The action is definitely heating up with Argevollen, both on the battlefield and off. It’s becoming quite clear who the real bad guys are here, not that it hasn’t been looking obvious for a while.
There’s some new terminology thrown around here – “U-link”, “NR Syndrome”, etc. – but the salient point is that the entire war between Arandas and Ingelma is outed as a concoction of two (at least) defense contractors. One we know of course – Kybernes (we see their CEO conspiring with Cayenne again, spied upon by Quasimodo) and the other is on the Ingelmian side, Fordergrunt. It seems very likely the entire conflict has been contrived to drive sales of their new equipment, and that the sale has to be closed before the aforementioned NR Syndrome kicks in and presumably kills the pilots.
We’re starting to see a strong parallel between the Ingelmian and Arandian causes here – each side with an overqualified mid-level officer who’s fighting the incompetence and corruption of his superiors and a guinea pig test piloting an experimental mech. The Fordergrunt model has been dubbed Ghost by the Arandas forces, among whom it’s been wreaking devastation, but its pilot Richthofen tells us its real name – “Sturm” (stay tuned for Drang next week). That makes Richthofen a sacrificial lamb just as Tokimune is, though a lot less sympathetic. And it’s the confrontation between Argevollen and Sturm which causes Susumu’s linkage rate to hit 83, which I’m guessing is going to take him pretty close to NR Syndrome territory.
The endgame of Argevollen may be starting to take form here, with Samonji and Homles somehow coming into contact with each other and conspiring to reveal the truth and end the war. There’s also the matter of the budding romantic triangle involving Susumu, Jamie and Namie, but while Namie is playing her cards pretty openly I don’t see her having much of a chance in the end.
Diamond no Ace – 52
If there’s one word the Japanese seem to associate with the Koushien it’s “Kaibutsu”. It means roughly “monster”, of course, but in this context it’s the ultimate baseball boy – the beast who throws 150KM/H or more and blasts massive home runs, and even more importantly (in a somewhat twisted way) pitches so often and for so long that he jeopardises his future career. The young two-way phenom Otani Shouhei, currently tearing up the NPB, is probably the most perfect example in recent memory (we’ll see if his arm holds up, but if it doesn’t he sure can hit).
While Eijun is the protagonist of Ace of Diamond and by far the more interesting character, there’s no doubt Furuya more closely fits the classic kaibutsu mold. If a first-year can be a kaibutsu the Japanese love it all the more – he has that much more innocence to shatter and potential to put at risk from overuse. And this episode was really Furuya’s coming-out party as both a character and a pitcher. I’m not a fan of his generally, but I must admit he was pretty GAR rising to the occasion the way he did. It’s never simple to deal with a pure power pitcher of his ability, no matter how experienced and talented the opponent.
Through two innings here, Furuya has struck out five of six batters – only Narumiya manages to pop out to third – and he’s clearly the more impressive of the two starting pitchers. That drives Narumiya nuts of course, but to his credit he does manage to rise to the occasion and limit the damage by Seidou to one run in the first – mostly by striking out Yuuki on a change-up good enough that the cleanup couldn’t make contact even though he knew it was coming. One suspects that Furuya is running on pure adrenaline here, and given that he’s facing such a fearsome opponent it seems likely the second trip through the order will tell a very different tale than the first.
One other thing I’d note: while Furuya is certainly impressing as a pitcher, it’s inescapable that while he’s on the mound Eijun is always cheering him on in his own baka fashion. But I’ve yet to see Furuya show the remotest interest in supporting Eijun when he’s pitching – indeed, show much of anything except irritation that he’s not the one pitching. He may be making strides on the mound, but as a character he still has a long way to go – and the real test will come later in this game, after he’s chased off the mound.