Of all the sports out there, baseball seems to be able to generate the best metaphors and symbolism in a reflection of life:
Clear the bases
Three strikes and you’re out
And animes pick up on this, as we can track how a person grows and matures under these arduous, unforgiving situations….for the most part.
“Ace of the Diamond” follows in the tradition, but it has problems when it fell into old tropes and clichés. But first, the plot:
Eijun Sawamura (big grin in center) is a fairly good pitcher, but he is erratic and lacks control. But he makes up for that with a zeal and passion that fires up everyone else and makes them help the team in the town of Nagano. He gets scouted by Rei Takashima for Seidou High, a perennial powerhouse in high school baseball. He is reluctant to leave his friends behind, but they all feel that he stands a better chance of reaching his dreams by going there than staying here. Win for us, as they send him off to his future.
Sadly, he gets a very rude awakening when it gets revealed that he has practically nothing to endear him to the team, either on or off the field. He also runs afoul of the coach, Tesshin Kataoka, whom he calls ‘Shades’ as he wears his sunglasses all the time. Remember when your mother said “Don’t make that face or you’ll get stuck with it!”? Yeah, that’s him, as he is always in a perpetual scowl. Part of the coach’s problem is that Seidou gets close in the Nationals, but never wins the Big Prize, so the pressure is on him to really produce.
Here is where I get tired of sports animes: the third-years treat Sawamura like poodle doo and will have nothing to do with him. They are more concerned with either getting on the first string or staying on the first string or preventing others from being the first string, so they will have nothing to do to help him, not at all. The coach also feigns ignorance in this area and really does nothing to help Sawamura grow. Dragging a tire around the outfield eight hours a day doesn’t do all that much for you….unless you can find a career that requires you dragging a tire around for eight hours a day. Is there no pitching coach? Is there no batting coach? Is there no fielding coach? It’s just that I didn’t initially see anyone trying to help this guy to realize his potential. It was the ‘you must find it within yourself’ idea, but it was like trying to drive around Los Angeles with a map of Cleveland. Not a whole lot of help.
Look, YOU came out and YOU recruited him, so YOU saw something that YOU liked in him, so why don’t YOU help? Oh, those folks up and left when YOU lost for another season?
Another thing that bothers me is the amount of abuse he has to absorb. He’s trying to be a pitcher, so wouldn’t you want to avoid doing things that might injure his pitching arm? Much, much later, he finally gets some help from a last-year catcher, but even that was an arduous journey. Why is everyone keeping secrets? Are we really a team or just a bunch of guys trying to get on the first string? Why don’t you throw a baseball at his head? That would work just as well!
Sure, we do get to see Inside Baseball, looking at the mechanics and thought processes that are needed to play and win this game, which is what I like to see. It beats having some gorilla get up there and pound the ball out of the park, but there is a genuine lack of manners around here. I don’t think I can like you if you ridicule me at every turn, eagerly abetted by a coach who could have gone places and done more, but decided to stay here, so I am certain there is a lot of resentment in him.
I saw “Big Windup” and I felt they handled this growth curve far better, as everyone was very supportive of that pitcher, but in that one, he was good, but lacked confidence. Here, Sawamura has got lots of confidence, but he’s not that good. In every case, he is seen as a joke. Why don’t you third-years get off your high horse and help him? He is going to carry on the tradition long after you are gone, so guidance is greatly needed and wanted.
It’s just that it took a huge amount of time to finally decide what they wanted to do with the story line and I almost bailed from this show on three different occasions. But it is still beset by pricks. Everyone here is so conceited and arrogant about their abilities, it makes you wonder why anyone would want to go out for the sport in the first place. We have gotten to the tournament portion of the show, but, frankly, I really want Seido to lose. It’s just what the team deserves.
On a scale of 1 to 10:
Artwork 7 (Standard approach)
Plot 7 (Done before elsewhere)
Pacing 7 (Slows down at the end)
Effectiveness 7 (Too many cliches)
Conclusion ? (I gave up)
Fan Service 0 (A similar show would be “Honey and Clover”)
Overall 7 (Strictly AA level)
And remember, it’s first run until you’ve seen it. Let’s go to the Nationals!