Diamond no Ace – 16

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The trial by fire continues.

There’s a sort of watershed feel to this episode of Diamond no Ace for me.  All of the pieces (barring unforeseen circumstances) for the first major component of the story are in place – the varsity team has been selected, the training camp is over, and now it’s more or less a question of seeing what everyone is made of and the long march towards inevitably coming up short in the first quest for Koshien (let’s be realistic – the hero can’t succeed as a first-year or it wouldn’t be a sports manga).

With that in mind, it seems as if the way Daiya no A handles this superficially meaningless game against Kiryo (from Osaka, runner-up at the last Koshien apparently) might tell us a lot about how the series is going to handle game action in general.  We had Sawamura’s debutante ball earlier, but that was really about being a character drama about Chris more than the game itself.  Will it be glacial and obsessive about every bit of minutiae, like Oofuri, or fly through the games like a highlight film?  Or something measured and moderate, like Major?  So far I think it’s too early to tell, but my guess is it’s the third option – we got about 5 innings here, though that was with the secondary character and rival starting, and the MC (impatiently) waiting in the wings.

I can’t say exactly why, but I didn’t find the drama quite as effective as I have most of the recent episodes.  Is it because Furuya is a less compelling focus character than Eijun or Hariuchi (or Chris)?  I don’t have any issues with Furuya as far as I can tell – he’s interesting enough, and while a bit of a cold fish that’s an essential component of his personality, and he’s shown enough cracks in the facade to come off as human.  It’s hard to put my finger on why, especially, but things just felt a little off-balance this week – the drama was a bit forced, some of the reactions a bit hackneyed.  I don’t have a problem with the concept itself, but the execution wan’t quite where it has been.

That said, this was another interesting look at the mindset of youth baseball in Japan, and how it differs from America.  I think Kataoka’s basic concept here is to break Furuya down and rebuild him from scratch, and it seems Miyuki is fully on-board with this.  Without a doubt someone like Furuya – who has an exaggerated view of his own ability and a lack of experience on the diamond – is only going to realize he’s not all he thinks he is when it’s pounded into him on the field.  But for an American youth coach to have a pitcher who hasn’t thrown in two weeks step onto the mound – exhausted at that – and say he’s going to throw five innings, pitch count be damned, would be highly controversial to say the least.  Pitch counts are far less important in Japan than in the U.S., where they’ve become an object of obsession.  I’m not sure who’s right – pitchers young and old still get injured in both countries – but it’s an interesting contrast.

Predictably, Furuya gets his lunch handed to him immediately by the powerful Kiryo squad.  Their coach immediately catches onto the fact that Kataoka is using his rookies in a game against a team from outside the region so as to hide them from local competition that stands in the way on the path to Koshien – it seems likely the opponents for the double-header the next day in which Tanba and Kawakami (also notable is that an American HS coach would likely never allow his starting pitchers to throw two games in one day) will be pitching are local opponents.  Furuya is supposed to get killed here – that’s the point – but to leave a first-year on the mound for this kind of drubbing is tough love, indeed.  Furuya seems tough enough to survive it – many wouldn’t be.  The game demonstrates a pretty elemental rule of baseball – if you lay off the high fastball, the pitcher is going to be in trouble, especially a one-dimensional power pitcher like Furuya.

I confess I’m really more interested in seeing how Eijun fares in his stint on the mound.  In theory his stuff should work better against a team like this, because he’s not going to walk so many hitters and the nature of his movement makes him harder to hit even if you know he doesn’t throw a true breaking pitch.  But of course he’s going to be facing the same overwhelming body lethargy that Furuya was as a result of the training camp (even the third-years are feeling it) and he too is being sent out with the expectation that he’ll fail.  The true test, it seems, is whether these wunderkind hurlers can survive mentally when being beaten up on the mound – and I think we’ve seen enough from Eijun already to know he’s not beaten down so easily as that.  This game isn’t about winning or losing, but making an impression, and like it or not Eijun and Furuya are already in direct competition against each other.  There are only so many innings for one pitching staff, especially for first-year players.  The lessons Kataoka takes away from this game could prove crucial in how much he decides to trust his fate to the grommets, and to which one.

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  1. i

    Throughout this episode, all I could think of was the production value changed. There were a lot more still shots in general. The beginning of the episode now has a recap. And less crucial but the flashback of Furuya. The recap and the still shots suggest a lower budget maybe, and the flashback perhaps anime only content? Hopefully that added up all means that Diamond no Ace is here to stay much longer. Or maybe I'm over thinking it, who know.
    Of course, me keep thinking about all of this during the episode might mean I subconsciously was not finding the episode as interesting, And I think I agree after reading your post,

  2. i

    Daiya no ace continues to be a typical, but well executed, baseball anime. Something not quite so typical happened in Australia though. We see characters play through the pain barrier constantly in anime but rarely is a similar spectacle offered in actual sports. I've never been a fan of his style but Nadal won my respect for fighting back after injuring his back. It's truly astonishing. Tennis is a sport where players often do play through the pain, the iron will they have to forge to just reach the tour is something they all gain. But rarely do players fight back as hard as Nadal did. Most simply go down or play a few games before realizing it's impossible and give up, like Djokovic a few years ago. Every coach in the world will say how foolish it is to play with injuries but few players would ignore that advice in the way Nadal did, he literally raised his game against Wawrinka. He didn't simply try hanging on but fought the pain and Wawrinka at once to take the third set. That is respect worthy.

    Recently watched Manchester United's senior players, ones that have a trophy room not cabinet, refuse to take the penalties to save the team. Instead young players took them and mostly missed. In 2009 I remember Cesc Fabregas taking a penalty with a broken leg and scoring, that's how much he wanted it. That resolve and drive is so rarely seen in the modern sports world of millionaires but as it always has been in anime, Nadal brought it back. Maybe the likes of Evra will learn.

  3. t

    you summed up my thoughts about Furuya.
    yes, he is good character and important as player/rival/character with his own personality. but in the end of the day, he is less compelling. the theme behind him (as presented this episode but not only) is certainly valid and all..but bottom line there is sorta distance between him and us. there isn't a full click.
    but I guess it's OK too. I mean..it's part of the deal.

    there was certainly a different feeling of this episode, even before the game started. we have two experienced teams facing each other, even if it's just a friendly game, and both have eager and tough coaches..this was kinda sending a message that things will become more intense and we are going to step up for a higher level. that's how it is in the general picture – coaches knows their own team and players and their enemies even better 😛 thus always planning ahead. I loved it!

    "I think Kataoka's basic concept here is to break Furuya down and rebuild him from scratch"
    I don't think that this is the purpose. at least not in terms of breaking him down (that's an exaggeration IMO). but more like to bring him to the edge as possible and for him to understand that things are harder than they look. he wants Furuya to taste the fatigue, because when people having game after game in very short time period (and this will happen if they go on to higher levels), it's tough and not everything go according to plan, and sometimes your best tools aren't working (like Furuya's balls this time).
    I don't think the coach wanted Furuya to lose his confidence (and Furuya didn't, which is a point for him). but sure, this is going to be tough for Furuya when the coach nurtures you.

    the Senpais are doing great and we are exposed to their strength and their abilities. there are some good batters, others are running damn fast…Haruchi's big brother is also doing great.
    and there are the catchers. as continue of last week there is some sorta tension between those two but I think it's clear that they are a team.
    I wonder where Tanba is…I know he isn't playing…but I was sure he would come seeing his friends playing..maybe he refuse to see someone else on the mound LOL

    looking ahead gonna be awesome with Eijun on the mound (with Miyuki as a catcher haha). he still has a lot to learn and he is tired, but I guess we'll see some of the spark and excitement we love from DnA, and it's always somehow brought by Eijun (well he is the MC LOL).

  4. e

    This episode was a bit less involving than usual. Hard to say if it was the epsode per se or rather me having to check at cthe clock constantly while also trying to tune out Ian Gillan singing Child In Time from the next room :,D (it doesn't help I like both singer and that specific song a lot. DEM GODLY SCREAMS).
    In any case Miyuki's grins and the Chrisoka audioporn sprinkles greatly helped the enjoyiment factor *ahem*, plus we got to see some of the seniors shine. But yeah at the end of the day there's a reason Eijun is the MC rather than Furuyamon and I'm really rooting for the former to enter the field asap.

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