In the storied history of baseball anime, I don’t think there’s been a character who drew better walks than Shigeno Daigo. And that says everything about this series and its hero, really. I think it took a lot of cojones for Mitsuda Takuya to build a series – much less a Major sequel – around a character who does so little conventionally heroic stuff on the diamond. If you know baseball you appreciate what Daigo does, but it’s not very impressive on the back of a baseball card.
“It doesn’t look like he inherited his father’s baseball talent. But he’s always had an air about him.” Michiru helpfully summarizes all that in a couple of sentences that really hit the mark. But before Daigo gets his chance to work that old Daigo magic on this game, Chisato gets her moment to shine, as he does indeed swap her in for Akira on the mound. Fortunately Chisato (who’s just unbelievably cute this episode, seriously) seems to be totally immune to nerves – in addition to being a pretty good pitcher. Neither of which could be said about her father up in the stands, for the record.
Still, that’s a five-run deficit Fuurin is staring up at. And Idemitsu-kun is no slouch on the mound either, taking over in the fourth with his pretty-good fastball made far better by his dangerous slider. Idemitsu, though, isn’t the most mature kid in the Yokohama trio, and the beginning of his unraveling is Daigo’s plate appearance. If you’re a serious baseball fan, you know how hard it is to do what Daigo did here – spoil good pitch after good pitch, lay off the bad ones, force the pitcher to work. Pitchers hate batters who do that to them, and there’s actually a fair amount of pressure on Idemitsu-kun because he’s inherited a perfect game.
Yes, this was a truly heroic base on balls – and not the first one Daigo has worked in Major 2nd, either. After Akira sacrifices Daigo to second (a decision I actually disagree with down 5 runs, but at least Nishina is trying to think) Oobi’s no-no is protected by a great Michiru play up the middle (I’m with Chisato, a flip to the shortstop like that is way above middle-school level) on Anita’s sharp grounder. But in trying to barehand it – something pitchers do by instinct and should never do, for reasons that are demonstrated here – Idemitsu gives himself a stinger in his pitching hand. Numb fingers cost him his feel for the slider, and his fastball isn’t overpowering when the opposition knows it’s coming.
There’s a lot of good stuff in this next sequence. Tanba only gets on base by being hit – I really want to see him actually have a positive moment before his career is over – but Seira the southpaw killer breaks up the no-hitter and the shutout with a screaming liner over second. That’s great, but what really impresses here is that she was taking pitches trying to draw a walk, because she saw the pitcher was struggling and knew that down by 5 runs a base-on-balls would be a great result. That’s high level situational baseball right there. Daigo’s magic is rubbing off.
All this grit and grinding really shows up just how much Tao and Yayoi have been coming up short. Daigo is relentlessly positive and supportive, everyone else is hustling their asses off, and those two pretty much just complain and predict certain defeat. If Tao was starting to feel a little embarrassed about that, well good – she damn well should. It’s too little too late, really. The fact is that if she and Yayoi don’t want to go all-out, they really should just quit – it’s not fair to their teammates to half-ass their way through not just practices but games too. The rub, of course, is that would mean the end of this incarnation of Fuurin – they only have nine warm bodies to begin with.
The “get the uniform dirty” thing is a bit of a baseball cliche and hardly the most subtle metaphor, but it does get the message across pretty effectively. And it is a serious point Mitsuda-sensei is raising here – girls at this age are under a lot of pressure to choose a more “feminine” sport than baseball, or indeed to opt out of sports altogether (though less so in Japan). Yayoi and Tao are good at baseball, but they have to want to play it – and it’s OK if they don’t. But if they do play they should do right by their teammates and commit to the effort. Especially since the rest of them are capable of clawing their way back into what looked like a hopeless game without the benefit of any highlight-reel moments.