Baby Steps Episode 11: The Best Opponent
Note: Apologies for the late post, I’ve had a really rough week due to being in poor health and work giving me little to no time to recover. This week’s episode should be up on time though, so once again apologies for the delay.
I don’t remember this match being this long! Definitely not 3 episodes long…but who cares. The anime still nailed the pacing of the match – only 2 sets over, with focus given to certain points won by either player without disrupting the flow of the match. The only thing I picked up this week that kind of affected my enjoyment with the episode was how Coach Aoi always comes in and goes “AH BUT HE MIGHT NOT WIN” whenever things are looking up a wee bit for Ei-chan. That’s more of a fault with the source material though – it’s not something that bugged me much in the manga since I would usually skim through the smaller (and less attention-grabbing) panels, but the anime has been pretty much a panel-for-panel adaptation of the manga, so some bits of the manga aren’t translated into animation as well.
Another thing that bugs me a bit about Baby Steps (both the manga and anime this time, I guess) is its characterization of Nat-chan. How many times did they need to mention that she’s adorable after complimenting her play? It’s come to a point where it’s a little bit tiresome, if I’m to be perfectly honest. Nat-chan is a great character, albeit simple, and I’m sure I didn’t need to be reminded of how physically attractive it is….unless it’s some running joke in the series I’m only getting now? Either way, it’s not exactly top-notch character writing.
Negativity aside – this was another solid episode of Baby Steps. I can’t really expect anything /less/ of the series at this point. Just like it’s protagonist, Baby Steps is really good at thoughtful, deliberate pacing just to up the ante of the match, such that it contains an unbearably large amount of tension I can’t handle! The last sports anime I’ve seen to actually get me cheering for a point won was Oofuri, and that came out literally half a decade ago. Last week was largely focused on Ei-chan and his incredible growth speed, and this week it’s undoubtedly Araya’s turn. Meeting Ei-chan a year ago was a wake up call for Araya in many ways – just like Ei-chan he’s evolved into an even more formidable player.
His sheer presence in the court commands attention and can change the tide of a game, never mind his incredible speed and strength. He’s an incredibly emotional player – and we see how it used to be a weakness for him; impatience, uncontrollable anger often cause him to overlook a lot of things in his game that would lead to his loss (usually against Takuma). It’s excellent to see how Araya himself has (thanks to Ei-chan) acknowledged this as his weakness. Ei-chan may have won the second set in this week’s episode, but even without Coach Aoi’s worrying comments I can tell next week’s last set will be a bloodbath, one I’m not sure Ei-chan can save himself from. Ei-chan has grown, but perhaps it’s still not enough for Araya, who has clearly figured out most of his tricks and is well on his way to adapting to Ei-chan’s unpredictable style of play.