I know we should be used to recaps from Diamond no Ace by now, but seriously – three minutes worth before the OP, and then you show the same damn clip again after it? Making use of the same scene three times is a little beyond the pale for me, no matter how long-running a series is. Surely Madhouse and Production I.G. between them have enough cash to avoid that sort of nonsense without passing the hat?
Once it got around to new material, this episode was pretty much the Miyuki show from start to finish. It’s really a continuation of what we saw last week, which was the somewhat narrow channel in which Miyuki’s leadership style can be really effective. He walks the walk, plain and simple – he may be a shit communicator in most respects, but he has some authority because he always brings it. He plays hard, he hits well in the clutch, and he controls the game from behind the plate with a vise-like grip. That’s reflected in the big hits he delivered off Umemiya, and in the rally-killing thrown-out would-be base stealers. I still think his snarky and blunt communication style severely limits his effectiveness as captain, but he does have his moments.
No question about it, it’s Miyuki’s presence that’s dominating this game. His hitting spurs ‘Zono forward (not wanting to be overshadowed) and he’s cowed Furuya into being obedient for once. I disagree with Ugumori’s insistence on stealing at any cost as a matter of philosophy – getting thrown out as the first out of the sixth inning trailing by three runs is stupid. But Furuya is actually showing the merest glimmer of growth here, recognizing his own weariness and simplifying his approach on the mound. Baby steps, to coin a phrase.
Meanwhile, Pompadour-kun is barely hanging on. He gives up six runs in five innings, and when Haruichi steps up with the bases loaded in the sixth it looks like the end is nigh. Eijun pipes in hilariously with a “This is when you become a man!” from the dugout (yes, that sound you heard was doujin writers all over Japan jerking upright in their chairs), but a great play by the second baseman keeps “Haruo” a boy for a little longer.
Given the conspicuous focus on how cheerful Ugumori looks, it seems clear they’re going to make one more run before this over, and either Eijun or Kawakami is going to have to save the day. Also of note here is the presence of Inashiro’s token captain (and Miyuki’s polar opposite) Fukui-kun and their first-year catcher Tadano-kun – sent their by their coach to do a little growing up, study a veteran catcher at work and embrace the pain of losing so they won’t forget it (and to remind the audience what the real war is, no matter the present battle).