Diamond no Ace has always been one of those series that giveth and taketh away, so this up and down episode is right in line with what we should be used to seeing. A lot of series fluctuate in quality from week to week, but I don’t know too many that do so within individual episodes as much as this show does.
At this stage of the game I’d have to say Raichi has become my co-favorite character in Diamond no Ace – I don’t know if I could pick between them. Obviously Raichi makes the game fun as hell to watch, but he’s also (for me at least) strangely poignant. I think his character really grew in stature when the series showed him off the field – so socially clueless, shy to the point of dysfunction, virtually shunned by his classmates. Raichi isn’t just a baseball-loving idiot – baseball is his life. And while I’ve come to quite like Raizou as a coach, he’s yet to win me over as a father. Raichi gets support from his teammates between the lines and in the dugout, but who supports him off the field?
So, when we see Raichi really struggle on the diamond like we did this week, it means something. This was a new side of Raichi – hesitant and self-doubting on the field. Being a pitcher is hard, no doubt – the weight of all those expectations is a heavy load for a boy of 15. But Raichi has so little to ground him – baseball is the only foundation he has in his life, and if he can’t trust that, what does he have left? I know we’re supposed to be rooting for Seidou (and I mostly am now that Eijun’s pitching) but there was something really sad about Raichi alone and unsure on the mound.
Fortunately, his dad did switch him out in the nick of time – though some might say a pitch too late. Sanada came in and calmed everything down, which is clearly his role both as a pitcher and as a person. But that’s when the episode really kind of headed south for me. There was a great moment of tension when Raichi fielded that ball at third base (honestly – was anyone heartless enough to be rooting for him to throw that ball away?) but after that things got sketchy.
First of all, an umpire is not going to let you just stop everything and have a five-minute meeting in front of the dugout between innings – sorry, no. And then we’re back to the usual bullshit about how heroic it is to play when you’re injured. But what really cheesed me off was Kataoka’s “inspirational” speech. In effect, he said absolutely nothing – a bunch if puffery about how he could take Miyuki out whenever he wanted (duh – you’re the coach!) and then he leaves him in the game. What was the point of that? What does it prove – that you know how to spew out empty catch phrases?
Daiya no A is on a precipice with me as far as the resolution of this game. There’s a ton of legit tension out there, but there are a number of quite feasible developments that could pretty much put me off the series for good if they happen (and after this long and as much as I like elements of this show, that would really hurt). There’s a lot more hanging in the balance over the next five weeks than the Fall Tournament, that’s for sure, and I sincerely hope Diamond no Ace doesn’t drop the ball.