The long odyssey of Inashiro’s quest for Koushien comes to an end at last, and I think you’d have to say it did so more or less as expected. In terms of Diamond no Ace’s story it probably makes more sense for Inashiro to lose the final than win it, and they did. And the series’ penchant has been to give us relatively little on-field action where Seidou isn’t involved, and that’s exactly what happened. Inahsiro has been the most important opponent so far, but they’re still first and foremost a foil for Seidou.
In narrative terms, Inashiro certainly went down not with a bang, but a whimper – held to two runs by the South Hokkaido team and their pitcher-relay in the final. If Seidou’s loss in the West Tokyo final showed the vulnerabilities of the pitcher relay, Inashiro’s final suggests at the drawbacks with the “one ace” approach – it’s awfully hard for one kaibutsu kid to pitch every day in the brutal summer heat and humidity. Mei now moves forward with a chip on his shoulder almost as big as that of the Seidou first years (and Miyuki) and I think the story is probably better off for that.
As for Seidou, they’re still in the feeling-out process as their exhibition matches in preparation for the Fall tournament continue. Judging by the stats the offense has been pretty weak (only Haruichi is really hitting), but the team is 8-4 – which certainly suggests that Furuya and Eijun have been pretty effective. There’s also a new first-year named Tojo Hideaki (Ai Shouta), a converted pitcher and now outfielder whose meek demeanor seems to belie a strong-willed and very talented player,
The headline here, though, is the arrival on the scene of Ochiai Hiromitsu (Ookawa Tooru), who makes his entrance stealthily observing a Seidou practice (by the way, this is also the name of a fairly prominent JPB player who now manages the Chunichi Dragons – though whether this is significant I’ve no idea). Given Kataoka’s bombshell resignation announcement (which I’ll believe is real only when it actually happens) it’s not hard to guess why this guy is here. And he immediately presents an interesting contrast to Kataoka, seeming nonplussed by the ferocity of Seidou practices in the summer heat. His first interaction with the team comes when he anonymously questions the first-years, a conversation which sees him note that athletes are all masochists by nature (which is a fascinating observation for a Japanese coach to make).
Eventually it’s revealed that Ochiai is a veteran of a hotshot program from Kanagawa, having worked under a retired coach who regularly took his team to Koushien. He’s introduced as the new “Assistant Coach” but it seems the Principal hired him to replace Kataoka, and that this is a ruse to ease the transition. If indeed we’re to see this set up as a true contrast of styles, with Kataoka representing traditional Japanese bushido coaching methods and Ochiai a modern thinker and “players’ manager”, that could yield some really interesting fruit indeed. Also potentially a winner is the exhibition matchup that Kataoka has accepted with Yakushi, who for me were the most interesting opponent Seidou has faced – and also represent a rejection of the traditional Japanese high school baseball system. Quietly, Daiya no A may just have laid the groundwork for the series to head in some truly intriguing directions.