It’s Comiket weekend and I’m exhausted, plus the Top 10 post awaits, so this is going to be a slightly brief collection (for a double-episode) of my thoughts rather than the usual Daiya no A post. Suffice to say, those were emotionally draining episodes, too – not surprising, really, but pretty heartbreaking nonetheless. And they seem to set the tone for what sort of series this is going to be for the remainder of its TV run (for now).
There are certain rules we more or less expect to be followed in sports manga, one of which being that the hero can’t achieve his dream the first time he reaches for it. There’s also the fact that thinking back on it, baseball manga that actually show us the Koushien itself are extremely rare – even when the protagonists qualify the story usually stops there and then (as it did with Touch and Cross Game, for example). And finally, let’s be honest – did you really have the slightest confidence in Kawakami? I certainly didn’t.
Taking all that into consideration Inashiro’s win was pretty much expected, but the way it came about was still a gut-punch. I was really surprised how hard I was pulling for Seidou there at the end – I thought I was pretty indifferent to them apart from Eijun and Haruichi, but I really wanted to see them avoid that heartbreak. And Haruichi has to be feeling it keenly, after having failed to make the final out despite making a spectacular diving stop on Masa’s liner up the middle. Was it the correct call by the umpire? The anime, at least, chooses not to show us. Haruichi’s flip was a bit weak, but under the circumstances it was a hell of an effort and he shouldn’t feel badly – which is what I’d say about Eijun too. But you know they’ll beat themselves silly over it.
The game was lost, really, not on that infield hit (Kuramochi fell asleep and let Carlos scored the tying run) or even Narumiya’s legit game-winning gapper. No, it was Kawakami walking Yoshizawa after getting ahead 0-2 in the count. With Masa and Mei on-deck, he had to end the game there – but I always hate watching Nori pitch. He looks terrified every time, and his pitches follow suit. I guess Kataoka didn’t have any choice, but Mine-san was basically correct – not having a real ace was the downfall of Seidou. Eijun was their best hope and he did more than anyone could possibly expect from a first-year, but he was broken after that accidental beaning. That was the beginning of the end.
I don’t think much of the Seidou third-years – apart from Chris – but I couldn’t help but feel for them here. Seeing your career end that way is brutal – which is why I don’t blame them for not doing more to protect their kouhai after that loss. I kept waiting for someone to go to Eijun, to Haruichi, to help them get through this – Eijun especially needed it desperately – but the third-years were so busy being heartbroken that they just couldn’t muster the strength (and even the next day second-year Kuramochi couldn’t comfort roommate Eijun even though he knew he should, because he was still in mourning himself). Even the seniors are still kids, really – and that’s why high school baseball is especially gut-wrenching to watch at times like this. They’re going to carry this pain with them for a long time.
Give Inashiro credit – in all honesty they probably were the better team. Seidou’s pitchers gave up eight walks, and Inashiro really should have salted the game away long before they won it. But it was a near thing – if Mei hadn’t loosened up Masa when he was gripping the bat so tight he looked like he was trying to strangle it, he probably doesn’t get that hit. Coming so close and losing is emotionally worse than getting blown out, no question – and it’s Eijun especially I worry about. He’s blaming himself (he shouldn’t, but it’s the human thing to do) and the next time Miyuki asks for an inside fastball, his nerves are going to be put to the test.
So – what now? The third-years are out, but Kataoka apparently gets to keep his job (though he does have to grovel a bit). A new captain has to he selected – as snarky as he is Miyuki certainly seems a more logical choice than Kuramochi or Kawakami. And the first-years, especially Eijun, have to find their footing and start the long climb back into the light. Maybe Furuya – dickhead to the end – will spur Eijun out of his doldrums with his arrogant declaration that he intends to assume the Ace role himself. That’s where all this started, really, so it seems only fitting that we get back to it after the Koushien quest comes to an end.