It has been days since the release of the first episode, but I’ve been mulling over writing episodic reviews (uhh, they’ll be more like
fangirling reaction posts) since I’ve never done it and it’s a commitment, but I thought, “why not?” There’s nothing to lose and this may help me be more disciplined in writing. So, here I am. Starting with the first anime I’m following this season that aired early this Spring (April 2) — Daiya no A Act II. This is for episode 1 entitled, “Beyond the Dream” (夢の先, yume no saki).
The episode starts with an around 4-minute flashback that summarizes the events that happened in Act I. I like how concise it is. It shows the part when Sawamura first formed a battery with Miyuki. The previous third years — Tetsu, Jun, Ryo, Chris, Masuko, and Tanba — are shown. I like how the production chose to show that scene of when Coach Kataoka was pushing their limits, because that shows their determination to win the preliminaries. It delivers the impact needed when it finally shows their last game against Inajitsu, when Eijun hit Shirakawa with a dead ball, breaking Seidou’s momentum as he gradually broke down himself, and eventually, losing their chance to go to Koshien.
Then, it also shows Eijun’s conversation with Furuya, when Furuya declared that he’ll be the Ace. It’s a good reminder that, yes, Eijun has a rival in the form of Furuya. It also shows Eijun’s conversation with Jun, that time when he asked his senpai what’s in Koshien. I really loved that scene, not just because it has Jun, but also because of Jun’s answer.
The episode doesn’t go into detail about what happened in later (which is covered in S2) and just lets Eijun narrate that they managed to win a ticket to Koshien. I think it’s a bit sad that they didn’t show his yips, how he overcame it and honed his skills in pitching, but then again — and I’m going a bit spoilery here, just a bit — so far in the manga, the yips has yet to be mentioned. I guess it’s all right. I’m still okay with the decision on not including it in the flashbacks.
For real, though, I almost teared up seeing that scene with Shirakawa again! I recently re-watched season 1 and I wasn’t able to continue to that part and ended up skipping it. It’s just so heartbreaking to see Eijun losing focus and self-destructing.
Anyhow, I’m glad for the recap because I got to see the third years again. I love them so much I even drew them the day before this episode’s release because I didn’t think I’d see them a lot! Moreover, the recap this time is a lot shorter than what season 2’s 3-episode recap episodes! This time, it just feels right. I love how in between the flashbacks, there are scenes of the Koshien stadium being prepared. It makes the transition to the actual Act II story smooth. Before that, however, is the OP.
The OP is Hajimari no Uta by GLAY. They also provided OP songs for both the S1 and S2, but I gotta say that this one feels different from the previous OPs of the series. To me, the previous ones have that certain kind of… fire? intensity? that’s already present. With this OP, I feel like it’s the start of a new morning? Using the fire analogy, it’s like the fire is still a small ember. Or maybe it cooled a bit and needs to be ignited again? Anyway, I love it! I love the OP sequence as well. I’m so thrilled to see the new additions — the new first years and the new opponents! Also, it has that shot of one of my favorite Eijun panels in the manga! That holds lots of feels and meaning (plus Eijun is just so handsome in that shot!), so I’m happy to see it for 52 weeks!
After the OP is the actual continuation of the story, when they are playing on Koshien against a team called Homei. It shows the possibly most embarrassing moment in Eijun’s baseball career — slipping as he was pitching. I wished that it wouldn’t be shown, but I guess it’s just not possible to skip.
Then we witness the performance of the team. Miyuki not only catches perfectly, but also manages to out a runner who tried to steal, even at the perfect timing. In just 1.83 seconds at that! This is a reminder to the viewers that this is the talented Miyuki Kazuya, a player who the pros are eyeing to draft. Then, there’s also Kuramochi Youichi and Kominato Haruichi, who shine as the shortstop and 2nd baseman, respectively. They give a spotlight to Maezono Kenta, too, who some people have high expectations of.
The show shows their names, years, and uniform number, as it previously did with the seasons before this. Along with them, the new first years of Seido got introduced as well. Or re-introduced, since Okumura, Seto, and Masashi were already shown in S2 briefly. I’m so excited for the future episodes because we’ll see more of them!
We also meet a new team — Komadai Fujimaki, their ace Hongou Masamune and their coach Nitta Kouzou. It’s just mentioned but I’m also saying that the bespectacled man is Enjou Renji, their main catcher.
This new team is like the last boss in a game. They are the previous champions, handing defeat to Inajitsu, the team that defeated Seidou during the preliminaries. Hongou happens to be on the same year as Sawamura and Furuya which makes him a rival of some sort, though clearly, for now, Hongou has the upper-hand with his experience of the Koshien — he triumphed over all! — and his pitching skills in general (he throws fastballs around 140kph, has good control, and a splitter — possibly more). Hongou has this confidence and pride I expect from an Ace pitcher. He also seems to have a hot-headed attitude, judging by his frustration/anger from the words he heard Coach Nitta say to him. He doesn’t care much about others as he only cares about baseball and his pitching. He’s truly something worth it for them to watch out for. Hongou and Komadai is just as much a wall to Seidou as they were to Inajitsu the year before.
On another note, there’s Coach Nitta. He looks a bit different from the manga to me, but he’s still the same strict coach. He knows what he wants from his players and executes them. Seems like he knows what to do and to say to get them to do their job. He’s an intriguing character to me and I’d really love to see more of him and his methods of training his players.
Anyhow, the episode ends with Sawamura suggesting they avenge Inajitsu by defeating Komadai (I almost wrote Kamomedai — an altogether different team from Haikyuu!! oooopps). I would have liked it better if the anime didn’t make the other characters plead for Sawamura to shut up since I feel like it paints Sawamura as an idiot. As if his slip on the mound earlier wasn’t enough. Others might like this kind of humor, too, but I’m just kinda getting a bit tired of it.
About the ED, it’s by OxT and is titled, “Golden After School”. OxT also performed some of the theme songs for the previous seasons and I also liked the feel of their songs for the series, even this one. The sequence shows Seidou’s pitchers and catchers. I think it was a bit of a stretch to include Toujou (the ED sequence is a bit of a spoiler with this one), but I guess this may also be me speaking as someone who likes Toujou mainly as a center fielder. (And possibly future captain or vice-captain??) However, it’s obvious as to who the sequence are giving emphasis to.
I think the episode did a good job recapping the previous seasons (it’s been 3 years since the end of S2!). It also reminded the viewers of who the characters are. This episode serves as the introduction to who their ultimate rival is, too. Now there’s bound to be more action and drama.
Speaking of action, I’m not the most versed when it comes to animation, but I got to say that at first, I felt cheated because there are lots of still shots. I mean, not really still, because some characters/objects onscreen look like they’re cutout cardboards, with the shot panning to either of the directions, while there are conversations going on some place. There’s this particular scene of Kataoka speaking to the team, but the camera is behind him as it pans up, then the only movement we see is Haruichi putting his cap on. Then again, I re-visited the episode and saw one with a focus on Coach Ochiai talking while there are players on the foreground (one is Nakata) moving. I guess the production really had to weigh which scenes were necessary to put effort on animating. To me, they are clever to do those. As long as the actual actions on play are not very much compromised, I will most likely not grumble about this.
Anyway, overall, I enjoyed revisiting this part of the Act II. I actually re-read Act II a lot, though not much of the earlier chapters. I’m so ready to witness more of the scenes and characters animated!