The match finally begins with some interesting positions at stake, not that you could believe that Daimon would lose his job over it.
What They Say
The varsity team and the Portables face off in a critical match. Ko gets off to a shaky start on the pitcher's mound, loading the bases with the first three batters. The two coaches have bet their jobs on the outcome.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
While we've seen the Portables play against the Varsity side before, they've been working hard at being a team through a lot of games that their coach has gotten them on the side. With the stakes being either Maeno or Daimon losing his job, and a Maeno loss meaning the end of the Portables and their club, there's a whole lot at stake here. Daimon's hampered a little bit with Azuma taking the game off because of a false injury, largely because he doesn't want the team to be dependent on just one player, Daimon and the principal are still fully confident. To their surprise though, the school chairman has sauntered into the dugout with them and is fully aware of what's going on and has apparently formalized the bet, something that neither Daimon nor the principal ever expected to happen.
Watching the game play out, you realize exactly what it is that's happened in those past six scrimmage games that they lost. While you could suspect that there was some element of training to it, largely owed to Maeno's relationship with those coaches over the years, the losses and general attitude of everyone seemed counter to that being the case. As the game plays out, with two of their key players not playing for the Varsity side, the Portables have kept them tied up at nothing nothing, but there's something odd about their play and how they're progressing. A lot of it is difficult for Ko as he has to learn to balance out his pitches instead of doing constant strikeouts which wears him down over time. When they get close to the seventh inning though and it's only then that his no-hit no-run streak ends do you realize just how intense the game has been played on both sides.
It's interesting what issues come to light during the end part of the game as well. Aoba and Ko have a brief but pointed discussion about how he's always betrayed her in a way, but he manages to toss it right back at her that she's never relied on him. With their pasts and the death that hangs between them, it's a curious discussion to have but one that highlights just the odd kind of strain they've had all these years. At the same time, the chairman casually talks about how he's been content to let the principal run things all these years, but with him in the hospital now and the current one helping out seemingly taking advantage of things according to some documents, we get a clearer picture of why he's stepped in to tweak things in a way that experience and age allows. It's fairly blunt in a fatherly way, but it's a welcome scene to watch.
Watching the Portables come together over the last several episodes, highlighted by Maeno's comment that he has a team rather than a collection of strengths and numbers, has been amazing. This is a high point for many shows, yet we're only sixteen episode into this one with so many more highlights and exciting moments to come. What makes it even more amazing is that it's a pretty restrained highlight as it avoids going big and making it a huge scene, thereby overplaying its importance. A lot like life is, there's a simplicity to the excitement and the pleasures found in the game here. Ko is rightly proud at the end of the game, and Aoba is right in her soft and almost warm criticism of it, as it shows the two are changing. And as Azuma says, Ko (and the others) aren't who they were in the send-off game and Daimon has to recognize that now. The challenges ahead could be interesting depending on how they play out as it could totally humanize Daimon and make him a really good character.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English Subtitles
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70" LCoS 1080P HDTV, Dell 10.1 Netbook via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.