The pain of losing is a fertile ground for sports series – in fact it probably yields considerably more opportunity for character development and plot advancement than having the protagonists win (for obvious reasons). I think Ace of Diamond is doing a good job taking advantage of this opportunity, but I confess I find myself hoping it doesn’t linger on the Inashiro game for much longer. There’s still a lot of work to do, and too many more weeks of that could get depressing.
Fortunately, it seems as if Inashiro’s season is going to end one way or the other soon, possibly even next week, and when it does I think the story has no option but to move on. I think the juxtaposition of Inashiro as national media darlings and Seidou toiling away in scrimmages before empty bleachers is an effective one – it shows us just how much the third-years lost when Kawakami served up those meatballs to Masa and Mei. And just how far the ones left behind have to go to catch up.
What’s the next logical step for Inahsiro and Mei, I wonder? They’ve reached the finals, with Mei performing in dominant fashion for most of the Koushien. The key matchup is in the round of 16 against a school called Seihou, with the nation’s top slugger. Mei fans him all three times they square off, and Inashiro wins 2-0 – and the next two games don’t seem to provide much of a challenge, though Mei does give up his first runs of the tournament. Does it make more sense for Daiya no A for Inashiro -perpetually the target in Eijun’s sights – to be national champions, or to have their own chip on the shoulder for the underclassmen to inherit?
As for Seidou, the practice matches are yielding pretty predictable results from the pitchers. Furuya is starting and dominating, Eijun is doing well in relief, and Kawakami continues to struggle. Worse, Miyuki – who Yuki says has to step into Masa’s role as a catcher, captain and cleanup if Seidou is to thrive – doesn’t know how to fix him and is losing concentration worrying about it. From my admittedly jaundiced perspective I don’t think Kawakami is worth wasting all that worry on – it’s clear the rugrats are the ones with the real potential here, and that Kawakami simply doesn’t have what it takes to ever be the Ace.
That question – who does have what it takes to be the Ace – seems finally to be taking the central role the title suggested it would. As we watch the two of them deal with what’s happened, the contrast between Eijun and Furuya could hardly be more stark. Furuya is completely focused on his own deficiencies (stamina most obviously), while Eijun continues to focus on his responsibility for the Inashiro loss, and on firing up his teammates. His apology to Ishigaki – awkward but honestly-meant – is what sets off the tirade which seems to symbolically bring the era of the third-years to a true close (“Go and find out for yourself”). It doesn’t take a genius to realize that Eijun is by far the better teammate and leader between the two first-year pitchers. But perhaps in great pitchers – like great strikers in football (soccer) – selfishness and shamelessness are not weaknesses, but strengths. I think the contrast between Eijun and Furuya – and what it takes to be a true Ace – is going to be a huge part of Diamond no Ace going forward.