Diamond in the Rough
It’s significantly less fun when you end up losing, but hey, that’s a hurdle a total newbie somebody like Ei-chan naturally has to get over. His path to tennis has only just presented itself, and in turn, he’s now recognizing the tools he possesses to walk down this road. I think it should be more than clear by now, by the small questions presented or even by the title of the show, that Baby Steps is a series about Ei-chan’s journey into the sport of tennis and his journey into himself. For somebody who’s been loving that journey for over 200 chapters worth, there’s something magical about seeing the humble beginnings as Coach Miura first recognizes that Ei-chan has potential within him. As far as anime goes, Baby Steps definitely isn’t the show I anticipate the most over the week, but it’s hard to keep a love for the series from bubbling up whenever the new episode does come around. I’m seriously a loser for this series’ charms.
Okay, so why I bring this up (again)? I’ve ended up rereading the entirety of what’s available of Baby Steps (again). And it really strikes me that despite how awesome the later parts are, the early steps really haven’t lost their value or enjoyability in lieu of it. There’s a near constant consistency present which keeps ever gear of Baby Steps important, it has an understanding of what its set out to do and how to go about it. And that’s where we can take a look at where we are with Ei-chan: we’ve gotten to the point where we know we have to proceed, we know we have what it takes to succeed, and we’re about to see what it is we can do with our skills.
And those skills are what we have present for the rest of the Maruo vs Oobayashi match. Ei-chan’s eyes, as proven thus far, are real high quality. It’s with these that he’s able to follow the ball no matter the situation, and it’s with these he’s able to see what it is his opponent is aiming for. The extent to which he actually sees though, is honestly pretty amazing. Naturally, the skill of following the ball and observing your opponent is a valuable skill in actual real life tennis, but Ei-chan’s ability to note down every hit of the match really shows the amount of detail his eyes pick up. Coach Miura notes this, and later on in the day at home, Ei-chan notes that people do seem to say his eyes are good. We even get a short scene of his childhood, showing off how he used to intently watch the passing-by train from his room, waiting for his dad to come home. Lil’ Ei-chan is adorable.
Of course, the coach and even Ei-chan himself dismiss this as being what can lead to his victory or what can be called a talent. He can’t win with eyes alone. But even recognizing this fact shows off his true ability, his ability to recognize a situation and recognize what he can do is an arguably even more important skill that he has. Without his eyes, he wouldn’t have ground to stand on, but its his ability to perceive information, process that information, put that information into practice which makes him the diamond in the rough that he is. With his meticulous approach, every instance he plays becomes valuable. What I enjoy so much about this though, is how well it’s framed. It takes a very straightforward and honest approach, building up from what the previous 5 episodes have shown about Ei-chan. It doesn’t give any real guarantees of success, nor does it mean Ei-chan is on the fast track of becoming the number 1 player around. But seeing how sucked into the sport Ei-chan is getting, seeing the kid go back to practice more after his one and only match, it creates a strong premise for a strong promise about the series.
But for now, we’re at the phase where Ei-chan has to push to even stay in the match for a decently long while. As far as tennis goes, pushing is generally looked down upon, as Oobayashi’s friends admit they’d love to just punch a guy who’s pushing. It’s the tactic of somebody who doesn’t have the skill to compete otherwise, and that’s pretty clearly the case here with Ei-chan. He didn’t have much of a choice, and with his desire to continue playing against somebody clearly much better than him, totally understandable he’ll do whatever he can. Not like he’s aware of the negative stigma related to the tactic, and it’s not like he’s likely to continue using it as he gains actual skills. Either way, the tactic did little in terms of changing the score, as Ei-chan loses the match, 6-1. But as it is, the match lasted for over an hour, and as Oobayashi broods over how the encounter went, even he recognizes there could be something real dangerous to look out for in Ei-chan. But it’s to be seen how dangerous he can really be to the dangerous foes introduced in the latter half of the episode. But judging from the pre-scene from the first episode, we’re bound to see how that’s going to go.
Which is excellent for this adaptation continuing to be a solid one.