The baka looked at the baka from across the diamond, and their eyes met…
Episode 35 of Ace of Diamond certainly gave us a long-awaited showdown, but it took an unusual route in getting us there. This was about an interesting outing as I’ve seen for Furuya for starters, and it remains surprisingly difficult to ascertain the likely course of this game (though not the result). Yakushi continues to provide a randomizing element that I think does Daiya no A a lot of good.
It seems that Kataoka has decided the way his team can cope with the unpredictable, iconoclastic nature of Yakushi is to be unpredictable himself. That’s why he elects to yank Furuya early, after one trip through the Yakushi batting order rather than the full three innings. That also means pulling his starter after he’s just retired five batters in a row and hit a mammoth home run to boot, but the bat at least will stay in the lineup – he moves Furuya to left-field, which means that Sekai – a third-year – has to leave the game. I don’t think this is quite as dramatic a moment as it’s played up to be, but it does suck to be a senior subbed out in the third inning in favor of a freshman.
This is an interesting move on many levels. Kataoka tells Furuya he could “return to pitch at any time”, though he may just be saying that to soften the blow. The strong implication here is that he intends to add Tanba to his pitching relay, never giving the Yakushi sluggers a chance to look at the same pitcher twice (and all the Seidou pitchers have markedly different styles). But Furuya does lurk out there, a wild card as the game plays out.
Without a doubt my favorite part of the episode is the interplay between Eijun and Raichi. As Eijun takes the mound he broadcasts his thoughts to the world at his usual volume level (“Maybe I should just concentrate on the batter!”) and Raichi, naturally finds this the coolest thing in the world (which raises the ire of his father, who reminds him that telling everyone what he’s thinking is a reminder of how stupid he is). Raichi and Eijun really are kindred spirits of a sort, and they seem to be destined for a series of humorous exchanges. As for the matchup itself, it starts with Eijun showing a little too much martial spirit and disregarding Miyuki by throwing his first pitch down the middle (Raichi sees it as a shuuto) – for which a very pissed-off Miyuki rewards him with a ferocious toss back to the mound (the meaning would be clear to any baseball fan in the audience).
Fortunately for Eijun Raichi has been instructed to take a couple of pitches to give his team a look at Eijun’s repertoire (he and Raizou share the least secret “secret” communication ever) and after a foul liner sneaks Eijun ahead in the count 1-2, Miyuki calls for the straight-o on the inside corner – the four-seam fastball, which is now Eijun’s change-of-pace pitch. He jams Raichi badly and pops him up back to the mound, and there’s another great baka-bonding moment as Eijun is doing his usual “Yosh! Yosh! Yosh!” return on the way back to the dugout, and turns to find Raichi staring at him in slack-jawed admiration. We’ve really got to get these two on the same team somehow.
It’s definitely unclear how this game is going to proceed. Raizou relents and puts Sanada (who seems like Eijun to be a moving fastball pitcher, though more refined and less “wild horse”) into the game, but by this point Seidou is already up 5-1. Raizou seems wholly confident that Yakushi will scrape their way back into the game, and we wouldn’t have much drama if they don’t – but which Seidou pitcher will they do their damage against, I wonder? It’s surely not going to be so simple as three innings of Eijun, three innings of Kawakami, but the question is whether Tanba does pitch after all or Furuya returns to do so, or both. It’s Yakushi’s nature to be full of surprises, and I expect them to spring a few more at least on Kataoka and Miyuki before this race is run.