Baby Steps 12 – American Sports Psychologists Are Creepy

This week we basically had Ei-chan go through some psychological training to teach him the importance of being in the optimal state of mind before a match. And that’s all I really expected to happen this week. Instead I was left with a face like this:

After spending nearly half the episode at a leisurely pace, Ei-chan’s next match against the sixteenth seed Terashima-kun was provided with barely two minutes of episode time, and we didn’t even get to see a single shot. Yet somehow, I’m excited. I think it’s great they decided to skip this match. We already know Ei-chan is now pretty good, and just the fact that he won 6-2 shows that his pep talk with Coach Mike did have an effect. Nothing was lost by not seeing the match play out.

Speaking about Mike, other than the hilarious accent, he seemed slightly sleazy to me. Is that just a thing for how Japan perceives Americans? He clearly has problems with personal distance, and dealing with women I think. Natsu’s reactions to him were funny at first, and then seemed quite justified after seeing how he kept behaving around her.

Yet as a sports psychologist, he knows what he’s doing. Wasting no time, he gets Ei-chan to understand how thinking about the wrong things at the wrong time can hinder his game. And the flip side being, thinking of the right things can get you into the groove even quicker. Ei-chan trying to practise this after getting back home while dead tired led to some nice looking scenes. I liked the crayon effect in the background, like a child’s drawing.

Other developments in this episode such as Sasaki-san coming to watch Ei-chan play, though she was delayed by Kageyama throw some light on the relationships. He had quite a good excuse though, he was playing in a shogi tournament, but that made me wonder why he made the plan with her in the first place because he said he managed to come to watch Ei-chan because he unfortunately lost in the third round of his own tournament. Did he expect to lose? Or was getting into the third round unexpected for him? Kind of silly to schedule something else when you’re not sure if you’ll be free for it right?

Either way, Ei-chan is “standard main character dense” and doesn’t realize why Sasaki-san gets embarrassed when Kageyama blurts out that she wanted to come watch Ei-chan play. Sigh, I guess some things never change.

Next week we’ll probably jump straight into Ei-chan’s next big match, against the third seed Iwasa Hiromi. It appears that he might have some odd sort of “artistic” play style. I’m not sure what the lesson is going to be for Ei-chan to learn from this next match. Will he even be able to win?

Now that Ping Pong is over, this is my favourite sports anime for the season. Haikyuu!! had a good episode this week as well, but it feels very generic. I hope Baby Steps can keep on telling the story as it is without falling into that trap. Between Hinata or Kageyama and Ei-chan, Ei-chan is no doubt the more interesting and multi-dimensional character.

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