Ace of Diamond continues to be among the worst offenders when it comes to long pre-credit recaps – an annoying money-saving tactic that’s common with long-running sports anime. But despite that it’s quietly on perhaps its best run of episodes, building up towards what can only be an inconclusive ending if the series does indeed end after this cour. I’m pretty certain it will continue since both the manga and anime are financially successful, and there’s more than enough material for no break to be necessary. But there’s a break coming, that seems definite – the big question is for how long.
The conundrum facing Daiya no A at the moment is an interesting one. Not only is Eijun inarguably the protagonist, but the central theme is just as inarguably the role of “Ace” and what it means to a baseball team. And right now, it very much appears as if Furuya is putting a choke-hold on that role – one so tight that it’s hard to imagine Eijun loosening it any time in the foreseeable future. Can the long-running normal of this series be Furuya as the Ace – is that narratively acceptable? I don’t know, but it’s sure looking like that’s going to be the norm for a while.
It’s interesting to watch the respective reactions of Eijun and Kawakami to Furuya’s all-out assault on the #1 jersey. Kawakami seems to be proving what I’ve always thought of him – namely, that he’s passive and not much of a competitor. A first-year has leapfrogged him and there seems to be little anger or determination to fight back – just a kind of morose “Yeah, I know I suck” fatalism. Eijun, on the other hand, could eat a brick he’s gnashing his teeth so hard – trying to throw through the bullpen catcher, demanding to be put in after every inning. He’s not showing much maturity, no – but I’d much rather see a kid be as pissed off as he is than one who appears resigned to being a bit player like Kawakami.
I don’t like Furuya, but I’ve long acknowledged that his selfishness and arrogance may in fact be positive qualities for a #1 starter. And you have to give him credit – he wants this badly, and he’s grabbing the Ace role by the throat and not letting go. He’s making it hard for Kataoka to go any other way, both by acting like he belongs in that jersey and pitching his ass off. The problem with Seidou has been that neither Tanba or Kawakami had the mental strength to be a true Ace, and neither Furuya or Eijun the experience. But there was never any question of Furuya’s talent – he’s a kaibutsu in the truest sense of the word. Not even Yakushi is able to dent him in six innings, Riachi’s double seemingly the only hard-hit ball.
You can just feel how agonizing this is for Eijun. The pain culminates when Kataoka not only refuses to let him enter the game as scheduled, but uses the most hateful word Eijun could hear – “reliever”. Eijun’s frustration here is pretty gut-wrenching to watch – quite simply, he doesn’t have the raw ability that Furuya does. He’s not a huge man-child who was naturally gifted with a phenomenal arm – he’s just a red-ass who lives and dies with the team (he’s always done Furuya the courtesy of rooting for him, though Furuya never reciprocates) and has to get guys out with grit and surprise. Life in sports is easier for guys like Furuya than guys like Eijun – it always has been, and always will be. It’s not fair, and it’s not Furuya’s fault – it simply is. And dealing with that reality may be the main theme of Eijun’s storyline for the foreseeable future.
Yakushi can always be counted on to deliver entertainment, and they’re surely going to make some noise in the next episode. But unfortunately for Eijun the timing couldn’t be worse for him – it looks as if Furuya is going to exit with a clean sheet after six innings, and Raichi’s revenge is going to come against Eijun (and maybe Kawakami). That’s only going to widen the gap between Furuya and Eijun, and only deepen the existential crisis that Eijun is going to be facing as a result.