Diamond no Ace – 59

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Thanks for that reminder that when it sticks to what it does best, Daiya no A takes a back seat to no sports anime.

Make no mistake about it – Eijun is why Ace of Diamond works as a series when it’s all said and done.  And everything about why he works so well as a protagonist can be summed up in one line of dialogue: “I have no idea what Koushien is like.  But I know one thing for sure – I’m not scared.”  That’s Eijun in a nutshell – to be faced with a situation packed with ridiculous amounts of pressure as a first year, and not be scared.  Nervous?  Shit, yeah – nervous as hell – but not scared.  The special athletes are the ones who always want the ball, but never more than when the pressure is at its greatest.

I give credit to Diamond no Ace for setting this game situation up rather more cleverly and subtly than I realized.  Over the course of the last several episodes (when did this game start – 10 eps ago?) it’s become clear that there’s a difference between Seidou and Inashiro, between Miyuki and Masa.  Part of it is no doubt of function of Inashiro being the favorites and how their last season ended, but they’re playing not to lose (because in a sense, they have more to lose).  There’s a creeping negativity to their outlook, which doesn’t manifest as long as they’re going well (which they are most of the time) because of their general air of confidence.  But when trouble creeps in, they (most obviously but not only Masa) are thinking of all the bad things that could happen.  Seidou is just trying to find a way to win, somehow – and in that sense, having three first-years too young to know better may just be an advantage.

The cliffhanger from Episode 58 was, in truth, not all that much of one – it seemed pretty likely Yuuki was going to get a hit.  He did so off a changeup, a pretty decent one that was just a bit too high.  He strokes it for a double and Seidou takes a 4-3 lead, but the best part of all this for me was the way Mei reacted.  He was totally calm on the most, giving Yuuki his props, then blew up once he got back in the dugout and got it out of his system (which is how the big boys do it).  That was nicely staged, a rather encouraging sign for Mei in the long-term despite his short-term crisis.

Taking the mound with a one-run lead, of course, is Eijun – and this is really the moment the series has been building-towards.  This is when the great ones want the stage and the lesser ones furtively search for the shadows.  Eijun lives for moments like these, and he does his job right from the start, inducing an easy fly to left that Furuya (who was poorly positioned thanks to Ishigaki) misplays into a bloop single.  Here’s a thought: should Kataoka have considered taking Furuya – who’s clearly a poor defender – out for defensive purposes?  That’s complicated – not only is Furuya and his big bat due up second in the top of the 9th, but he’s also still an emergency option to pitch as long as he’s in the game.

What follows is one of the most exciting moments of the series.  Inashiro tries to bunt the runner over, but Eijun makes a spectacular but risky play, darting in front of “Ugah” and firing a sidearm missile to second to force the lead runner.  It was a play only a first-year would likely have tried, but again, a fearless one – and brilliant, to boot.  The looks on his sempai’s faces tell the story – half-wanting to rip him a new one, half in awe of his sheer chutzpah.  And Eijun follows that up by inducing a double-play ball (turned by Haru-chin) on a great cutter, one so good even the hyper-critical Miyuki can only offer awed praise.  How can a green 15 year-old make the best pitch of his life in that situation?  Simple – that’s what separates the men from the boys, and age has little to do with it.

There’s the matter of Seidou’s ups in the 9th, which could feature some real drama after Miyuki’s leadoff double.  Eijun may get a chance to actually swing the bat, and there’s the question of whether Mei will finally be pulled from the game (he’s clearly running on fumes by this point).  But the real drama is what Kataoka will decide to do for the bottom of the ninth.  Will he let Sawamura finish the game, or turn to Kawakami – who he’s told to be ready at any moment?  It’s not an easy decision, but I would want to ask – could Kawakami truthfully makes the same statement Eijun did about not being scared?  I’m not so sure he could – and that’s why if I were Seidou, Eijun is the one I’d rather have on the mound.

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  1. S

    I think you really do point out something that makes the last few weeks of frustration worth it, namely that some of the dumb decisions and dissapointments from most of the Seido seniors lead to a real situation where Eijun could shine.

    Not only shine, EVERY DARN minute of this episode was just… gripping. I actually felt like I was watching an actual sports match, and rooting for seido like I would my own country/hometown/someaffiliation's team.

    And it wasn't because of Yuki, or any of the third years, it was all more or less because of Eijun.

    Truth be told, I was kind of unsure how to react to Eijun's risky play. Yes, it worked, but it almost felt like Eijun was letting his excitement get the better of him. What if him and Masuko had collided? That would've not only cost them the run, but potentially injured two key players.

    I think the final questions you pose are interesting ones. Will both Eijun and Mei stay on as pitchers for the last innings. It really is a tough decision, because while Eijun has performed, he's still a first year, and one that's getting riskier as time goes by (especially with the feilding bit).

    Then there's Mei. Honestly, I can say that Mei was due for a replacement in this very inning. He's clearly out of it, and his best pitches have been taken out by the opponent. A change of pace might be what Inashiro needs.

    All in all, super interesting. Kind of sad that despite this being one of the best episodes of the series, no other comments. *sigh*

  2. S

    I think Diamond no Ace gets the treatment it deserves. If it wasn't the most boring show ever while the first years are on the bench, then more people would've stuck to it. Getting full reviews here even on the worst episodes is slightly more than it deserves. Also, the coach sucks.

  3. j

    Despite my love of this show and it's theatrics, I couldn't take the pacing of this show anymore. I just couldn't take seeing the same scenes over and over again
    I just went ahead and read the manga, where the game actually feels like it's being played out in front of you rather than being put into slow motion.

  4. A

    I've read the manga as well but I really don't feel like the show is that slowly paced; compared to a lot of manga adaptations it's actually fairly snappy, they usually put three or four chapters into an episode easily.

  5. M

    The six hitter was a power bat, Miyuki said so, so playing back made sense. Also Sawamura jammed him inside, so he got less on the ball than the contact indicated, which caused Furuya to get a bad jump on the ball. Adding to that, a poorer outfielder usually plays deeper because it's easier to come in on a ball than it is to go back.
    As someone who likes the whole team I think your opinion on the third years allow you to blame Jun unnecessarily. I really enjoyed the moment between Tanba and Tetsu. And Sawamura`s moment paid off better because of the pacing of the other episodes.

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