And yet another double post double-whammy. I’m not really excusing myself for late posts here, but I’m finally onto my 2nd year of college. My general interest in anime has been waning, which is honestly a bit of a concern for me. I’ve spent great amounts of money for this hobby and have been a fan of the medium for more than a decade, but I’ve been going into tons of anime watching slumps lately and my eyes just glaze over what’s happening on screen, even though it’s a massive disservice to the anime I’m watching. This is especially so when the manga’s been a favorite of mine for ages 🙁 Hopefully I can find my rhythm soon and properly finish blogging Baby Steps this season.
Anyways, onto the episodes proper! Episode 19 is obviously a cool-down episode after episode 18 dealt the finale to the suspenseful, dramatic climax of the season thus far – the match between Ide and Ei-chan. Episode 19 doesn’t try to follow suit, so instead we get some out of court action – both Yukichi and Ei-chan end up winning their third rounds (Ei-chan’s third round win was so smooth-sailing I almost felt bad for the guy-whose-name-I-can’t-even-remember-D:) & this secures Ei-chan’s participation in the All-Japan Junior, regardless of whether he wins any more matches afterwards.
It was a rather tough episode for the losers though; both for the tennis players and for the onlookers. 2 of STC’s members fail to get past the 3rd round and they’re literally sent packing. It’s no news to anyone who’s already this far into the series, but Baby Steps still shows the brutal, almost cruel world of professional tennis in ways that pack a punch – when the losers go home tension racks up, along with rude awakenings that pretty much nothing in sports is going to be smooth sailing for long. It’s the very nature of baby Steps being so down to earth that it contrasts with other anime that depict this tough world of professional sports, unlike something like Ace of Diamond where hot-blooded characters run wild and free and the idea of being bested by someone else always makes for serious drama. Baby Steps is definitely a lot more realistic with its portrayal; it’s even harder to cry when you lose in front of those that are clearly moving forward, and perhaps the best everyone else ahead can do is to bid goodbyes with blank faces.
It’s an entirely different matter for poor Sasaki though – her obvious crush on Maruo goes completely unnoticed and unrequited, despite her always being there for him. Instead of breaking down from pain and maybe even a little jealousy (I have to admit that hand-squeezing scene was cute) she decides to just bow out with a smile on her face. Did I mention how much I ship her with her wingman Kageyama? 😛
Episode 20 picks us right where we left off with Ei-chan returning to court, this time maybe even more troublesome than Ide, in a myriad of ways that is almost unbelievable. Takagi Sakuya is rude, downright nasty, but still passionate about his own tennis and his desire to win, even if he needs to go about basically borderline cheating his way through it. The guy is a jerk – he knows the rules well and takes advantage of every loophole available to him to break Ei-chan’s advantage, especially when he himself is stuck in a pinch. He’s still a more than skilled player, however, and this brings us to his little history with First Seed Nabae; he’s won an unofficial match against Nabae before! We see the beginnings of his play style creep up from irritation at being bested and sheer desperation to avoid the simple fact that Nabae was better than him. A part of him has played (and still plays) fair however, and he works himself harder than Nabae does, but upon realizing that he still can’t win, drags out one particular match against Nabae to a point where Nabae’s exhaustion scores Takagi the win.
He’s clearly irritated by Ei-chan in the obvious sense that his play style is very similar to his own rival Nabae’s. Takagi himself calls Ei-chan’s match something along the lines of target practice, but I suspect that personal emotions will begin coming to play as the match draws to a close, just like how he basically ticks everyone watching (and playing in) the match off.