I was seconds away from bailing on this episode, no lie. That’s how pissed off I was getting at Daiya no A, watching Seidou founder around and get lucky time after time. Kataoka is an idiot, injured players are putting the team at risk and they keep dodging bullets. Somehow you want the heroes in a sports anime to deserve to succeed, dammit – a little luck is fine, but there has to be some merit there, too.
Thankfully, Eijun arrived on the scene as a relief pitcher in every sense of the word. Just in time for Seidou and for Diamond no Ace Kataoka finally let him pitch, and he turned both the game and the episode around in a big way. Hopefully next will be Kataoka finally taking his head out of his ass and putting Ryou’s on the bench, and giving chibi-Kominato his chance to succeed. But getting Tanba out of the game is a pretty good start.
The first thing I want to say is that it was incredibly stupid to pitch to Masa with a guy on second and two outs and first-base open – and that would be true even if Tanba (who was already barely surviving) wasn’t dealing with a cramp. Again, Kataoka’s idiocy isn’t punished – Masa barely misses a home run on the first pitch, and it’s only then that the moron realizes he needs to walk the cleanup hitter and deal with Mei, lefty against lefty.
The fact that the all of the opposition have been almost universally more interesting than the Seidou third-years is a problem for Ace of Diamond (and a strength too, in a way) but Eijun transforms the series when he appears. It’s as if the third-years are in black-and-white and he’s in color – it’s a completely different show once he takes the mound. He’s the very definition of a clutch player – he’s fearless, he’s all about the team and completely un-self-conscious. It’s pretty simple – when the pressure is at its peak, some guys want the ball and some guys don’t. That’s what separates the men from the boys, and age has nothing to do with it.
When Tanba says “you’re the ace now” I know he’s referring to his speech before the game, but I think there’s a more literal meaning here. For all the ribbing he takes, it’s clear that it’s Eijun that inspires his teammates the most out of all the pitchers. He gives them confidence, he makes them laugh, he loosens them up – it may be an unconventional route to take, but Eijun is already the ace of this team emotionally speaking. And his three-pitch K of Mei proves what Eijun is made of – there’s no fear there, no hesitation. It’s obvious that this is going to be the moment that turns the tide of the game, because Mei has just been waiting for a pretext to melt down and this is a darn good one. I’ll still feel a bit bad about that, because honestly compels me to admit that Inashiro is the more deserving team – but with Eijun on the mound and Haru-chi (hopefully) about to finally get his chance, there’s finally a reason to really root for Seidou. And that makes Diamond no Ace a lot more fun to watch.