Time for another sports anime review, but not to worry – I promise that this one is well worth watching! If you’re interested about why that is – read on…
Once upon a time, there were two major power (MAD)house production (I.G) studios. For the longest time they remained on their own until one day they decided to come together, and from this union their lovechild anime was born: Diamond no Ace aka Ace of Diamond aka Diaace aka Diayace aka Daiya no A aka Diamond’s Ace. Who are the studios, you ask? Well, none other than Production I.G, purveyor of the majority of popular sports animes out at the moment, and Madhouse, the guys that bring the “epic” factor to the table. Both studios have given us many amazing animes, so the two coming together seems like some kind of fantasy that belongs in the fictional realm… Luckily for us, sometimes dreams come true and Diaace is proof of that.
Madhouse & Production I.G team up for Diamond no Ace.
Diaace is based on a manga by Yuji Terajima and falls mainly within the shounen and sports categories. The manga has been running since 2006 with 47 volumes having been published to date. Since 2011, Diaace has consistently been ranked in the top 30 bestselling manga with 22 million copies of the first 45 volumes having been sold. The anime has been running since 2013 and both first and second seasons of the anime were written by Takeshi Konuta and directed by Mitsuyuki Masuhara with 75 (yes 75!) episodes in the first season and 51 for the second. Mitsuyuki Masuhara is on the Madhouse side of things and has worked as in a directing capacity on shows such as Death Note, Tokyo Tribe 2, Chobits and Gungrave.
47 volumes and counting…
As is the case with most sports anime, the basic idea is watching your protagonist team (usually high school) take on rival teams in an effort to reach the nationals and stand as number one in the country (in this case, it would be at Koshien). And of course there are always first years (that have the potential to be truly great) who join the team in order to carry the dreams of the 3rd years that face retirement from their club after the summer. These aspects can also be found in Diaace but that’s the thing that makes sports anime so great: reliability of the plot.
Diaace sees the rise of first year high-schooler Eijun Sawamura. When we first meet Sawamura, he’s still in middle school, lives out in the country and enjoys playing baseball with his classmates. Sure, they aren’t stellar sportsmen, but he has fun and does his best anyway. It’s at the last match that Eijun pitches and gets scouted by a representative from Seido High School – a school in Tokyo that focusses on baseball, with dedicated facilities and dorms for players who get accepted on sports scholarships. Initially taken aback, Sawamura has no intention to leave his old team mates but is persuaded to at least make the trip to check out the school. It’s here that he meets the man that will change his fate, Kazuya Miyuki. After checking out the grounds, Sawamura gets into an argument with one of the 3rd year batters and is swiftly baited into going head to head with him with Miyuki as his catcher. Although Sawamura is relatively inexperienced, Miyuki sees potential in Sawamura and together they take on the batter and strike him out. The sound of the ball hitting Miyuki’s glove may as well be the sound of an explosion as Sawamura blows open the door to a whole new world and starts to seriously consider moving to Tokyo so that he can play at Seido with the genius catcher, Miyuki. Although in two minds, Sawamura eventually ends up at Seido and it’s here that he begins his steep climb to the top. His goal? To become the ace…
Eijun Sawamura: the overly energetic southpaw (left-handed) pitcher.
So if it’s all been done before, what’s the point of watching? It’s in the unpredictable way the story plays out… Although this anime follows the tried and trusted formula of the rise to greatness and we are initially acquainted with Sawamura as our leading man, this is one of the more “team focussed” sports animes I’ve watched. With other shows such as “Kuroko no Basuke” there is obviously the team aspect, but it’s rather easy to see exactly who your leading men are because of the role they play and the fact that they join the first string and get into the games pretty quickly. Diaace has taken a somewhat more realistic stance on this where although Sawamura joins the team he is nowhere near good enough to join the first string. In fact, he makes the worst impression possible and is relegated to running around the field every day at every practice. When the other first years are given the chance to try out for their preferred positions Sawamura is told to keep running because he hasn’t yet been “accepted” as part of the team. In fact, it’s another first year, Furuya, that gets the spot that Sawamura is aiming for and is considered the player that shows the most potential at having a shot at the first string. With this in mind, the anime really takes the time to go through all the stages: from basic training, through to looking at raw potential and then honing that potential into a weapon before finally moving on to playing games. Even then, there is always room for improvement and it’s something that’s mentioned often. This probably explains why one season is 75 episodes long, but I feel that it’s well worth it and I can see that there is a reason behind it.
It’s all about teamwork.
Even though we start out with Sawamura, we get to know each member of the team, their backgrounds and what their ambitions are. By the time you’re 60 episodes in, you will feel like these are your own team mates and you end up sharing in their pain and joy. Having 75 episodes allows us viewers to really invest our time with these characters and so when things happen, you feel like you’ve been punched in the feels and will want to do a table flip! This is also why I say it’s a rather unpredictable anime because while the intentions of the character might be to make an amazing pitch or hit, the reality is sometimes different from how the scene is set up so you never know which way it’s going to go. It’s actually rather clever on the part of Madhouse and Production I.G. to do it this way because it makes for addictive watching (I should know since it took me 2 weekends to marathon just the first season alone). There is a true “team” focus here and sometimes you won’t hear much from Sawamura or the other two main character first years since the focus is on whoever is playing at the moment, including competing teams. You get to know their players and coaches and backstories too. It’s the gift of time that allows them to do it right and go into a lot of detail like this. But like I said – it’s all part of the investment, which in turn gives us that satisfaction of watching your team make it to the top.
Rivals on the playing field: Seido faces tough competition from time to time.
The characters themselves are rather interesting too. We have Sawamura, Furuya and Kominato as the main first years and then there are the second years like Miyuki and third years, including the captain, Yuki. Sawamura, for me, has the biggest entertainment value. Other lead characters in sports animes usually have this kind of cool approach or they’re fired up, but Sawamura is just beyond it! He’s got enough energy for days, is loud and is picked on by his senpais for being an idiot but he hardly ever loses his pep and ends up being the heart of the team. While others get dejected in the face of losses, Sawamura keeps shouting at the top of his voice and gives energy to the others. The fact that his middle school baseball team used to always deal with defeat and it was on him to support them and pep them back up is probably why he’s able to see things differently from the others. By comparison, Furuya and Kominato are more reserved but are both talented players. Miyuki is one of my favourites though because his character is a bit twisted: when people say he’s being harsh, he’ll say thank you! Haha! Even so, he’s an indispensable part of the team. Like I said, there are plenty of characters and this show gives you the time to really get to know them and decide whether you like them or want to slap them. The sports aspect makes up the bulk of the show but there are hints at (b)romance and there is always the friendship aspect.
Sawamura & Miyuki’s “friendship” makes for a very entertaining dynamic!
As for the animation style, colour, music etc., it really is like a combination of the two studios but for me it seems to lean a little to the Madhouse side. I only say this because I’ve watched a couple of Production I.G. sports animes and both shows give off the same “vibe” even though the character design etc. is different. The baseball player’s motions, habits, demeanours etc. are all portrayed realistically (with some exaggeration for effect of course) but attention to detail is always a must in sports anime otherwise it doesn’t seem realistic enough and we don’t relate. Use of colour and music only served to enhance the intensity of the show and it will leave you sitting on the edge of your seat. Interesting side note is the fact that Mizuno, a well-known baseball equipment supplier, has been making the rounds in anime these days, featuring as sponsors in not only this show but in “Days” and “Yuri!!! On Ice” and you’ll see their brand throughout the show. As was the case with “Tiger & Bunny”, a bit of ‘real life’ in a fictional world is always cool to see.
First years in training, aiming for the top (in their Mizuno-branded gear)!
It’s quite easy to say that I may be biased in my review because I do love sports anime, but I can honestly say that it ranks as one of the better ones I’ve watched. I can usually gauge how good a sports anime is based on the level of nervousness I feel when I watch a game, and this one was right up there. Although you know how it’s supposed to end up, you still feel the pressure and you still wonder just how they are going to make it through. And this show also balances out these moments with some good, if somewhat crazy, comedy and real feels. So if you’re up for the challenge of watching 126 episodes (excluding OVAs) of high school baseball then give this show a spin. All in all, this show is entertaining, fun, exciting, funny, emotional and it seems like a home run to me!
Image credits: Madhouse / Production I.G
End: Diamond no Ace Anime Review