After a three week hiatus, I’m finally writing my next post on Baby Steps. I watched the last three episodes pretty much back to back, but this post will be based mostly off the latest episode – episode 9. Ei-chan’s back at the Kanagawa Junior Circuit with the new goal of getting past the third round (and seeded players in general).
His first round match is with someone from his own school – Koshimizu Nariyuki. Ei-chan doesn’t seem to have much of an opinion about his school’s tennis club, they never get past the second or third round in tournaments either and he feels he’s practising much harder at the STC. He feels that he must win this match. Nariyuki seems exceptionally motivated to beat Ei-chan as well. I found it rather amusing that Nariyuki’s motivation to defeat Ei-chan came out from the fact that he was working hard at his STUDIES so that he could out-score Ei-chan. Shouldn’t you be more competitive because of the fact you both play tennis and Ei-chan is not a part of the tennis club at your school? Not that I mind, it was just funny to see Nariyuki annoyed that Ei-chan had no idea who he was. This being after he had managed to do better than him on the most recent tests. Poor guy, all he wants is Ei-chan to acknowledge him.
Interestingly enough, Ei-chan seems to be affected by the whole situation. The fact that he is playing in this tournament again, the fact that he has taken on the pressure that he has to win this match, and the fact that he has noticed the irritated vibes coming from Nariyuki. All of these seem to have unconsciously tensed him up slightly which is putting off his game. If I had to choose, I’d say this came from Ei-chan’s lack of experience at playing these tournaments where he was aware that all the top players were also participating. Remember that, till now (after that first tournament), he’s signed up for only lower level tournaments where the top players were absent – and even then losing to seeded players in those.
All the same, I liked how Ei-chan immediately tried to find answers in his notes. He realized his problem, but none of his notes had any solutions – they were all about the technical aspects of his game. That is until he reached the last page of his notes. Nat-chan had written down a message for him, just for this sort of situation. Convenient? Maybe. Yet it’s not like she hadn’t noticed that he might get tense. For one thing, over the last couple of episodes they’ve definitely grown closer. I can see her writing this down in his notebook knowing that he’d look at it when at a loss.
I suppose if I have to point out something, Ei-chan seemed to snap out of his slump almost instantaneously after reading that advice. Well, I guess it is true that he was not playing normally before this, and now he’d calmed down a bit and so got his control back. I’d say that the writers exaggerated the loss of control he had while he was tense, he shouldn’t have been that bad that he double faulted his service game and returned nearly everything “out”. He’s better than that. But to get the point across that tension can restrict your abilities, they did an okay job. I understood the lesson that Ei-chan learnt, and that, I would say, is the whole point right?
One thing I really enjoy about Baby Steps is its pacing. For a sports anime, the fact that they don’t spend multiple episodes on a single match, and in fact, complete multiple matches in the same episode when there is no reason to dwell on a match helps a lot. Like how Ei-chan’s second match was just acknowledged as his victory in seconds. The next important battle is between Ei-chan and the fifth seed Miyagawa Takuya, and the show loses no time in shifting it’s focus to this one. It’s time for Ei-chan to take stock of his first strong opponent. Miyagawa has stated he has found a weakness in Ei-chan after watching his first match, can Ei-chan get enough data on Miyagawa by watching his match?
Personally, out of the three sports anime I am watching this season, I feel Ping Pong has the most compelling storyline, but I can’t stand that style. Between Baby Steps and Haikyuu!!, Haikyuu!! seems like a much more traditional sports anime. Luckily it doesn’t go into “shounen” mode, but overall it is still a story where the main character will eventually win, even if it is against all odds, because of things like “spirit and friendship”. It’s fun to watch, but I choose Baby Steps over that. It’s really rare to get a sports anime that’s grounded in reality. I know that the whole point of a main character is to see him eventually climb to the top, but I prefer the way Baby Steps goes about it. One step at a time.