I pretty much know where Daiya no A is going with this arc, and it’s not fundamentally different from a very standard theme we see in a lot of sports anime. But damn, it’s frustrating to watch. Eijun deserves better than he’s getting from his seniors. And his coach, too, though I’ve pretty much given up on him. I’m sure he’ll be painted as some kind of tough-love genius when Eijun finally blows past this (which he must, or the series is pretty much owari) but he’s handled Eijun’s crisis with incredible clumsiness and insensitivity, even by his woeful standards.
Then there’s Furuya. I’ve made many attempts to like or at least respect him, and I’ve justified his general attitude as not atypical or unhelpful for someone who wants to be a #1 starter (and it’s not). But I’m sorry – he’s a dick, and I hate him. “We don’t need two pitchers on the mound?” As usual, Eijun – despite being at the low ebb of his career and possibly his life – handled the situation with a lot more class and respect that Douchebag-kun. I acknowledge Furuya has massive talent and a huge drive to win glory for himself, but I don’t think I can ever root for Seidou as long as he’s on the mound. I want him to get lit up like a Christmas tree every time he takes the ball – to learn a little humility, preferably by humiliation.
I did have a brief flareup of hope when I saw Chris’ face, because he’s the only sempai who’s ever been a damn bit of good to Eijun. But no, this is Japan – so we have to fall back on that “pick yourself up by your bootsraps” trope and dispense with the notion of compassion or help for the emotionally hurting if that person is a boy. Again, it’s a given that eventually Eijun will beat this (with the help of Musashi Miyamoto, it seems – and not even Vagabond, but the Book of Five Rings) at least well enough to become what he was in the Koushien qualifiers or we don’t have a story. But Ace of Diamond is going to be a bit of a chore to watch in the meantime, and it’s hard to imagine his comeback isn’t going to feel a little hollow if it plays out as I expect it to. We’ve seen the yips before in baseball manga (most prominently in Major) so this isn’t exactly fresh ground for Daiya to cover.
With things so bleak around Seidou, the cutaway to Inashiro felt like a breather if nothing else. As the reigning Koushien runners-up, their lives are very different from Seidou: their third–years are still working with the team in preparation for the sports festival and international games against the USA. Their preparation for the fall tournament takes a back seat to their responsibilities as a celebrity team, which may in fact set them back some for not just the fall, but the next year. They have at least chosen a new captain – Fuku-chan, a scrub who Masa says isn’t likely to ever be a starter, but is widely-respected – even by Narumiya (I find that hard to believe) as a support guy. They have a new catcher too, Itsuki Tadano (Yamaya Yoshitaka), who looks to be a first-year. He’s worried (justifiably) that the time he should be spending bonding with his Ace is unavailable to him because Masa is still the first-string, and Mei is wisely being shut down to rest after the insane Koushien workload. Replacing Masa is already a huge burden, so this kid has a lot on his shoulders.
Really, at this point my favorite team is definitely Yakushi. I love the way Raizou disdains Kataoka’s pompous stick-up-the-ass bullshit (even if he doesn’t do so out loud). I love the way they dispense with the protocols of Japanese high-school baseball and just have fun – they play ragged, loud and exciting baseball and they have a blast doing it. Raizou is no Saint – he focus on his son’s dollar value is distastefully in its excess, but at least it’s honest. And they sure as hell are a lot more interesting to watch than a Seidou team led by Furuya and Miyuki.