For the love of God, STOP SLIDING INTO FIRST BASE!!!
This was a good and tense episode of Diamond no Ace, a blazing fastball right down the middle, refreshingly free of the bullshit that’s so often a traveling companion with this series. There was nothing too fancy about it – just a nail-biter of a game with a lot on the line for both sides and not much to separate the two teams. For all the frustrations Diamond no Ace has delivered up, there’s no denying that after journeying side-by-side for so long I’m heavily invested emotionally in what happens next.
The first thing I want to make note of is what happened on the way back to the dugout after Yakushi batted in the 7th. Eijun demanded – demanded – Miyuki give him more praise than a tepid “Nice pitch”. It’s played as a joke, but I’d like to think this is also a tacit admission of what’s been going on for the entire series – while Miyuki and everyone else falls all over themselves praising Furuya and Nori, Eijun can’t buy a compliment no matter how well he does. It seems odd to be calling attention to it now to be honest, but at least Terajima seems to be aware that the phenomenon exists.
No matter how well Eijun pitches, of course, if Seidou can’t get a run (and eventually a second) it won’t matter. They do get a shot when pinch-hitter Kanemaru (I must have missed the memo on his development – why is he “Party Boy” again?) doubles, but what happens next is both puzzling and vexing. Kataoka allows Eijun to hit – I guess he’s serious about limiting Furuya to one inning, at least – but then has him bunt. A one-out bunt to move the runner to third makes little sense, even if Eijun is a lousy hitter. And then Aso commits the cardinal sin (which happens in every baseball manga I’ve ever read) of sliding into first base, and gets himself thrown out in the process.
Bunting is a theme here (I wrote “bunt” twice in separate places in my notes), because it’s Todoroki Raizou who bunts in the bottom of the 8th after a leadoff single. Yes, Raizou is getting tighter and more conventional as the game progresses and the pressure ratchets up, and kudos to Terajima for pointing it out. I don’t begrudge Raizou though – the guy is a human being, and this is the biggest thing ever to happen to Yakushi baseball. It’s a big deal, he has a right to be nervous – in fact I’m going to feel pretty bad for he and his boys when they lose, as I’m pretty much assuming they will.
I’m still operating under the assumption, too, that Furuya is going to come in and steal Ejun’s glory in the end – he’s hanging around like a fart in an elevator, waiting to force his way into the narrative. Eijun has had some good stuff in this game – a word of two of actual praise to go along with stellar pitching. And I loved the sequence with Wakana, so impressed with his growth. She actually confesses (more or less) by email, though Eijun has no clue because he hasn’t checked his mail for 12 hours. But it’s not nearly enough – after all the time he and we have put in, both of us deserve to have Eijun be the one to record the final out and bask in the glory of the moment. And if and when that doesn’t happen, Diamond no Ace is going to leave a pretty bad taste in my mouth.
And STOP SLIDING INTO FIRST BASE…