I know there are a lot of sports anime that are all about baseball — Major, Ookiku Furikabutte, and Cross Game are even on my list — but I did not prioritize them because I knew nothing about the sport as it is not really something played nationally in my country. After watching Hyper Projection Engeki Haikyuu!!, though, I got more exposed to the world of stage plays of some series. There is this one stage play of a currently popular series, but I did not want to watch its stage plays until I’ve watched the anime and/or read the manga. Anyway, there are a lot of positive reviews around and some fans of Haikyuu!! even recommend this one particular gem, so I thought I would give it a try. Haikyuu!!‘s S3 had ended then as well, so I wanted to divert my attention to some other series. That gem of a series is Daiya no Ace.
Daiya no Ace (or Ace of Diamond/Diamond no Ace) is a series adapted into anime which has a 75-episode first season that premiered on Fall 2013 and ended on Winter 2015. Its second season, which ran for 51 episodes, immediately followed on Spring 2015, covering the rest of what happens on its source manga. Yuji Terajima is the mangaka of its source, a shōnen manga of the same title (47 volumes, 418 chapters!) which is serialized in Weekly Shōnen Magazine and published by Kodansha. In addition to the original source, Daiya no Ace Act II, which is a continuation of the story, is currently ongoing. Hopefully, the anime will have a third season so that the Act II will be shown as well. However, no official announcement has been made yet. It may take at least two years or so before it gathers enough material (it has 62 chapters as of writing) to animate.
Eijun Sawamura is a pitcher who joins an elite school with a brilliant catcher named Kazuya Miyuki. Together with the rest of the team, they strive for Japan’s storied Koushien championships through hard work and determination. (Source: ANN)
Like many of the sports anime out there, the main team here — Seidou High — is also aiming for the Nationals, to be at the top. The team is not from a no-name school and the club has been existing for years. They are from one of the strong schools competing during baseball matches. Because it is about baseball, it is natural that there is a large cast. (I was surprised to know that there are 20 people in a baseball team roster, just 18 for Koshien.) Even more so because Seido is well-known as a strong school and naturally, people will want to join a strong team. Therefore, each of the characters are subjected in a competitive environment as everyone around them seeks opportunities to be able to play in official games.
Though they do have these three main characters, the spotlight turns from character to character. The main school we are following get breaks as the focus turns to the different schools at play that they are scouting for. With these, we get to know the strengths of the key players from their rival schools. Knowing these rivals easily amps up the game when they finally play with Seido. Of course, we get to know the backstories of these select opponents which could make us want to sympathize with them and to want them to win as well. Or not. Depends on who one likes more than our lead characters.
Again, because of the nature of baseball, there are a lot of players, thus, more characters to see. Because enough time is given to show these characters’ backstories, the screen time for the main characters is reduced. The “characters” referred here are not just the MCs’ team mates, but the key players on their rival schools as well. With this, the series’ tendency to shift focus from character to character may irk some viewers/readers.
The opponents’ backstories shown isn’t new. Hajime no Ippo, Yakitate!! Japan, and others do it as well. Perhaps it’s Daiya’s storytelling that rubs some people in the wrong way. Personally, I prefer it when series allow us to know the other characters because I dislike one-dimensional characters. In Daiya’s case, though, I think it gives so much at the expense of the main characters/team’s exposure.
In any case, the aims of each of the characters are clear. Join the first string. Win the games. Participate in Koshien. Be the best out of them all. Because of these, each episode shows their struggles as they try to improve and achieve their goals. The plot is continuously moving and their characters developing, so evenly fast before my eyes that I can hardly breathe by the end of the anime. Not that it’s fast-paced. Most probably a side effect of my watching the two seasons in a row for a few days only.
Flashy plays are minimal as it tries to be as realistic as possible. I’m not sure if a 153 km/h pitch or a whole lot of variety of pitches could easily be pulled off by a high schooler, but I believe those are doable. (By Major League players most likely? Their ability to do those in high school sounds unrealistic to me.) There are a lot of technical terms, though, and not much explanation is given to each. This is the type of show which you pick up things as you watch. For example, you will know the meanings of ‘southpaw’, ‘slider’, ‘forkball’, and the likes by watching the characters. Thankfully, there are still helpful side characters who give comments or explanations to aid the fans in understanding what is happening.
Though I had struggle at first because it isn’t as layman-friendly as some other sports anime, I did enjoy Daiya no Ace especially when I started to understand how baseball is played. Plus, the characters are enjoyable to watch. Their character designs are as pleasing to the eyes as the animation, too! Well, not really surprising if we know that this anime is co-produced by Madhouse (Chihayafuru, Hajime no Ippo) and Production I.G (Haikyuu!!, Kuroko no Basuke).
No complaints for the music here, just for the actual sequences played. For example, the first OP shows Eijun, Furuya, and Haruichi so much that it frustrated me because it is the reason why I hoped I would see more of Haruichi. Yes, he did have his share of the spotlight, but he is actually not given much attention as the other two. For the second season’s first OP, my problem lies with the fact that it did not make an effort to be subtle on who the main rival will be. I think it defeats the story’s tendency to surprise the audience with the outcome of the games. Regardless of those issues, I liked almost all the OP and ED though I opted to skip them. The background music did its job to evoke the right emotions in each scenes, most especially during scrimmages.
Overall, I did enjoy Daiya no Ace; that’s why I went off to read the manga right after binge-watching the two seasons. Honestly, however, I have some more issues with it and its mostly related to the characters, which actually affects the plot of the story. (I will leave my thoughts about them on another post because I don’t want a post even longer than the one before this.) Regardless, I can say that if someone asks me about what sports anime to watch, I will be able to confidently mention Daiya no Ace.