When you keep one of your players out of a lot of the game because he's too good, that's a problem most any team would love to have.
What They Say
Ko and Nakanishi organize a sandlot game with some old friends from elementary school. Ko stands on the pitcher's mound with Nakanishi as catcher. But after Ko throws a few practice pitches...
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
As their junior high school days move right along, a small blast from the past comes out of nowhere as Ko learns that some of his friends from elementary school want to get together for a game. While Ko initially thinks it's a great opportunity to sell uniforms, it's also a chance for his friends and everyone else to just have a whole lot of fun with a simple sandlot game. Ko's still not all that sure what he wants to do but he continues his batting practice while his teachers are urging him to actively get involved with some sports club since he's a fast runner and has great grades when it comes to gym class. He's still playing baseball some, but he hasn't made that transition to playing in school yet.
What turns out to be surprising is that while most expect him to be pretty good with his batting since he does it so often and holds himself in high regard for it, he's also turning into quite an amazing pitcher. The warm up session with his friends and with Nakanishi catching while Ko pitches really highlights this. His pitches are professional and clean, enough so that Nakanishi doesn't want to catch for him since it's too intense. When Ko promises that he'll pitch for real during the game, it just makes Nakanishi all the more surprised and shows again just how naturally talented Ko is while also making sure the viewer understands a lot of it comes from repetitive practice as well.
Watching as Nakanishi comes to understand just how good Ko is turns out to be a lot of fun because it's understated. He can't understand why Ko hasn't gone out for the team and the little sandlot match has highlight to someone on the school team just how good Ko is, which means he's going to be scouted in some form pretty soon whether he likes it or not. We do get a good idea of why Ko has held back and it actually turns into a good moment where we realize that Ko believes he wasn't good enough for awhile and practiced hard, but now thinks that maybe he would do ok. He's not completely confident in his abilities and too cocky about it, but he also doesn't view himself as terrible at things and beating himself up constantly over it. It's a nice change from the two extremes that we often end up seeing in sports shows.
Similar to the previous two episodes, there's a really nice understated feeling to this series and how the characters handle themselves. The background we get here is minimal when it comes to what happened with Ko and Nakanishi back at the start of junior high, but it's enough to start the dialogue. Aoba continues to practice hard with her love of the game while Sendai is just waiting for high school to start so they can start playing some serious baseball. So that means he can spend his time trying to get on Aoba's good side. Ko and Nakanishi make this episode their own though as their difference in skill levels is brought to bear as well as getting a real understanding of how Ko views himself. There is a really nice slow progression and buildup being made here which is giving the cast across the board a really great heart.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English Subtitles
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70" LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.