「駒場、マウンドに立つ」 (Komaba, maundo ni tatsu)
“Komaba Stands on the Mound”
Sports is a great character-builder and all, but then there’s that whole “scarred for life” thing too…
Gin no Saji really shouldn’t be allowed to take hiatuses (I say delay the Olympics next time) because a week without its soul-restoring unpretentious honesty is too cruel when the show is only eleven episodes as it is. There are other anime that thrill and amuse greatly, but nothing currently that has quite the balm effect that Silver Spoon has. There are no tricks, no cheats – it’s just life through the eyes of one very realistic and likeable teenager. If it looks this easy, why is it so damn hard that pretty much no other show can do it?
The last couple of episodes were about as conventionally dramatic as this series gets – though it was generated so organically that it felt like those occasional frenetic crisis moments life throws at you and not a plot device – but this one returns us more or less to the “normal” mode for Gin no Saji. That is, the drama is in the moment – having doubts about the future, wondering if the girl really likes you, getting way too worked up about a game. Arakawa-sensei doesn’t try and separate the nexus moments from the everyday worries because that’s how life is – we live with both and deal with them in the moment.
Now that we’ve finally reached the point where Yuugo has laid his feelings for Mikage on the table, there’s refreshingly little in terms of game-playing (unsurprisingly). We don’t see Hachiken spending the whole episode worrying about whether Mikage will honor their promise to go on a date – he comes right out and asks her in the first moments of the episode. After her conversation with her dorm-mates there’s pretty much no way Mikage can’t know the real meaning behind this promise, so the fact that she affirms it is a good sign. I really wanted to tell Megane-sensei to butt the hell out – would it kill you to give them two minutes before lights out? But all’s well that ends well, and in this case the end is hopefully really a beginning.
There’s an interesting development in that Nakajima-sensei is “dealing with health issues” and unable to attend to the Equestrian Club, so the Headmaster takes over for a “few days”. Is he just heartsick over his lost cheese, or is this just a regular cold – or is it foreshadowing of a larger event? In any case the major focus of the moment is baseball – the Fall Tournament, and Komaba’s emerging role as a closer for the Ezonoo team. A win the preliminaries means the school gets to go to Sapporo to cheer, so everyone is especially invested – and things start off very well. Ezonoo wins their first game easily and then upsets a Sapporo club to reach the semi-finals, with Komaba finishing off both games. That sets up a clash with a Hakodate (Hokkaido’s second city) school for the chance to play in the regional finals.
That game turns out to be a real heartbreaker. As a group of students and the Headmaster watch on a monitor shared with shots of cows getting ready to give birth (poor Hachi-kun is drafted twice to assist with messy deliveries) Ezonoo battles back from a 3-0 deficit and snatches a 5-4 lead of a see-saw game, and Komaba comes in to close – but not until the bases are loaded with no one out in the bottom of the 9th (not exactly the situation you want to inherit). He does his job, but the game is lost when a gust of wind takes what should have been the final out and turns it into a game-ending error by the right-fielder, Uryuu-kun. That kind of thing doesn’t happen too often at this level of competition, but one can only imagine the damage it could be to the psyche of a player on a strong high-school team. It’s a heartbreak for everyone concerned and Komaba handles it as gracefully as possible, but that poor kid is going to have nightmares for the rest of his life. That’s the ugly side of youth sports right there.
In any event, as with most things in Silver Spoon the life’s lesson is more important than the event itself. There’s a general sense among the others that everything will be fine next year – Komaba is a first-year after all – but that teaser moment from earlier season (the secret between Mikage and Komaba that made her cry) is still hanging over everything. It seems a good bet that rather than a debut, this was a swan song for Komaba as a ballplayer – he’s absent from class the next day, Mikage looks very sad, and I wonder if he’s used up all his lifelines and now has to return home for good to take care of the family farm (remember, his father has passed away).
Of course, this being his story that development would be an important thing for Hachiken to reflect on. He’s worried about his own lack of dreams, and already notes the contrast between himself and Aikawa, who knows exactly what he wants. Now, Yuugo may see the example of a boy who doesn’t have the option to pursue his dream, because his obligations take precedence. Hachi-kun is a great kid, but his problems are to an extent self-generated (as Yoshino noted in declaring him un-spongeworthy). Part of the theme here is certainly his learning to appreciate what he has instead of questioning what he doesn’t. Aikawa points out that unlike in his own case, his uncertain future goals give Hachiken the freedom to follow any path, and unlike Komaba it seems that Hachi (as a second son of a non-farm family) is being given a certain leeway to find his path even if his father is overbearing by nature. Hachiken has many things to be grateful for – he’s already figured out that he’s grateful to be at a place he likes with people he likes. Komaba’s hardships seem destined to help his friend take another step forward in his own journey towards manhood.