To me, the last few episodes of Ace of Diamond have had the feel of playing for time. While this is obviously the most important game of the series so far and as such it receives considerable buildup, there’s no question the anime is taking its time going about it more than the manga did (including last week’s original episode). It makes me wonder for just how long Production I.G. and Madhouse have known that they were going to get a second season.
While we wait for the elephant in the room – how Kataoka is going to use his pitchers in the West Tokyo final – to be addressed, there’s a of coaches standing around while the reporters ask questions, and heartfelt thanking of the cute manager girls. There’s one piece of what I would call real news in this episode, and that’s the fact that Kominato-niisan appears to have messed up his ankle sliding into the catcher in the Sensen game. This, of course, would mean the human kigurumi Haruchin may finally get his chance to do more than pinch-hit – something you had to figure was going to happen sooner or later.
On the pitching front there are no firm clues, though if Furuya doesn’t pitch I’ll eat my hat (I expect he’ll start). There are no such questions on the Inahisro side, though we do meet the pitcher Mei has displaced for the Ace role – Iguchi-kun. We also get out first extended sound bytes from their coach Kunitomo Hiroshige (Nakano Yutaka). He comes off as a pretty no-nonsense baseball lifer, as you’d expect from a guy who’s racked up 14 Spring and Summer Koushien appearances in his decade as coach of his alma mater.
It’s relatively difficult by sports manga standards to predict who’s going to win this next game, because strictly speaking either result works in the context of a long-running series like Daiya no A. Independent of the needs of the plot Inashiro would certainly be favored – they have the better recent history and the pitcher who can carry the game himself (though Chekov’s reliever suggests Iguchi was shown for a reason). But there are hints that it’s Mei’s mental fragility that’s going to show Seidou a crack in his seemingly unbreakable facade, and given the suggestions that it’s the top of the order that’s going to be the key to the Seidou attack, it’s a good bet that Kominato-otouto is going to be a critical part of breaking Mei down.
Haikyuu!! – 24
Well, smack my ass and call me Judy – Seijoh won after all.
I’ll give full credit to mangaka Furudate Haruichi here, because I was pretty much convinced Karasuno was going to win this match. I think Seijoh winning is the more believable and natural result, but it takes the series in some interesting directions. Unless I misunderstand the situation this is the final inter-high for Sugawara, Sawamura and Asahi, and thus their careers are basically over, and they were pretty major pieces of the narrative puzzle. There’s plenty of time for Hinata and Kageyama to rebuild from here, but this loss is especially telling for the third-years.
About the match itself, I can only say it was great – one of most well-staged game sequences of any sports anime in recent years. Apart from the flashback in Episode 22 it was pretty much a non-stop freight train of a battle, exciting and insistent and strategically interesting. The ebb and flow of momentum – and the emotions carried with it – was exhilarating.
In the end I think Oikawa was every bit as interesting as anybody on Karasuno – a brilliant, enigmatic and difficult guy even his own teammates (apart from his osananajimi Imaizumi) had trouble figuring out, and probably more essential to the story than any of the Karasuno third-years. I liked the fact that he choked on two straight serve chances (though lucking out when the first trickled over the net) and then came up with his most unreturnable serve when the match was at-stake – and then followed it up with a jump floater. It was also interesting to see another of Kageyama’s old teammates, Kunimi – who’d been a favorite whipping boy of the lonely King – step up and burn him in the closing stages of the match when everyone else was exhausted.
When the protagonist(s) lose in sports anime, the aftermath is every bit as important as the loss itself. Naturally, this was a tough moment for all of them, and for my tastes things might have been overplayed just a bit here with the DVD-buying target audience in-mind. Intellectually it’s easy to see Karasuno had nothing top be ashamed of – they lost to a better team, and their brilliant third-year general outguessed Karasuno’s first-year general in the end. But in the moment of course it’s emotions that take over, not intellect, and Sendai is a lonely place when you’ve just lost. As bad as the third-years feel for seeing their high school careers end I imagine the freshman feel even worse for letting it happen, but of course these sorts of trials are great growth opportunities – not just in sports manga, but real life too.