In case you missed it, this week it was announced that Daiya no A was going to have a 52-episode run. It seems ungracious to complain about a full year’s worth of anime in this day and age, but I was hoping we might get a full adaptation of the manga (which would have taken two years at least), though the manga is still ongoing. Better not to be greedy I suppose – four cours is a nice innings, and so few long-running manga (like Major) get a full adaptation – but I can’t shake the feeling that the anime is going to end just when we’re getting to the best part.
Speaking of the best part, finally seeing Eijun take the mount when it matters is definitely one of the highlights of the series so far for me. There were two times my internal voice was shouting at the screen this week. First, it was telling that annoying club advisor or whatever he is in the dugout to shut the fuck up (that was actually multiple times, and it’s an ongoing thing – what purpose does he serve apart from being annoying?). The other was telling Furuya to give Eijun the damn ball and get off the mound already – the whole world doesn’t revolve around your ego, Stupid.
I can’t help how I feel, and I feel like Ace of Diamond takes a huge leap in intensity when Sawamura replaces Furuya in the game – and the spotlight. It’s a big-time level-up. I just can’t feel Furuya as a character – I understand him and I get his role, but he just doesn’t interest me. He’s just a cocky bastard who was naturally gifted with a lot of talent and grew frustrated he never got much chance to show it. He’s someone who has the potential to grow better as a character and as a player with a little humility, experience and maturity – but for now, he’s more irritating that anything else for me.
The big difference between Eijun and Furuya, as it has been from the beginning, is not their fastball but their attitude. Eijun selfishly wants to play too, but everything always comes back to the team for him. He’s a loose cannon, no doubt, and Kataoka is taking a huge risk putting him on the mound here – no question Sawamura too will benefit enormously from experience and maturity (practically throwing the ball into the dugout on a pickoff and openly adjusting his grip being symptoms of his extreme nervousness). But in ways both symbolic and material, he’s more connected to the team as a pitcher than Furuya is. Furuya’s game is all-or-nothing, go for the strikeout every time. Eijun is part of a nine-man defense, and for all the grief they give him his teammates feel comfortable ripping on him because he’s one of them.
The other side of this is that Kataoka made this move out of necessity. Furuya was definitely done – give credit to Akikawa for a successful strategy to drive him from the game – and Kawakami is too much of a safety valve to burn in the fourth inning. Plus, you saw the reaction of the lefty batters (remember, there are 7 of them) in Akikawa’s lineup when Sawamura came into the game – high-school lefties hate facing southpaws, especially ones that are a complete unknown. It’s a good thing Eijun showed his spirit (though that was never really in doubt) by buzzing the Coach’s chin, because Kataoka by necessity had to have Eijun as a real option for this game. And Chris’ teaching him the four-seam straight-o is potentially transformative to Eijun’s game – in addition to giving him a completely new weapon, it effectively turns his usual “fastball” into a breaking pitch.
We should be in for some big-time drama now, with Eijun pitching with his future role on the line and the future of Seidou in this Koushien very much (though not really) in doubt – getting the butterflies out with the errant pickoff (saved by Yuki) was huge. But Yeung still lurks not just as a tough nut to crack on the mound but as a dangerous hitter too – a righty and smart enough not to be rattled by Eijun’s unusual form and the movement on his pitches. Plus, Akikawa gained an air of cockiness after knocking Furuya out, and that’s not a good place for an underdog to be against a more talented team – you never want to believe you’re over the top until you’ve finished off the opponent. The rest of this game should be a barnburner.