(Please note, the piece below includes SPOILERS. If you choose not to have the story line unveiled …
I know Superbowl LI is this weekend (damn, they’re right, it does look Asian), but my favorite team is out of the running, so my attention is now toward my favorite sport, baseball. Spring training starts this month, so to satisfy my need to watch baseball (outside of ESPN reruns and YouTube replays), I found an anime that recreated some epic plays while adding the occasional anime hi-jinks.
Ace of Diamond (aka Diamond no Ace) follows high school first year pitcher, Eijun Sawamura as he adjusts to joining the elite Seidou High School baseball team, while learning what it takes to truly play the game of baseball with a competent team, all the while, working to become the team’s ace pitcher. Eventually the story line evolves to include the players, while still keeping Eijun as the main focus. Like many traditional anime, Eijun is impassioned and excitable, always looking to be part of the action, with a mouth that sometimes gets him to more trouble than necessary, but hard working and very much a likable character. If you’ve ever watched Japanese baseball, or even Japanese little league during the little league world series, you know they’re really into the game, and with currently eight Japanese players in US major league baseball, it’s not surprising how the American national past time is also a favorite Japanese sporting event.
Originally an award winning manga release in 2006, under the same name, Ace of Diamond anime was released in Japan in 2013. With two full seasons, 75 episodes in total, the most recently episode was released in Spring of 2016, however, it’s questionable when season three will come around. Unfortunately, the anime suffers from the same problem Game of Thrones had, which was the authors couldn’t keep up with the show’s production schedule. Even though the manga was released seven years before the anime, within three years, the anime had caught up to the current manga story line, which has fans questioning how long they would have to wait before they can get their next fix.
I enjoyed the series, however, due to some of the lengthier games, I found myself walking away from the screen every now and then because it reminded me a bit too much of an Anne Rice/Stephen King novel (too much description and slow story progression), but, very much like an actual baseball game, even if you did miss a couple episodes, you can pick up at the current episode without feeling like you need to go back and find out what happened. Although that may not sound great, it does mean you need not watch every episode to still enjoy the series. You get all the tension of a real baseball game, without the peanut shells.
Although not a complete replacement for the game, it’s still good to tied over, if you know every game on the YES Network and when you can call all the plays by memory on ESPN. The entire two seasons of Ace of Diamond (aka Diamond no Ace) are available right now on CrunchyRoll, and if you weren’t aware, CrunchyRoll offers first timers two weeks free, and you can cancel at anytime.
One final note, please support your local minor league baseball team. Minor league players get a shorter playing schedule and don’t get anywhere close to the glory or pay rate their major league counterparts get, however many still stay to play for the love of the game. The tickets are generally a lot cheaper, as well as the concession costs, in a very family friendly atmosphere. Many major league retired players come back to coach for the minor league teams, so if you have a favorite team you’ve been following for a long time, some of your beloved legacy players might be coaching the up and comers, so please show your minor league home team some love this coming season and come to a game.