Ace of the Diamond
ダイヤのA (Daiya no Ace)
Shounen – Sports
7 Volumes of 47 Volumes (complete)
At the bottom of the ninth in a tie game, middle schooler Eijun threw a wild pitch and ruined his team’s chances of making the baseball championship. But he still hopes that next year in high school, he can play again with all of his best friends . But when a scout from Tokyo invites him to tour her elite school, Eijun reluctantly goes. Once there, though, he can’t help but wanting to test his skills at this high-level battlefield.
Man, you know this series is old when game system of choice is a PS2 and the tournament game of choice is Hot Shots Golf. But I know this series has quite a dedicated fanbase even in the West, so I figured it would be good.
Ace of the Diamond is much like a traditional sports or shounen action manga: a plucky young lad has a special gift, and he finds himself drawn deeper and deeper into the world. In this case, it’s a guy named Eijun, and the world is the world of baseball. At the beginning of the series, Eijun is in his third year of middle school, and while his team’s season ends well short of the final championship match known as Koushien, but hey, there’s always next year… as long as they all can pass their high school entrance exams. It’s a tall order for Eijun, but he has no real interest in visiting a school in the big city. Still, he goes, and you can guess what happens next: a meeting that changes his life forever.
So, it’s off to Tokyo for little Eijun… after a tearful farewell with his friends.
Ace of the Diamond is a long series with an ongoing sequel/continuation, so obviously I’ve only scratched the surface. Some of these early volumes just flew right by to boot. But I can see the appeal. Unlike some sports manga, this school has dozens and dozens of players, so the story isn’t just about this school vs everyone else, but there’s a lot of interteam conflict at Eijun’s school that I wasn’t expecting. Having a similarly-aged rival with similar skill sets is fairly common in sports manga. What’s not common is to have another rival right in your team. There’s another first year who is a pitcher, and he gets to make the main team before Eijun. And since Eijun is a cheerful idiot with natural and untapped potential, manga logic points to his rival being a pragmatic brainiac who has both the benefits and flaws of training.
… Well, sort of. Satoru is currently the better pitcher, but he’s hardly some all-around expert baseball player. He tends to be a space case, and his fielding stinks. He doesn’t have Eijun’s outgoing personality, and that’s likely to be a point of contention during the series. While a lot of teammate rivals also turn out to be the protagonist’s most dependable ally, in this case, one is going to have to lose. They both can’t stand upon the mound at Koushien as the main pitcher. It’s Ace of the Diamond, not Aces of the Diamond.
Other characters have their own specialties and quirks, but the most important of them is Kazuya. He’s a catcher that ignited the desire for Eijun to go to Seido in the first place. He’s the most talented and famous player on the team. But while he’s serious about baseball, Kazuya can also be seriously irritating to others. He is good at reading people and is a bit of a trickster. I like how Ace of the Diamond sets up pairing with Kazuya as Eijun’s initial goal, but that’s already been warped since he found someone new to look up to. Still, Kazuya is going to be key for both pitchers — and the Seido team as a whole — to grow, and I do want to see how he’ll interact with them all.
The most annoying part of Ace of the Diamond so far to me is a female manager. I usually try not to be harsh on girls in male-dominated sports manga. Fanbases are often extremely rabid towards female characters, usually because the gals in the story could be threats to BL pairings or are viewed as just the token girl in a group. In this case, however, Haruno… doesn’t have a lot of importance, and she doesn’t have a lot of endearing qualities. She’s a super-klutz… and that’s pretty much it. She’s a far cry from being a love interest right now since she’s only interacted with Eijun a handful of times. And when we do see her, she’s screwing something up. She isn’t a baseball expert, so she isn’t giving advice, but she isn’t around enough to be the conduit for the author to explain baseball either. Coming from series like Kuroko’s Basketball and Yowamushi Pedal, Haruno is a disappointment for me.
I do love another first year player though: Haruichi. Talented, knowledgeable, but also in the shadow of his elder brother, Haruichi is more like Eijun’s opposite than Satoru is. But he is actually a friend — a supportive one who often needs to be blunt. He’s the type of character whose eyes are normally unseen, so I’m sure there’s going to be a dramatic moment when his face is fully revealed.
Other characters include the glasses-wearing beauty who has mastered the only two poses a glasses-wearing beauty needs (touch the glasses and hands on hips), the tough-as-nails coach who cares about the team, the current pitcher, and more. I found it interesting that Eijun ends up rooming with a second year and a third year student instead of having the first-years (probably Eijun and Satoru) room together. What was most surprising to me though was the relative unimportance of the team captain. In many sports manga, the head of the club is more like a coach (like in The Prince of Tennis). Here, at least so far, I don’t think I’d even be able to pick him out of a lineup. It’s a bit hard since the story so far is divided into the JV team, varsity team, and opposing schools, but I don’t think I’ve ever gotten this far in a sports manga and barely knew the captain. I’m sure his story is told eventually, but I just found it odd. For a while there, I thought maybe this was the rare Japanese school club that didn’t have a leader.
The art is better than I expected. I don’t think the author has done any other works besides Ace of the Diamond, so I was expecting the manga to be rough or at least manically paced as he tries to quickly shift from middle school Eijun to high school Eijun. Instead, the layout involves much larger panels than a Shonen Jump sports series. There aren’t a lot of baseball explanations — which is good or bad depending on your knowledge of the game — but not having them frees up a lot of room on the pages. I haven’t gotten too deep into matches, so I don’t know how the author will play up the drama, but Ace of the Diamond is doing a good job of showing the characters’ emotions. Eijun’s moodiness, Satoru’s spaciness, Kazuya’s fox-like mischievousness… they’re all reflected so clearly without saying a word.
Honorifics are used. The baseball championship is spelled as both “Koshien” and “Koushien”. Some typos like, “Are you all prospective new club member?” or “pitchter”. The main team is called the varsity team while the backups are jv/junior varsity. Crunchyroll subs use the more direct translation of first string and second string for 一軍 and 二軍. Personally, I’ve never liked using the more American varsity terms in sports manga, but that’s just me. Still, it’s very annoying to keep having Koshien/Koushien being swapped all the time. It makes the manga look less professional.
I can understand why Ace of the Diamond has so many fans around the world, but the long length is a turn-off. Lots of sports manga go for 30, 40, 50+ volumes, but in a physical format, you don’t have that opportunity to browse like you would in a store or even online. For me, it’s too much of a long-term investment as digital singles. That’s nearing $300 range for this series alone, and that’s based on sale prices. Ouch. Think this is one where more Western fans will watch the anime and will only pick up the rest of the story after that.
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