought into the open. I think we’re a long way from all that becoming a major factor, but (if the anime sticks around long enough) I think we’re going to get there.