This is where Baby Steps REALLY begins, though unfortunately anime-only fans may not really get to experience much of Ei-chan’s true journey throughout the course of the series, though it’d be good to soak up all the ‘road to professional’ goodness now. This week was some quality stuff as we finally get to see Ei-chan truly begin his road to going pro.
Baby Steps cannot be more true in its advertising and namesake – we’re looking at a long, slow and gruesome road to fulfilling Ei-chan’s dreams of becoming a professional, and the beginning hurts the most especially when you’ve picked up a sport very late in your life, and that cannot be truer for Ei-chan who’s only begun his road at pretty much the cap off for going pro. Coach is beginning to help Ei-chan improve, starting with what will help Ei-chan improve the fastest – rebuilding his body.
A huge part of Coach Miura’s confidence in Ei-chan’s abilities is his striking potential as well as great observation skills, which both Ike and everyone else acknowledge – and throughout just a short 10 minute match Ei-chan could tell how and what he lacked as a tennis player going pro and what he needed to do. Perseverance and willingness to learn should probably be added to Ei-chan’s qualities as an athlete too. This week we get to see Ei-chan literally opening up the gates to hell – doing 40/20 drills that completely break down his body with muscle inflammation, micro-fractures and lack of oxygen, all to get his body used to situations an athlete would face during matches, and Ei-chan gets so tired that he’s even unable to sleep at night, and ends up studying english. Typical Ei-chan.
We get introduced to 2 more new characters this week, Nabae (a fellow note-taker, although he goes digital!) as well as Kanda, both of which are seeded players in the All-Japan Juniors and leagues ahead of Ei-chan. Nabae in particular is a very important character in Ei-chan’s journey (I won’t spoil anything beyond that!), as a quote unquote kindred spirit of a note-taker, and of course as a rival to Ei-chan, who agrees with Nabae in terms of what makes the best tennis player, a question which both boys answer as ”the most well-rounded player”. Another side we see in Baby Steps that is sometimes fundamentally lacking in other sports series is the great passion and respect the writer has for the sport itself – every sport and its athletes require many important traits and qualities that help them excel, but many sports-oriented narratives leave them out, Baby Steps covers every bit of the sport, both the ugly and the glamorous, and it’s its dedication to truly representing the sport in the best, most accurate light possible that I really do appreciate.