Baby Steps 2 Episode 3
I’ll be sharing coverage of Baby Steps with Eva until Sidekick returns!
After managing to break out of his vicious cycle, Maruo has finally won in America! I’d like to think that his one-set match with Ike won’t drop him back into that cycle – he certainly didn’t go into the game expecting to win, but it was instead a chance for him to play against a rising pro and to gauge their current differences in strength. It’s not surprising that he lost 6-0, and the implication was that he took very few individual points, if any at all. So of the two pros Maruo played this episode, I felt that his rematch against Alex was more significant. Just a side remark – I didn’t think they’d get Kamiya Hiroshi to voice Alex. It’s not the voice I had in mind for him in my head, but I’ve gotten more used to it by now.
It’s the last chance Maruo and Alex have to play each other, and it’s almost Baby Steps tradition to have Maruo play a strong opponent, lose, and end up with an opportunity to rematch against them later on – partly to see how much he’s improved since then, but also because it’s a hurdle that he’s got to clear in order to proceed on his desired path. Alex was the very first opponent he played in America (Marcia doesn’t count!) and two weeks ago, he represented everything Maruo had trouble with about the play style of American players. The very fact that Alex now easily agrees to play him when he was previously unwilling to is already a testament to how much he’s gotten better (in line with the premonition Nacchan gave that she last said about Ike) but how the match has progressed so far speaks for itself.
I’d actually forgotten when Maruo won the first set that it was designated as 3-set match – and it was a really clean set as well, with Maruo breaking twice. But of course, it’s probably the truth that Alex is approaching this with exactly that in mind – and instead of chasing after what’s practically a doomed set, it might be better to use that time to think up a different strategy or try something new, like what Alex is doing with his powerful backhands. Maruo has definitely had an easier time so far, partly because he’s adapted and partly because he has data, but given that he’ll win outright if he grabs just one more set, Alex will definitely make it hard for him.
As a manga reader, I remember the outcome of the match but not its specifics – but I’m willing to guess that it’ll proceed to a third set. And if you’re anime-only, it’s good to remember that with all significant matches in Baby Steps, it’s very possible that Maruo will win or lose either way. That’s one of the things I love about it – it’s very realistic, sometimes even frustratingly so. Maruo loses, and he loses a lot – there’s very little plot armour, and the closest it gets to hax is because of sheer luck – and that’s part of the realism too. The primary thing that links it to its shounen genre is Maruo’s frightening growth rate, and that’s accompanied by a lot of meticulous detail through every step of his development.