Diamond no Ace – 22

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Truth be told, not every game is about winning or losing.

The first thing any team has to do is take care of winning the games they’re supposed to win.  But just as with every other collection of academic sports teams, a tier system definitely exists in Japanese high school baseball.  You have the power teams, and the other teams – and results like this are what happens when the two collide.  Maimon’s coach, Chiba-san, tries to play on this with his “They’re underestimating us!” mantra, but the truth is there’s really no making up the massive difference in talent that exists here.

One important facet of that is that the game doesn’t tell us (or Kataoka) a whole lot about where his team stands at the start of the qualifying for Summer Koushien.  That starts with Furuya, who carries so much of the weight of the team’s hopes on his shoulders.  He has a “poker face” as Miyuki quite rightly describes it, but he tips off his nervousness by muffing Miyuki’s tosses back to the mound.  He’s nervous, of course – any first-year would be nervous – but Maimon isn’t the opponent to take advantage of that.

What we end up with a scenario where Furuya doesn’t throw a single strike – at least on-screen – yet runs into no trouble at all.  Never having seen velocity anything like this and awed by the moment, the Maimon hitters bail him out with their inability to lay off the high fastball.  In awe of the occasion and scared of the pitcher – it’s a bad combination, and Furuya’s highly successful four innings don’t mean a whole lot apart from having gotten him his first experience in a Koushien game under very little pressure.  In fact by the middle of the fifth inning, Seidou already has a 12-0 lead.

Kataoka’s decision at this point is quite interesting.  If Seidou holds a 10-run lead after the completion of the fifth (or subsequent) inning the game is over, of course – and he declares that even in a short game, Seidou is “cycling its pitchers” that summer.  He doesn’t call for Kawakami, though – he gives Sawamura the ball.  I think it’s a very shrewd move, because not only does he get Sawamura his first real action as well as Furuya, but he does so where he doesn’t have to entrust a game to him (and he clearly doesn’t trust Eijun yet) while still giving Eijun the chance to feel the accomplishment of getting the final out.  I also think there’s a measure of reward for Eijun’s relentless energy and optimism too, which the others mock but Kataoka respects in his own way.

There’s even more to this, though.  Miyuki is right that Furuya can’t be effective against better teams throwing this way – a decent team will force him to throw strikes.  But a really elite team presents even bigger problems – they’ll be used to impressive velocity, and Furuya won’t be able to overpower them even if he does throw strikes.  The whole premise behind Eijun’s inclusion here is that he’s a wild-card – no one knows what kind of impact he might have, including Kataoka.  If he can start to find out in a low-pressure situation, that can only help him down the road – when he may very well need to turn to Sawamura when Furuya’s formidable but more predictable gifts prove ineffective (as they surely will sooner or later).  Next week promises us Sawamura’s first action, against a team trying to salvage a measure of their pride and extend the game – and it might be a stiffer test than the one Furuya faced, because Eijun will be facing a cornered opponent with nothing left to lose.

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  1. m

    I held off watching DnA til cour 2 so I could watch a few eps a week, and it has def been worth the wait. I don' know if I'm judging too much based on the lack of comments in your blog for this show and the lack of overall popularity of sports anime in the states, but it really feels like not many ppl r watching this show. Which is a shame bc it's done well, and without all that annoying fake stuff most sports anime have (which is prob why they aren't popular here). Prince of tennis can't compare to baby steps bc of lack of realism. Same with manga like Kuroko no Basuke, I started reading it until the lack of realism made me to angry, It feels like a huge disrespect to people who dedicate their lives to sports to just go and make some joke out of it like that. So when a show gets it right, like this one, it'd be nice if it was more popular.

  2. Historically sports anime with a mostly male audience don't sell many discs. It may be doing very well in ratings, and the manga continues to be a big seller. It's just harder to track the success of a series like this one.

  3. m

    That's true, and I definitely can't say that I know for a fact sports anime/manga don't do well over here. I think maybe bc sports in Japan, especially baseball, might be more widely accepted. Manga/anime aren't viewed by the typical sports fan in the states. Obviously that's a generalization made worse by being shortened to one sentence, but I've played sports all my life and people have always joked around about how I like anime/manga/comics and the like. Essentially acting as if it was weird to like that stuff, but its ok bc I took sports seriously, but those interests are supposed to be mutually exclusive. You 'll see a good amount of sports related manga/anime from Japan, but not in American comics, graphic novels, or other, for lack of a better term lets just call it "stereotypical nerdy" forms of entertainment.

  4. j

    Big windup is as realistic as it got for me and sports anime.
    They really get into the strategy behind the battery and the team dynamics
    It's a double edged sword though, since focusing on individual plays extends the length of games extremely.

  5. That's an understatement. The other issue I have with the realism of Oofuri is that it so exaggeratedly plays up the touchy-feely aspects as a direct appeal (and a successful one) to its target demographic. I played sports through high school and I was never with a bunch of guys that act like the guys in Oofuri. I like the show a lot, and it's refreshing to see a sports series play up the emotional side of the story so much, but I don't think I'd call it all that realistic – it's just too idealized for that.

  6. R

    What a cliffhanger. I wanted to see what Chris has taught Eijin and how much Eijin has improved.

  7. t

    let the games begin!
    finally the real games have started. of course this is only the first game, but it will be intense (as stated 1-2 eps ago, 3 weeks till the semi-final or final if I am not mistaken). BTW if you wondered why Sediou is playing round 2 (namely why didn't they play round 1?) that's because there seeded school. they should've mentioned it a few eps after Tanba's injury.

    as for the game itself, well, Sediou are doing the job. although it's against quite weak team, they know what to do and have the means for it. except that.. this episode revealed what we were being told all along – Sediou doesn't have a pitcher ace. Furuya is good but Miyuki said it'll be hard to rely on him. Kawakami isn't an ace. and Eijun..well, he still has a lot to prove and of course improve his pitching.
    in this case, I think the coach made the wise decision letting Eijun play. there is no need to bring out Kawakami power now. Furuya did a good job, but still needs rest and there is "risk" they'll succeed hitting . besides, as you said, the coach can't entrust a full game (even if it's 5 innings) to him yet, he isn't at that level yet (although he might have been in this specific game). so giving Eijun the opprtuinity after all his efforts. after all, he didn't bring him to first-string just to be a decoration. so let him play and gain a little experience. seeing Eijun accomplishments in practice isn't the same as the real deal.

    as I said above, it's only a first game, which turned out to be pretty easy to our fellows. even if they don't go all-out (but still give lots of energy). I like the whole execution of the game. they made a good atmosphere in all the parts (be it in the dull start or after that when they started hit), sometimes it was too…flashy.. with all cheerleaders, music and all. but still it came out pretty good.
    I can't wait for them to move on!

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