|Overall||Art||Animation||Character Design||Music||Series Story||Episode Story||Reviewer|
Daiya no A & Daiya no A 2nd Season
(Innumerable episodes watched):|
First of all, don't get involved in this series unless you're a serious baseball fan with a lot of patience, because this will be a long one--it took more than a year to play out on Japanese TV. I had thought that this would be a all-sports-and-no-drama show, which I would quickly decide to dispense with, but in fact it turned out to be an interesting story that grabbed my attention. Only a few minutes of episode one took place on the diamond, the rest was devoted to setting up an intriguing premise and developing Eijun's character. I hope this will mainly be about Eijun himself, not how his team does over the course of training and a season of play. Surely the unusual player--a girl--on Eijun's original team won't be forgotten after this one episode (especially since she's in the artwork above, in uniform). Character designs were sharp and distinctive, and the show had some genuine humor to it, like Eijun's father. It looks like Eijun will attempt to restore a healthy one-for-all-and-all-for-one team spirit to a well known one that has drifted away from that. So, this looks like fun and I'll be watching after all.
The story moves skillfully and smoothly forward in episode two. Eijun is torn between his loyalty to his fellow players on his lackluster middle school team, and the opportunity of fully exploiting his talent at a much more professional school. It seems that an convenient and relieving solution to this quandary comes about, but then it turns out that things aren't going to be that easy. Unlike many anime this one keeps me constantly interested in what's going on and what's going to happen next. Whereas in a number of shows I find myself thinking about obvious improvements which even I could have made if given the chance, here the talent that was involved is clearly far above anything I could do--so I just sit back and enjoy.
Many people feel that baseball is a boring game, what with all the timeouts, balls, foul balls, pitcher changes, etc, etc. Ace makes clear that the way to make an anime about baseball fun is through masterful storytelling--writers of sports manga and anime seem to have grasped this more than any other genre. The story is mainly about Eijun, not the game; and the fact that I don't think I ever looked at the timer while watching episode three is the best proof possible that I was kept interested. The episode was over before anything uninteresting happened. Episode five had the same effect: this is a show in which I really wish I could leap ahead to the next episode rightaway, rather than have to watch the next episode of every other anime I'm viewing first. Most shows leave me more-or-less grateful for a change to something else, but not Ace. The episode contained two LOL moments as well.
Even though it's clearly going to take a long time for Eijun to attain 'ace' status, and might not even happen before this anime ends, this show keeps me thoroughly entertained and is one of my favorites of the season. I don't mind that the story may never reach it's end, because just watching as much as happens to come my way is a lot of fun. That is, the storytelling is done so skillfully that the journey is as much fun as reaching the destination would be. 'Chris', Eijun's catcher/mentor, is skillfully developed from a seeming asshole into somebody you can sympathize with. Once that matter is resolved, things get a little tiresome as exhausting training at the Summer Camp goes on and on, but it's unclear what the next step in Eijun's quest will be--finding the right catcher, I guess. We all know who he will wind up with at the end, thanks to the OP sequence. Some good jokes would help at this point. So, the show wanders a little off track but remains mostly fun to watch.
I can't help feeling that whereas the story was moving briskly forward back near the beginning, it is moving at a relative crawl now. That's not a disaster, it just means that the series is good rather than great. But somebody developing from a diamond in the rough (who is still laughably incompetent in a number of ways) to a true ace is bound to be a long story, and how do you keep the excitement revved up? It's much like the regular MLB season: a game is just a game, and tomorrow the teams play again. I kind of lose track of the long term plot since it isn't all that intriguing at this point, and concentrate on the episodic hijinks instead. It has gotten sort of excessively technical; do we really need to wait and see how Eijun develops the ability to throw balls that are on the outside of the strike zone? Spring training has dragged on for so long that there's no way that a mere two seasons can complete the story; I wouldn't be surprised if this series takes four--and, for all I know, it may be based on an incomplete manga to boot.
Basically, the Seiyu team is trying to win the championship, and slogging through one game after another. But, curiously, I don't feel all that much of a sense that Seiyu deserves to win any more than any other contender. Maybe that's because we know little about most of the team members other than what they do on the playing field. Their lives are all about baseball, and there's little else. Maybe there's just little reason why competing and winning is so important to them; victory is their be-all and end-all. It's as if the assumption is that we viewers hold the same attitude towards competition as the players do (is such an attitude commonplace in Japan, even among everyday people?). Is it really healthy to think like this?
When the team's injured ace pitcher finally returns to the field (episode 40), and is in a critical situation, I must admit that I couldn't predict what would happen. He might have triumphed or been humiliated. Indeed, what did happen wasn't what I was expecting. It was pretty obvious that Seiyu would win the game and move on towards the championship, but not knowing exactly how the game would go and which players will come out of it as heroes and which would wind up as chumps was definitely fun. The uncertainty makes the fictional baseball game fun to watch, just like an actual one.
I was pleasantly surprised in episode 42 when Eijun's sort-of girlfriend, who we haven't seen since episode one (and I don't know if we even got her name) shows up again along with some old teammates to watch an important semifinals game. I had thought at one point that there would surely be a romantic subplot, involving him and either this girl or the one who helps support the team, since that would provide a useful diversion from the endless games. But no, there hasn't been a hint of it, and I doubt if there ever will be; this show is all about baseball and the Seiyu team members. I must admit I am getting tired of this; a (in theory) three-hour game takes several episodes to play out, while everything that happens inbetween them gets maybe one episode. It seems more like an animated version of a baseball game for the off-season when none of the real thing is available than a drama with character development and an approaching climax. You need to be a baseball fan to watch this. The question always seems to be 'How will the Seiyu team overcome this particular star player on the other team and win this one?' rather than 'How is Eijun maturing and polishing his skills?'. I seems like the show is more about the team as a whole than about Eijun alone. I think this could and should have easily been a 26-episode series than the 52 (or more) one that it is, since the amount of growth the protagonist undergoes doesn't justify such great length.
Man, it looks like an entire 12 or 13-odd episode season will be needed just to cover the cumulative game which determines whether the Seiyu team goes to the legendary high school equivalent of the World Series at Koshien. The time it takes to watch the episodes might be even longer than that needed to watch the actual game in real-time. No doubt Eijun will be called upon to save a desperate situation in the bottom of the ninth inning. I wonder if the series will continue on and cover Koshien as well; so far, the OP and ED sequences haven't made any suggestion that that will happen.
Well, the climactic bottom-of-the-ninth inning of the game ended in about the way I considered least likely. Eijun is humiliated? And his team loses? But doesn't that mean that no less than 62 episodes are swept away and we must go back to square one and start all over again? Because this show didn't seem to have any premise other than that the team must win, not mature, or learn how to deal with failure, or anything like that. And this show was already in a fifth season--I don't know if I want to keep watching for another year or more. I just don't know what to make of it.
I guess I will continue watching, at least for now. I have gotten to know the characters and want to see things work out OK for them. And this is basically a fun show, so I haven't gotten a feeling that it will drag on forever without delivering much entertainment--if I had, I most certainly would quit. I guess I'm frustrated because the ending I really want to see is going to take far longer to arrive than I had expected.
At the end of the team's first playing season the show suddenly is renamed Ace of Diamond 2nd Season--apparently one season of this show is the equivalent of five or six seasons of an ordinary one. Since it went straight from season one to season two without a break, and the same story continues (perhaps this was just to keep the episode numbers from going into triple digits), I'm not sure if 2nd Season deserves a page of it's own. This will clearly be a very long story, but it remains entertaining and I don't mind watching at all. I am told that there is an unwritten rule in sports manga/anime that the team never achieves it's goal on it's first try, instead it must endure a heartbreaking disappointment first; that would suggest that we are perhaps halfway through the tale. It seems to me that the new, second baseball season team has a good deal fewer charismatic players than the last one did; maybe they will get some development (there should be plenty of time). It's unclear just what is going on now; in Japan the baseball season doesn't seem to begin and end at fixed dates in spring and fall, rather different tournaments take place year round. Or something like that. Whatever the case may be, I haven't lost interest in this show even after something like seventy episodes. It's often the episodes which don't have games underway which I enjoy most.
I may have mentioned this before, but I like the in-between games episodes better than the on-the-field ones. Here's where the characters do most of their talking and character developing. Coach Kataoka's advice to some boys who were tempted to give up trying to earn a place in the starting roster in S2 episode 20 was interesting, as was the old team Captain's advice to the new one. And the show remains fairly funny, too. During games, in contrast, you already know that the team will almost certainly win somehow--they have only lost one significant game.
And the story drags on and on and on. It remains fairly fun to watch, and the fact that I still am says a lot, especially since the longer a show runs the easier it is to lose interest. But it has gotten to the point where commenting on individual episodes seems pointless, since each episode plays such a small part in the long tale, and as a result I seldom do.
Sometimes games that Seido isn't even taking part in last for several episodes, as two other teams fight it out to determine which will take on Seiyou in the next round of a tournament. Their characters often become developed and colorful, and you seriously wonder which will win, since some characters who a fair amount of effort has been invested in will inevitably be lost.
Well I got a surprise or two out of episode 51 of the second season. I delayed watching this one for several months because no fansubs in mp4 mode had yet come out; I was operating under the assumption that Seido would win this critical game which would earn them a place at the Koshien tournament, the World Series of high school baseball. That, after all, had been the goal which everyone had been dreaming of since the very first episode. I noticed that whereas there had been no break between the first and second seasons, no episodes of season three turned up. I finally watched episode 51, and found that the series as a whole seems to end here--just getting a place at Koshien is good enough, apparently. What's more, Sawamura never seems to achieve Ace pitcher status, which, again, was his goal since the very beginning. I don't dislike the conclusion, but it's not what I was expecting and doesn't seem to make sense. Could the manga have still been incomplete? That's the best explanation I can come up with after watching for two-and-a-half years.
Last updated Monday, June 13 2016. Created Tuesday, October 15 2013.