Diamond no Ace – 15

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These high school training camps are dangerous places, apparently – and for more than just wedgies.

I noted last week that we saw the twin towers of the sports anime schedule, Yowamushi Pedal and Ace of Diamond, bringing us their training camp arcs simultaneously.  Not satisfied with that, Diamond even used the same joke in this episode that we saw in Yowapeda – the MC almost drowning in the bath while his two first-year friends did nothing because of their near-catatonic state.  I don’t think for  a moment that it’s anything more than coincidental, but I guess it shows that sports manga is a pretty small world, after all.

Lest anyone think this brutal training camp notion is either a peculiarly Japanese or even manga thing, we had more than a few cases in the United States of high-school kids dropping dead because their coach made them overwork themselves in summer heat to the point where their bodies simply shut down (usually with American football players), though that resulted in most states imposing some restrictions on just how much abuse high school coaches could inflict on their kids.

If there’s a saving grace to what’s going on in Diamond no Ace it’s that it isn’t full summer yet – that’s the time for the games that really matter – but it’s clear this camp is about testing the players’ mentally as much as physically.  Or, if you like, breaking down the first-year players mentally and seeing if they have what it takes to survive.  There is training going on, and Sawamura and Furuya desperately need it – but very little actual pitching.  Furuya is certainly the better natural hitter and fielder – he’s “basically made of pure baseball talent” in Miyuki’s Chris’ words – but it actually seems to be Sawamura who’s taking to the fielding lessons faster than his rival.

It’s the third freshman, Hariuchi, who gets a good deal of focus in this episode.  The relationship between he and his brother is indeed a complicated one, and I don’t think we’ve seen any indication yet that the older brother can actually bring himself to be supportive to the younger.  To give Ryousuke the benefit of the doubt (probably too much so), perhaps he thinks the aloof and mocking face he shows Haru-chin is the best motivation to drive him forward.  Hariuchi has been the golden boy of Daiya bo A so far, and this is really the first time we’ve seen him struggle – clearly, he’s not at the same level of endurance as his sempai (the finale of the fielding drills Kataoka throws at his kids is truly brutal to watch).  Nor should he be – but it is a full-on reminder that everything isn’t going to come as easily for him as it did for the first 14 episodes.

There’s also an interesting dynamic going on with the catchers.  That Eijun prefers Chris is a given, but he’ll accept Miyuki as a full partner soon enough.  But there seems to be a genuine strain between Miyuki and Tanba, and it’s clear Miyuki isn’t pleased his senior is effectively circumventing him by working on a forkball exclusively with Miyauchi (who remains the second catcher in Chris’ absence).  Tanba admits flat-out (to himself) that he “doesn’t like” Miyuki, and Miyuki expresses pretty clearly that he believes for a pitcher, everything builds off establishing the fastball – and that he doesn’t believe Tanba has faith in his.  This could be a developing storyline in the weeks ahead – we’ve already seen what a huge emphasis this series puts on the teaming of the pitchers and catchers.  Of course there’s also the forgotten man, second-year Kawakami – the sidearm pitcher who my gut tells me is going to play a bigger role in the Koshien buildup that anyone suspects at the moment.  And he, for the record, seems to mesh with Miyuki just fine.

The stage is set now for the practice games that will end the week-long camp – with Furuya and Eijun splitting time in the Saturday game, and the veterans throwing both sides of a doubleheader on Sunday.  Kataoka admits he just wants to see how they all deal with getting hammered because they’re fatigued, but still, this is a major moment.  It’s pretty amusing that the first-years are astonished that Miyuki offers no prep time the night before, and he simply shoots them down with “What’s the point in preparing when neither of you know how to throw breaking balls?”  That will have to change soon enough, and it seems first for Furuya.  And he needs to change first, because even if his arsenal is more powerful than Eijun’s, it’s also more predictable – because not even he knows where it’s going, Eijun can skate by for a while longer throwing what amounts to one pitch that never behaves the same way twice.

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18 comments

  1. i

    Another good episode. Really like the focus on the team as a whole this show keeps doing.
    Also, Just finish Cross Game and it was the best.
    The best.
    Where should I go next with my baseball animes? Cross Game and the latest episode of DnA is all the baseballs I have seen and I enjoyed both thoroughly. Should I continue with Adachi's stuff and go with Touch, or something else of his works? Should I go with Major or some other dark horse? Just want your personally opinion of what you would go with. Thanks.

  2. Well, a tough one…

    For my money, S1 of Major is the best single season of baseball anime there is (I don't really consider Cross Game a baseball anime). It's true that the rest of Major never reaches quite to that level, but for a true baseball series with a great MC, it's hard to beat.

    Other options would be Oofuri – which is a lot of fun and also very team-related, but quite fujoshi – almost shoujo – in perspective. It's very warm and feely and the boys are sensitive, etc. Touch is wonderful, but just bear in mind – it's a 30-year old anime and looks like it. If you're OK with that, go for it.

    Another option to consider would be Ginga e Kickoff, which, while about soccer, is for my money the best sports anime of recent vintage. And it ranks with Major S1 as the best ever about youth (pre high-school) sports in my book.

  3. i

    OK, OK. I differently agree Cross Game is a Romantic comedy and not a sports anime.Chihayafuru is more of a sports anime then Cross Game. Hmm, since there is no definite answer I will catch Ginga e Kickoff since it is recent and I never did seen it,

  4. e

    @ilikepopcans: hey Major s1 still counts as baseball anime among Enzo's suggestions above :,D (I'm on s3 myself. S1 so far has been the best – and quite moving in parts – ).
    In any case definitely watch Ginga E Kickoff :,D.
    And if you're going for more Adachi you might try his Rough manga (this one is about swimming and even among non-Adachians tend to be a favourite). About Touch (anime) feeling dated I wouldn't worry much… I mean Adachi's visuals if anything have been basically the same for the last 30 years :p and the anime chara des stayed relatively close to his style, the main difference I can recall is the faces being a tad more angular on screen.

  5. H

    "OK, OK. I differently agree Cross Game is a Romantic comedy and not a sports anime."

    Thaaannnk u! ; )
    I was willing to give Adaachi's Katsu! manga a go (female boxer? I'm in!) but was persuaded otherwise because of the heavy romcom focus in Adachi's work. Not that there's anything wrong with it.

    Would be happy to see more serious sports anime with female leads who engage in the sports. Specifically boxing, fencing or football etc.

  6. l

    @Hangman:
    Would be happy to see more serious sports anime with female leads who engage in the sports. Specifically boxing, fencing or football etc.

    There are some but most of them are older anime, e.g. Ace wo Nerae! (tennis)(circa 1973-74); Attack No. 1 (volleyball)(circa 1969-72); Yawara! (judo)(circa 1989-92). If you're easily put off by "old-fashioned" art and animation, you're out of luck. If not, good luck in finding the fansubbed episodes of the first 2 examples. You'll stand a better chance for Yawara!.

  7. I quite like Bamboo Blade.

  8. l

    @ilikepopcans – Don't limit yourself to just baseball. There are a few more popular sports out there which have anime, e.g.

    – Boxing: Consider the 1st season of Hajime no Ippo (circa 2000-2002) of 75 episodes to understand why it is acclaimed); and/or try the granddaddy of boxing anime, Ashita no Joe (circa 1960-71), which is being fansubbed now.

    – Football: There are the recent ones like Ginga e Kickoff, Giant Killing, and Area no Kishi. Or go further back to watch Aoki Densetsu Shoot (circa 1993-94) which was in its time in Japan was quite popular. There's also Whistle! (circa 2002-03) which is based on a manga that was adapted into an anime in time for the World Cup 2002 hosted jointly by Japan and South Korea. There's also the elephant in the football room.. Captain Tsubasa.

    – Racing: There's one of Enzo's favorites there in Capeta (circa 2005-06). Around the same time, you may want to consider IGPX: Immortal Grand Prix (circa 2005-06) as well. There is one that I would like to watch but have not been able to get my hands on, F (circa 1988).

  9. l

    Correction: Ashita no Joe (circa 1970*-71).

  10. Mashiro's favorite manga…

  11. l

    Oh.. since there's cycling road racing this season, you should seriously consider watching the 2 Nasu movies/OVAs which cover professional road racing – Nasu: Summer in Andalusia and Nasu: Suitcase no Wataridori.

  12. H

    "Yawara! (judo)(circa 1989-92). If you're easily put off by "old-fashioned" art and animation, you're out of luck. If not, good luck in finding the fansubbed episodes of the first 2 examples. You'll stand a better chance for Yawara!."

    Thanks again leongsh! Belive me, I have no stigma against "old-fashioned" animation. how could anyone hate Dezaki? Also I'm keen for Urasawa so I will give Yawara! a look. Bit weary of the episode count, but that's all part of the game! I'll pass on the tennis and Volleyball though…

    Good to hear Ashita no Joe is still being subbed – need to grab some. Already splurged on 224 eps of YGO this month though. : p

  13. e

    Oh Eijun… if you hadn't almost drown in the bath already you'd get a frozen can on your nape in your sleep as punishment for ignoring your just-my-chidhood-friend-I-swearrrrrrr Wakana's texts XP

    I have a few memory of gruesome anime training from decades past (a certain volleyball method included chained wrists and very literal sweat blood and tears. And some years later there was volleyball beating disguised as balls receiving training – although the coach there was depicted as clearly abusive and fond of his bamboo stick, with the MC rebelling against him. Girl had balls – . In hindsight volleyball shoujo anime series were quite extreme until 30 years ago :,D ) and I remember one sci instructor here telling me he eventually had to take his teenage daughters out of competitive skiing because their training was so hard they had stopped menstruating but damn Enzo your RL examples leave me quite speechless.

    'he's "basically made of pure baseball talent" in Miyuki's words that was Chris' line actually. But I undestand you Enzo. With that voice of his it's hard to keep focused sometimes :p
    I only have praise for the episode and for how they manage to cover so many characters and interactions without it feeling rushed or disjointed.
    The jury is still out about Ginger nii. Without the last scene of him listening to his little bro from afar I would lean towards rivalry and a certain mean streak but there is also some tough love in the mix… probably.

  14. e

    sci–> ski instructor, sorry. Reverted to Italian for a sec there.

  15. D

    The introduction of the sidearm pitcher, right before the big games begin, definitely signals he will throw a wrinkle into the dynamic of "Tanba versus the first years" that we had been led to believe would occupy all our focus.

    "…the twin towers of the sports anime schedule, Yowamushi Pedal and Ace of Diamond…"

    No doubt those two are behemoths on the current sports anime landscape, but for me there's a third tower, Hajime no Ippo. I'm curious why you don't follow it – do you not enjoy it, or did you never watch the previous seasons, etc?

  16. i

    Tetsu is awesome. Its a weird favourite to have but epic sempai are so cool. I remember when I had some back in the day. They would train your arse off and then kick you in it but you still wanted to hang out with them.

  17. R

    I chuckled hard when Chris introduced Eijun to the "guy" who could catch anything that Eijun threw at him. It's also pretty funny to watch Furuya and Eijun getting competitive on one another. I was just thinking that if I were a baseball player, I'd be so lucky to be trained by Chris. I totally bought it when he told Eijun to make his form his second nature — it's like immersing your mind, body, and soul into one, and when you achieve that state, you can have the absolute focus and bring out the best in you.

    By the way, I think it's Chris who said that Furuya was "basically made of pure baseball talent" and not Miyuki.

  18. t

    he's "basically made of pure baseball talent" in Miyuki's words – but it actually seems to be Sawamura who's taking to the fielding lessons faster than his rival.
    actually it was Chris who said it. not biggie.
    as for the statement about Sawamura being the fast learner, well it's true but not exactly.
    remember that Sawamura didn't know half thing about baseball (he refused to watch games and all) and it took a lot longer to adjust playing something that isn't pitching, even in regular practice. yet Furuya was able to do those things.
    but sure, Eijun finally managed to do it without thinking. it means he has what it takes.

    as for Hariuchi, well it's very interesting his relationship with his big brother.
    on the one hand, it seems like the older is trying to put him in place and even tease him a bit about his lack of power, which is quite clear there is a gap between the two (THO when Haruichi was introduced, it seems like the gap is little between the two, quite the opposite). however, I think he is trying to push his little brother forward.
    if you ask me, it's the image of the "big brother, the one Nanba Mutta is always talking about – how the older brother should inspire the younger and always be one step ahead, yet motivating the younger in weird methods LOL

    Kawakami is definitely the forgotten man, like phantom man. but every team needs someone like him. a sixth man to save the day when necessary. sure, he isn't the ace or something, and in big crisis it's the ace and the team's strength to determine if they can hold it, but he'll help when it's pinch, I am sure.

    Miyuki is the Senpai non of us would wanted (not at work, school, etc). but he is quite clever and know a few things. first, when he told Eijun and Furuya about bonding (learn about people playing defense behind you), it's indeed important for a team to share quality time behind the field. second, team player are egoistic. we see it between 2 catchers and Tanba the ace. it's mostly interesting since we know that it's always tough to stay in first-string and there is always a tough competition, but this time it seems deeper. well, it's only natural when you have dominant player, the question is how much they are willing to put ego behind them, and I think they are. for example, Tanba has a lot of respect for Chris and I think despite he doesn't like Miyuki, both will do what it takes.

    some real and full time moments of sports, DnA baseball, is ahead of us. gonna be awesome, and it's just friendly matches, but no team like to lose, especially before the real competition, and of course, not its players who are testing their abilities.

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