Diamond No Ace Season 2 – 12

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Trust is the theme here lately, make no mistake about it.

There’s a thing in sports called a “trap game”, and for Inashiro, Ugumori was definitely a trap game.  Maybe when you’re the defending national runner-up every game is a trap to a certain extent, but with a Seidou rematch awaiting next and an unknown opponent this one was especially rife with danger.  Of course, Seidou was facing a trap game too – they were certainly obsessing on the revenge match they assumed was inevitable.  But they focused when they needed to, and having Eijun making his first start on the mound certainly helped them do that.

There was a whiff of danger in the air for Inashiro from the first moments the camera turned to this game, especially to those viewers who know something of how sports series are structured – “I have a nagging feeling we’re being set up here, and Inashiro may just lose their second-round game and spoil the party” was how I put it.  It just made so much sense for the narrative, and within the narrative too – you could see something was just off with this team, and they were in more peril than they realized.

But considering how inevitable this loss had become, it was still brought off in pretty intense and stunning fashion.  It all starts and ends with Mei, because not only is he the ace of this team but with Masa gone, he’s the de facto leader too (and having a hybrid captain-mascot who never sees the field doesn’t change that).  Problem is, Mei doesn’t act like a leader.  When he was the arrogant punk leading the team to prominence and had Masa to act as a filter, his teammates could look past his act as an irritating sign of his greatness.  But there’s no filter now, and all his bullshit is clearly rubbing everyone on the team the wrong way.

The one you really have to feel bad for here is Itsuki-kun, because he’s a first-year who’s been tasked with reigning in a loose-cannon of a pitcher.  And all things considered he’s doing a good job, in spite of the fact that Mei undermines his authority every chance he gets.  There’s a certain inherent danger generally in having a first-year catcher in seniority-obsessed Japan, but when the sempai is Narumiya it’s exacerbated a hundredfold.  First-year or not, the catcher has to be the leader on the field, and certainly of the battery.  Itsuki is trying, but Narumiya isn’s giving him an ounce of help.

The key play of the game, as it turns out, is the steal of third-base by an unnamed (AFAIK) Ugumori player in the 8th inning.  Mei has just entered in relief, and he’s focused on the hitters in the belief they’ll never touch him so the baserunners are unimportant – which is more or less OK in itself.  But Mei doesn’t trust Itsuki to catch his changeup – or any low breaking ball, for that matter.  So fearing a wild pitch he shakes Itsuki off twice to throw a fastball, which even Umemiya realizes is the only pitch he has a chance to hit.  Mei’s arrogance in believing he can’t hit it is bad, but the real issue is that lack of trust in Itsuki.  Not only does it cost Inashiro the game (it ends, fittingly, with Mei in the on-deck circle) but it undermines the entire team’s trust in Itsuki, because by default they look to Mei as a way marker in Masa’s absence.

Kunitomo-kantoku pulls no punches in dealing with Mei after the loss.  “It’s my fault we lost,” he begins innocently enough, before lowering the boom, “because I put you in to pitch.”  And this is a pretty damn intense moment, because the infuriated Mei gets right up in his coach’s grill (a huge no-no in Japanese schoolboy baseball).  The next thing he says may be addressed to Mei, but there can be no one in the audience who doesn’t think of another young pitcher when they hear it – “An ace who pitches only for himself is no ace at all.”

Inashiro, for the moment, lies in tatters – Mei is insensate with rage and self-pity, Itsuki is shattered at his inability to lead Mei and to make a play on the go-ahead runner at the plate, convinced he’s lost the team.  It’s a much-needed dose of humility for Inashiro and Mei, but they’re lucky it came in a relatively unimportant tournament.  As Kunitomo says, it’s summer – and Koushien – that will tell the tale for both ace and team.  Can they grow as a result of this traumatic defeat?

As for Seidou (remember them?) the first thing they need to do is get past the shock of Inashiro losing and depriving them of their revenge, and realize that they’ve actually been given a gift.  They can’t afford a letdown, because Ugumori is clearly dangerous and so is Umemiya.  Eijun has taken a great leap forward, and appears to have gained even Ochiai-san’s respect with his explanation of how he overcame his fear of pitching inside: it’s still scary to do so, but even scarier to not be able to be the pitcher and man he wants to be because he can’t.  But I’d bet the ranch that it’s Furuya who gets the call to start that next game, and the chance to prove he can be more than an ace who pitches only for himself.

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  1. A

    Though I haven't posted anything till now, I've been following your reviews of Daiya no A for over a year. I love reading reviews by people who actually try to take an informed stance, and your knowledge of Japan and Japanese baseball adds that extra dab of perspective. Keep it up!

    The only thing I felt was missing from this episode was more buildup around our manager in the wheelchair. I feel there's something sinisterly capable in that head of his, so hopefully we see more of him in the Seidou match. But I get the sense from the preview we won't jump straight into the next match (not that that's surprising, judging from my limited experience of sports anime/manga). I don't quite care for the subplot surrounding that Seidou player who scouted the Ugumori-Inashiro game either, but at the very least it's nice to see that not everyone on Seidou blindly commits to the practice regimen. That alone makes him more interesting than the third-year graduates in my eyes, and the preview to me looked like we'll see his subplot advance. I just hope it gets resolved soon, because I don't want to drag it out.

    FYI, Umemiya calls that baserunner "Gacchan," but I'd as soon call him Flat Eyes–that face was creepy!

  2. Welcome, Adam – nice to have you join in. Glad you enjoy the Daiya posts, which sadly don't get a lot of commentary.

    Yes, that was an odd face… And yes, I agree there's something up with that manager for Ugumori – he too seems to have a sinister side. As far as the subplot with the three no-name Seidou players who want to quit, it's an odd one. I don't feel as if we've been given any reason at all to care about these guys – why are they supposedly important?

  3. A

    I think they're just there to give faces and names to the dozens of players who don't make the cut – though whether or not it's effective is another story.

  4. S

    This episode didn't really pan out the way I wanted it. I wanted Inashiro to lose, but I wanted them crushed by Seidou, not exposing all their weakness like a certain Baby Steps episode so they can rebuild and rebuild stronger.

    Ochiai spectator commentary is actually starting to grate on me. He's not a great coach, neither is Mr Top Gun, nor the stupid assistant, but out of the three, Ochai has had plenty of screen time for 20+ episodes and affected absolutely nothing. I get it, his opinion is important in some distant future, but when is that? will he ever make a difference before the anime ends? Is this a G.R.R Martin story, where he will die/get fired before he even becomes relevant?

    Thirdly, I don't know if it's an improvement that I'm cheering for Seidou and not any of their future/potential opponents any more. Seidou didn't deserve to win with the third years (& the horrible coaching), and maybe they still don't, but I don't care for the opponents that much any more. If we get some backstory to the guy in the wheelchair that might change, but DnA used to be very good at fleshing out fun opponents.

  5. P

    Between the recaps and the change of time, I'm just getting back into DnA and Wow (!) they are not playing around. I have been team Furuya for awhile now but I can't even be on board for his attitude this season. The number #1 jersey has clearly gone to his head.

    But Sawamura is still so damn unpredictable when he takes the mound, but I am in agreement with Miyuki that he finally seems like a contender for the ace position now that he can pitch outside and inside.

    How they set up the Inashiro – Ugumori game, the writing was on the wall plus I was not up for another Inashiro vs Seidou game after we just not too long ago had 15+ game with them. I liked the fallout for Mei as he really was running from the captain role (that sideline mascot thing wasn't working)

    Anyway I'm ready for Goro-kun and Wheelchair Toshi to go against Seidou, it looks like it will be just as good as when they went against Yakushi…

    P.S. formerly AnnaJoe, switched my name and avatar to what I used on MAL.

  6. P

    Still on there :p

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