Baby Steps 17 – That’s More Like It

Ok, so after a couple of episodes where I was getting rather skeptical about how Ei-chan’s matches were playing out, at least the result of Araya’s match has restored some of the trust that was being eaten away. I still stand by my opinion that Ei-chan improved a bit too much in the span of this one tournament, especially since the writers went to such lengths before the tournament started to push the fact that he was unable to beat seeded players. Not top four seeds, just seeded players in general. Agreed, there was a certain amount of mental block involved, but to be able to go toe to toe with the second seed within the span of a week, after just managing to scrape through lower seeded matches, is a little bit of a stretch.

I suppose what I’m getting at is rather irrelevant now, but I feared Ei-chan was going to somehow scrape through Araya as well. It didn’t happen, and though Araya’s actual winner was more of a fluke than anything, in the end, he did dominate and win in straight sets. I would say, the fact that “luck” played against Ei-chan in that final point was something I actually appreciated. I’m so used to that result (that is, the lucky point) always being the point where the underdog (nearly always the main character, or the character the audience is supposed to be supporting) wins the match against all odds. Luck doesn’t always work that way, and it was great to see it go against Ei-chan this time around. Okay, that came out slightly mean, I do like Ei-chan, so I didn’t mean that I want him to lose. It’s more like his losses make him more human and relatable, and I now want to support him even more in his next match, rather than having him steamroll through competitions because he is the main character. In addition, having no clue on whether Ei-chan will win or lose a match makes that match so much more interesting to watch. You really feel like a supporter.

Looking at the show from a higher level, I can understand why this seemingly accelerated skill progression is needed. There are a limited number of episodes, and we probably can’t waste any of them. An earlier loss for Ei-chan would have meant another attempt needed by him at this tournament to take on all the seeds again. I can see why another arc like that would possibly feel repetitive. Also, to be fair, in the end I suppose this is a junior regional tournament, so maybe, just maybe, there wasn’t really THAT much improvement needed for Ei-chan to be able to hold out against the top seeds once he had overcome his block of being able to beat a seed. It just felt like there was a lot of improvement.

Regardless, Ei-chan is now considered a top level player. Due to his poor record before this tournament, he has not qualified for the Japan tournament that is going to be held soon. I wonder how that is going to be covered in the show. Since we have the introduction of Ike Souji, a young prodigy the same age as Ei-chan, and a childhood friend of Nat-chan (of course he would be) who’s been training abroad in Florida because he wants to go pro, and the fact that he’s going to be playing in the Japan Open (I’m guessing that’s an international pro tournament different from the Japan tournament the other guys are participating in), the focus is now going to shift to that.

Seeing as Ei-chan has not had a competitive match against Takuma yet, and now with the introduction of Souji, I sense a set up where these matches are going to play out at a higher level. I don’t know when yet. Perhaps it will take another year before Ei-chan can qualify? I can totally see him improving enough by then. But for now I’m interested in seeing a Takuma and Souji showdown. Was Souji the one who broke Takuma’s spirit in the first place? I don’t remember if they’ve hinted at this or anything, but I can see that being the case.

Speaking of Takuma, clearly the fact that Ei-chan’s determination seems to be affecting and improving his own rivals (case in point – Araya) has not been lost on him. He too seems to be getting his motivation back. We don’t get to see much of it, but he beats Araya coming back from a set down 4-6 7-5 7-5. Interestingly without any tie breakers. Since Souji is coming to the STC, chances are more likely than not, we’re going to be having some sort of confrontation.

On the non tennis side, the romantic entanglements, sort of, maybe, are fun to watch. Nat-chan’s head pat for a very disappointed Ei-chan after his loss was really cute. Not to forget the almost immediate reaction of Sasaki-chan who had been hanging back not sure what to say.

I guess I’m slightly curious why there was no awards ceremony for the girls tournament, or if there was one why there was no mention of it. Nat-chan should have done well, if not won it right? It would have been nice to see some acknowledgment of the fact that she participated as well. For the past few episodes she’s been portrayed as Ei-chan’s supporter only, and a rival to Sasaki-chan. But there is supposed to be more to her, and I hope they won’t just keep ignoring it. I like her character being more than just part of the supporting cast.

I’m looking forward to the next episode a lot more than I have been for the last few weeks. Freed from the burden of worrying that Ei-chan might possibly be getting the “main character free pass” to the final of a tournament has revitalized my excitement for this show. Nat-chan inviting Ei-chan to watch Souji’s match at the Japan Open (a “date” if you will) is probably going to lead to quite a bit of fun, and we’ll get to see some tennis from someone possibly better than Takuma. I’m interested in seeing how this puts things into perspective. Heck, even if we don’t get to see any tennis yet, I’d love to see Ei-chan on a date. Oh and hopefully we also find out his parents’ reactions to his thoughts of considering going pro.

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