Weekly Digest 7/20/14, Sports Sunday Edition – Diamond no Ace, Haikyuu!!

Diamond no Ace - 40 -5 Diamond no Ace - 40 -20 Haikyuu - 16 -11 Haikyuu - 16 -16

This one goes out to the losers, wherever you are.

Diamond no Ace – 40

Diamond no Ace - 40 -1 Diamond no Ace - 40 -2 Diamond no Ace - 40 -3
Diamond no Ace - 40 -4 Diamond no Ace - 40 -6 Diamond no Ace - 40 -7
Diamond no Ace - 40 -8 Diamond no Ace - 40 -9 Diamond no Ace - 40 -10
Diamond no Ace - 40 -11 Diamond no Ace - 40 -12 Diamond no Ace - 40 -13
Diamond no Ace - 40 -14 Diamond no Ace - 40 -15 Diamond no Ace - 40 -16
Diamond no Ace - 40 -17 Diamond no Ace - 40 -18 Diamond no Ace - 40 -19
Diamond no Ace - 40 -21 Diamond no Ace - 40 -22 Diamond no Ace - 40 -23

If there’s one thing Daiya no A gets right, it’s the losing moments – this is about the third time I’ve come pretty close to tearing up.  And that’s a might important element for a sports series to nail down, because if anything the losses tend to be more emotionally climactic than the victories.

That, however, points up an interesting element of Ace of Diamond.  Those losses and their emotional impact were losses by the opponents, not the protagonists.  Is it a problem, necessarily, for a sports series to have opposing teams that are more interesting than the main character’s team?  Or is it simply a statement that it’s doing a very good job making sure there are no throwaway rivals?  I think it’s more the latter, though for me there is a certain weakness among the Seidou cast – more of them are pretty two-dimensional characters.  This is the second time in a row (the first being Shunshin Yeung and Akikawa) that I was way more engaged by the opponent.

As I said, Diamond no Ace is a show that fundamentally gets the sorts of moments we saw this week.  There is a huge different between a first-year and third-year high schooler, and we really saw that play out in the way Raichi and Tanba handled the crucial moment.  No matter how much of a baseball genius he is, there’s only so much pressure a 15 year-old can take without tightening up, and feeling the weight of his entire team on his shoulders was too much for Raichi.  Tanba fared much better – though it did take Raichi’s tightness to allow him to escape unscathed after serving up a 2-0 meatball.  This is a double-edged sword for Seidou, as they still to a certain extent have to depend on first-years themselves given Tanba’s reduced condition.  I think it’s a safe bet we’re not going to go back to Tanba throwing complete games anytime soon, so presumably Eijun and Furuya will get their chances – I sure hope so, as Tanba isn’t exactly a compelling presence.

As for Yakushi, they were a great addition – a bunch of scraggly outsiders not concerned with the endless list of proper behaviors expected from a Japanese high school team.  I would have liked to have seen some direct consolation from Raizou towards Raichi at the end, but I wasn’t really expecting it – that would have been out of character.  With a second-year ace and mostly first-year batting order they’re obviously going to be a force for future seasons, though whether we’ll see that in the anime is highly dubious.  We did get an announcement of no less than three OVAs this week though (the first will be a side-story about the Kominato Brothers) and that’s a good sign that the anime is meeting its financial expectations, which is reason enough to hope we might get another season someday.

Haikyuu!! – 16

Haikyuu - 16 -1 Haikyuu - 16 -2 Haikyuu - 16 -3
Haikyuu - 16 -4 Haikyuu - 16 -5 Haikyuu - 16 -6
Haikyuu - 16 -7 Haikyuu - 16 -8 Haikyuu - 16 -9
Haikyuu - 16 -10 Haikyuu - 16 -12 Haikyuu - 16 -13
Haikyuu - 16 -14 Haikyuu - 16 -15 Haikyuu - 16 -17
Haikyuu - 16 -18 Haikyuu - 16 -19 Haikyuu - 16 -20
Haikyuu - 16 -21 Haikyuu - 16 -22 Haikyuu - 16 -23

Losing is definitely the theme today, and Haikyuu does its part by focusing on Ikejeri’s doomed Tokonami squad and the Karasuno girl’s team.  It was pretty obvious from the way things were going last week that both were going to be exiting stage left, and one thing Haikyuu rarely does is defy expectations.

This is a very different sort of episode from Diamond no Ace’s, but then this is a very different sort of series.  With Diamond no Ace the protagonists are the big dogs, and in many ways it’s the underdog opponents who get the deepest characterization.  Haikyuu’s home team is a peanut gallery of charismatic oddballs and misfits, and they have no real need to share the spotlight.  The most important rivals are similarly larger than life teams crafted for fan appeal more than pathos, so there isn’t a whole lot left for poor schlubs like Ikejiri and his mates – without any buildup it’s hard to feel all that much for what they’re going through, and the out-of-nowhere snapshot of the girl’s team feels a bit perfunctory.  That said, the episode strikes a very respectful tone towards the also-rans, making the point that just because they aren’t exceptional athletes doesn’t mean they feel things any less deeply, and as such it works well as a general ode to average kids whose athletic career ends painfully too early.

The real beginning of the inter-high is next week, with the matchup with the fearsome “Iron Wall of Date”, who come complete with an Engrish cheer.  As such it’s a battle for redemption for Asahi, who let his humiliation in their last meeting drive him out of volleyball altogether.  Unlike with Daiya no A, there’s really no slippage with Haikyuu when the focus is off Hinata and Kageyama – not that it is very often – because the rest of the crows are more than capable of carrying the narrative.  That said I keep waiting for Sugawara to get his chance to shine on the court, but it doesn’t look as if it’s going to happen anytime soon.

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13 comments

  1. N
  2. e

    Well, both the DnS recent ED (oh strawberry-haired lord of the hose you could spray me all you want. Literally. Impromptu fresh water shower in this hot soupy weather. Oh gawd yesss) and the Eijun-reflecying-on-Raichi's-hand bit were still enjoyable bits this week.
    I agree Haikyuu has more arrows characters-wise to keep one's involvement on target. Last but not least Noya's Rolling Thunder Again had me in tears. RL stormy sky rumbling outdoors just topped the moment :,DDD.

  3. D

    …NO, I did NOT tear up during "Haikyuu" this week. You must have me confused with some other sentimental former athlete. ¬_¬

    You know, I'm starting to see how personal experience can have a big impact on how much people connect with sports series. I played a ton of team sports (including volleyball) as a kid, and "Haikyuu" does such a good job of capturing that dual sense of individual responsibility and group support that it hits me in the Nostalgia Feels pretty regularly.

    On the other hand, I was never really into individual sports, so I'm struggling with "Baby Steps" a little (I really liked the early episodes, but the more it focuses on the tennis matches, the more my interest wanes). It just feels like Ei-chan has become more and more isolated from the rest of the cast – he's inside his head all the time now, and while his head is interesting enough, I miss seeing him interact more directly with the others.

    Just wondering, Enzo (or anyone else reading BS), does the manga continue to become more internally focused, or do the social elements from the earlier episodes come back into play again? I'll watch the series to the end regardless, but I'm debating whether or not I should pick up the manga, and that could play a huge part in my decision.

    (Hm… perhaps this should have gone in the Baby Steps comment section. Ah, well. I'm a rebel!)

  4. I'm not 100% sure what you mean by "social elements", but I never felt that the major focus of Baby Steps shifted – not from the early chapters to now, and not from where the anime is now to chapter 220. It's very consistent – it's Ei-chan's journey, but the other characters are important. Nat-chan's role remains very big (maybe increases), there are new mentor and opponents introduced. During matches, it's obviously very internal (as tennis is). Between them, it's more social.

  5. c

    I think you may be feeling a sense of isolation since these past number of episodes (6?) have all taken place during the tournament, in which Ei-chan is obsessed with understanding and analyzing his opponent. If anything, as he becomes more and more aware/interested in the tennis world, I'd say he becomes more sociable as he meets and connects with more people. From one friend and some classmates, his world will only expand.

  6. D

    By "social elements" I was just referring to the more direct interactions between Ei-chan and his teammates/opponents (one of my favorite moments was when he challenged Takuma to the practice match because he wanted to understand why he was so angry – such a great blend of both sport and character development, that was).

    Since the start of the tournament the interactions have been more indirect – there's a kind of wordless conversation between the two players, and then you have the sideline commentators, but the vast majority of the episode takes place inside Ei-chan's head, which in turn (IMO) has made him feel sort of isolated from the rest of the cast. And I was just wondering if the series alternated between the monologue-driven tournament arcs and the more dialogue-driven training arcs, or if it became more and more monologue-driven as the series progressed.

    Despite my unclear word choice, between the two of you I got a pretty good idea of what to expect from the manga, so thanks for the replies! I'll see how I feel once the anime ends (I'm still not completely sucked into the world of tennis, but I'd very much LIKE to be) and then decide from there.

    Thanks again!

  7. p

    I think you can't depend too much on what Enzo says about Baby Steps. He tends to think: "Baby Steps–perfect. Always has been, always will be." I was bored with the earlier episodes because this supposedly "cerebral" anime with only explaining such a basic level of tennis and not going into very deep analysis at that, and he just told me that if I didn't like it now, I wouldn't like it in the future. Well, luckily someone else told me to stick with it because I find the show very different now and am really liking it. The analysis is of a much higher level, and I'm learning about tennis every episode.
    But I would never really watch this anime for the "social elements." I don't think that's it's strength at all. The dialogue between characters is not very good in terms of developing personalities or being witty or surprising. Mostly it's all about explaining tennis. The glasses girl is primarily there to ask the extremely stupid questions and have tennis terms explained to her. Fortunately, we only need one ignorant female at a time, so Nat-chan doesn't need to say, "huh?" constantly anymore, but can go back to being insightful. "Socially" is not where the show shines unless you're talking about social interactions that reveal something about tennis. The personalities on the side lines are mostly fairly interchangeable in terms of what they say.

  8. Or it simply isn't geared toward typical anime fans, and thus they see what some fans of the series see as strengths as weaknesses, and lash out at those who disagree as being biased…

  9. l

    With this piece of news, Haikyuu!! getting a second season is more than ever unlikely to be in doubt:

    Haikyuu!! Volume 1 DVD sells 12,515 copies and tops the DVD ranking for 14-20 July 2014

  10. It was never remotely in doubt in the first place. When the odds are already 100% it's impossible for them to get better…

  11. K

    Also, the 3rd volume of Ace of Diamond sold 4,671 discs in its first week. Disc sales like that are great for a morning series that relies on ratings, so the chances of that getting a 2nd season are becoming more likely. It apparently attracts more yaoi fangirls than expected, every girl I talk to who watches it swoons over Haruichi. Never hurts to get a surprising demographic.

  12. That's awesome for this type of show. It does seem as if we may get more than just the 3 OVAs.

  13. e

    Yay on both accounts. More crows – oh the adorkableness – . More Ejun. More Miyuki-baby. More Chris. More insight on the Kominato brothers dynamics please – I hope that would pop put not just in the OVA but more in the regular series as it add interest to the team and to at least one of the older charas -. More Boss. More Wakana? I'n not storing much hope on the latter :,>.
    P.S.: Haruichi = adorasexy? My fictional nephew*** is such a sales secret weapon uhuh 8D.
    ***yes I'm filled with Auntie feels.

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