Building off the foundation laid down last week, this episode mainly focussed on the growing interest of Ei-chan towards tennis. The pacing of this show is more laid back than something like Haikyuu!! and so personally I feel that show (Haikyuu!!) is more engaging at the moment. However, I do believe the characters in Baby Steps will be more faceted than in Haikyuu!! where the spotlight appears to be purely on inborn talent and spirit.
Recalling from last week, Ei-chan was invited back to the tennis club for his free trial since he passed out during the warm up session the first time. He decides to take up the offer, but only after an attempt to get into slightly better shape. He spends the week training by running home from his cram school which I would assume would be a method to build up his stamina. I was rather skeptical about this, especially since he was completely out of shape. Would just a week’s worth of running be enough to get him through something that caused him to pass out? However, the show did provide an acceptable explanation.
Firstly, it was clarified that he passed out at the end, and not in the middle of the warm up exercises the last week, so even a tiny bit of improvement would be enough to at least keep him conscious. Secondly, we are also told there were different training regimens for different player levels in the club – since he was with the elementary school kids, he obviously failed at the lowest level. While this does emphasize how poor his shape was, I can accept that minimal improvement would be enough to let him, a healthy junior high school student, get through a warm up for elementary school students. To drive home the point that he still has a long way to go, he still collapses out of breath at the end of the warm up and his elation at not having fainted is abruptly brought down to earth by the cynical kid.
So far so good, that was probably the only real concern I had about the show trying to fast track his improvement this episode. When actually trying his hand at tennis, he struggles to return the ball even when it is lobbed at him. No way he’s returning a serve any time soon. Takasaki, who’s been playing for years, struggles to really explain to Ei-chan what she means by a rhythm to hit the ball. But her attempted explanation nicely illustrated how natural it seems to her. Ei-chan, on the other hand, has a completely different approach to the problem. The more specific and detailed the instructions provided, the better he feels he will be able to replicate them. I don’t think sports work that way, there most certainly is more to it than just textbook execution, and I think we’ll be seeing Ei-chan learn this over time.
The better you get at an individual sport, the more personal your training needs to become to understand how you can make yourself better. Copying another will not work. This is why I’m curious to see if Ei-chan choosing his racket without consulting anybody from the tennis club will have any impact at some point. He just chose the same one as Takasaki I think. Ignoring all the higher level issues like the tension of the string, size of the grip, etc, at the very least one’s racket should depend on one’s build. He might have chosen a smaller one than necessary. I wonder if that has anything to do with him struggling to figure out why it was so much harder to control hitting the ball when he was practising hitting against the wall on the weekend.
No doubt, the first time at the club was a fluke, but at that point I would assume he was provided with an appropriate racket. In any case, this is all minor, since the main point being made here was to show how Ei-chan was adapting his study techniques and quirky character to improve at tennis. Skill development through repetition – a time intensive and exhausting methodology – I wonder how far it can really take him. However, for a starting point, it will definitely provide results eventually. Seeing him try to measure the angle of his elbow using a protractor to figure out how he achieved a good return was funny – how is that even possible. At least Kageyama provided him with a more suitable solution – just record the practice session on video and study it later.
One particular scene that I really liked was when Ei-chan was given the joining application form by coach Morimoto. That scene was interspersed with scenes of Takasaki practising her serves after everyone else had left. I felt it was a nice way to show how both of them were taking their first steps albeit to very different goals in tennis. Ei-chan to simply beginning the sport, and Takasaki to her dreams. And both of them starting off at the same tennis club.
Moving on to the non-tennis aspect of the show, I think I’d rather it not get too involved with the main plot. I do like the chemistry between Ei-chan and Takasaki, and so I did get annoyed at the end of the episode where it looks like confirmation that Takasaki and Egawa are dating. But I have enough shows about that stuff, and I don’t want those emotions coming in here as major plot points. I also felt Ei-chan had a bit of an overreaction. What I’m trying to say here is, I really hope romantic motivation does not drive athletic improvement or rivalry in this show. “I want to get better to show off” – no thanks, how about simple friendship and support, along with hard work? It is still irritating me no end that Takasaki and Egawa are together, because now I can’t see a simple relationship building between Takasaki and Ei-chan without some major drama. Fuyukai desu…
I don’t know if this show’s pacing will be conducive to episodic commentary. But for now, that is the plan. Let’s see what happens next week.