There are very few anime – and even fewer sports anime – that alternately compel me and drive me around the bend the way Diamond no Ace does. We go through cycles where things are exciting and riveting, but invariably we whipsaw back to a stretch where everything just makes you tear your hair out. And most of the time, those are directly connected to Kataoka and Furuya, the twin irritants of this series who seem forever joined at the hip.
This was a frustrating episode in so many ways. I’m not crazy about the ploy of turning Ugumori into a sympathetic opponent in the 8th inning of their game, for starters – compared to the likes of Yakushi and even Akikawa, their development has been second tier. We’ve had traces of the backstory before, but this was really too late for a full-on dump – as a result, it comes off as emotional manipulation.
And then there Furuya. And Kataoka. And the way Kataoka uses Furuya… Every time I start to hope Kataoka has maybe figured it out, he does something stupid and takes himself back to square one. Furuya trying to pitch the entire game is bad drama anyway, given what an unlikeable character he is, but here it’s just stupid baseball. Getting seven innings of 3-run ball from him is more than a good result – leaving him out there any longer (especially with his pitch count way over 100) is begging for trouble. So are we supposed to be surprised when it comes?
I’m just ready for this game to be over at this point, so we can get onto something more interesting. Seidou is obviously going to win, and Kataoka is obviously going to try and nurse Furuya through at least the 8th inning for some reason. We might get an inning from Nori or even Eijun, but at this point what I really care about is who starts the next game. Eijun is coming off a shutout (albeit a shortened one) and even if he digs in, Furuya has given up at least five runs – three of those a direct result of his own stupidity and selfishness – and Eijun will be the better-rested pitcher. So if Kataoka goes back to Furuya, he’ll be approaching a new low – and for him, that’s really saying something.