I enjoyed the first episode of Yowakutemo Katemasu (弱くても勝てます), mainly because I like the cleverness of the main character – Tamo Aoshi (Ninomiya Kazunari) – and the breadth of the supporting cast. However, the first episode did leave me wondering what the show could possibly do from here. The good thing with having a sharp main character is that he or she is capable of doing things – make intuitive leaps, for example – that the viewer might not expect. The downside is that to keep the character consistent, the writers have to be clever, as well. So, this episode will be somewhat of a test to see if they can keep up the good work.
So, now that Aoshi has the team under his management, what’s he going to do with them?
As a teacher, he’s necessarily an early riser, but one of his students is even quicker off the mark than he is – Shirao Tsuyoshi (Nakajima Yuto), the best player on the team. They encounter each other and while Shirao is clearly practicing, he wonders what Aoshi is doing out so early. Aoshi explains that since humans are social creatures, the best way to wake up is to be in the presence of other people. That struck me as quite brilliant, so we’re off to a good start.
Tarumi Yuzu (Arimura Kasumi) can see Shirao practicing every day, since he’s quite visible on that rooftop, and insists that he never takes a day off from it. He sure seems determined.
But Aoshi is frustrated with the rest of the club, which seems horrible beyond all probability – possibly even worse than he first thought they were. Unfortunately, his current tactic seems to be to just shout at them, and that’s getting nowhere.
Reporter Tone Riko (Aso Kumiko) is unhappy about this because she’s not getting much of a story out of watching them – it’s just a weak team being weak. She wants Aoshi to say that he’s aiming for some ridiculous goal, or make some really memorable statement.
Shirao suggests that Riko write that their team is aiming for the Koshien – the stadium where the Japan National High School Baseball Tournament is held. Well, that’s certainly ridiculous enough.
As much as Shirao seems earnest about that objective, Aoshi shoots it down, saying that it’s going too far. Indeed, I’m not sure what Shirao is thinking.
Aoshi senses more pressing problems, though, as new club member Okadome (Mamiya Shotaro) has a very strange idea about what baseball is, and team captain Ebato (Yamazaki Kento) is clearly too afraid of him to confront him about his attitude.
After the opening, Masumoto (Arakawa Yoshiyoshi) tries to confront Aoshi for usurping his position as manager (as if he wasn’t begging to be replaced as it was), but Aoshi is totally prepared for this – he says that Masumoto has been promoted to director of the team. Now, while there may be multiple layers of management for a professional team, there certainly doesn’t need to be such a hierarchy for the worst high school baseball team in Japan. Doesn’t matter – the office staff plays along by applauding the promotion because it avoids any uncomfortable confrontations.
I wonder if Aoshi talked to his fellow staff members about this ahead of time – we aren’t really told. So far, though, he seems to be meeting my expectations.
Looking over what his students want to do after they leave high school, Aoshi sees that Shirao wants to become a major leaguer.
He brings this up to Shirao in class and Shirao confirms that he wants to quit studying so he can focus on baseball.
Everyone – viewer and character alike – knows that he’s at the wrong school for that. Aoshi says so outright, and Shirao says it’s all right because as long as the scouts are at a game they’re in, they’ll notice him – they’re looking for players, not teams. That’s . . . ludicrous. Even if a scout saw that he was skilled, they’d assume from the fact that he was in such a school that he wasn’t interesting in baseball. Besides that, he can’t really train properly if not on a team that he can develop with – baseball is not a solo sport and it’s impossible to develop adequate skills on one’s own. And even beyond that, I find it hard to believe that a scout would be interested in what would be a totally lopsided game – they want to evaluate the skills of players in the context of serious competition.
None of these obvious points are brought up. Instead, Aoshi notes that this must be why Shirao is totally focused on Koshien. But . . . this is ridiculous!
Well, Aoshi looks like he has quite a project on his hands when it comes to the overambitious Shirao.
Shirao is also suddenly making trouble at team meetings. Aoshi wants the team members to specialize in their roles because otherwise, with their limited available practice time, they can’t get enough work in. Apparently, the prevailing wisdom is that young players should generalize (I can’t see why that would be, but that’s the implication in this episode), and Shirao advocates that school of thought.
So far, Shirao has largely been the manager for the team, and has decided everyone’s roles for them – changing their positions every time. Considering how horribly that’s worked out, it’s beyond me why he thinks they should keep doing things like that – something about the definition of insanity.
As we find out from the example of Kashiyama (Suzuki Katsuhiro), the members of the team are very self-sufficient about planning their study time and highly motivated to organize themselves for academics, but they don’t have the same drive to get organized for baseball. They think the game looks fun and wish they could play it, but only Shirao has real baseball motivation.
Aoshi comes to much the same conclusion as he talks things over with Tarumi Kaede (Yakushimaru Hiroko), wracking his brain for a solution. He knows that he can’t apply the conventional wisdom for training to a team that is so unconventional, but it doesn’t seem like he has developed a coherent approach yet, either. That means Shirao will probably be unsatisfied with anything he proposes, because it’s all just experimental.
In the middle of the conversation, Kaede nonchalantly starts reading the sports section of a newspaper, which conveniently has Aoshi’s nemesis on the front. Turns out that Yachida Kentaro (Ichikawa Ebizo), the guy who verbally spat on Aoshi during their high school match ten years ago, has become a coach for Dougaku after sustaining an injury that will prevent him from continuing as a player.
Kaede was brilliant at giving Aoshi some motivation here.
Aoshi talks things over with Shirao the next morning, but that doesn’t seem to go anywhere.
He decides to test their ability to throw, and to base their positions on that ability. He has three categories – stable, somewhat stable, and unstable – and decides that only Akaiwa (Fukushi Sota) throws with stability. He places four team members in each of the other categories, and assigns the somewhat stable ones to the infield, and the unstable ones to the outfield. I guess . . . he’s counting shortstop as an outfield position? Or is it the catcher that is being lumped with the outfielders? I like the logic and the way the scene was executed, but briefly befuddled by the concept of four outfield positions – something is definitely wrong there.
This arrangement doesn’t make Shirao happy at all. I’m really beginning to dislike Shirao at this point – he’s really completely irrational and doesn’t make any sense. Aoshi is doing his best to fix the situation – it wasn’t as if the team was going to Koshien with the way things were going – so why doesn’t Shirao just let Aoshi try this new method for a while? Why is he so stubborn in thinking his way is the right way? That’s never explained in this episode, by the way, so don’t mistake these for my usual leading questions that tease the remainder of the show. This is just pure frustration with this character.
Ebato doesn’t look like the team’s captain, and Shirao is in complete control.
The principal wonders how things are going, and gets Aoshi to reflect on where he went wrong when he was on the high school team.
Aoshi wants the guys to pick their own position, and says that as long as they let someone else (like Shirao or himself) decide for them, they’ll continue to lack motivation in those positions.
He explains it using the distinction between two particles in Japanese – “wa” and “ga”. Frankly, I still don’t fully understand the real distinction between those two particles (when translating, they have pretty much the same grammatical function), so I’m willing to go with whatever he says on the subject (though I’m sure it’s wrong). Makes more sense to me than most of the other explanations I’ve read.
Having them pick their own positions goes fairly well until Ebato says he wants to be catcher, and Shirao objects that he’s not good enough.
Again, I’m getting really irritated with Shirao.
So, as Riko asks, why didn’t Shirao just go to Dougaku, where he could have gotten everything he needs to become a professional?
How is Aoshi going to get the team to take some initiative instead of just passively going along with things all the time?
And finally, what about Ebato’s fear of taking leadership? What’s up between him and Okatome, anyway?
This episode had a lot of subplots going, and was great in that respect. I really appreciated the complexity and the fact that we didn’t just focus on one member (even though Shirao was a big part of this episode).
I also enjoyed the scene where Aoshi stops by Dougaku . . .
. . . and has a very interesting encounter with his nemesis.
The characterization of Aoshi was strong in the first half of the episode, but disappointing in the second half. I didn’t buy into his attempted solution to any of the problems. So, while I liked the subplots, I didn’t like the way they were resolved.
Then there was Shirao . . . .
Nakajima Yuto-kun did a fine job acting the part – one that was somewhat different than the follower character he often plays – but the part itself was problematic on so many levels. Maybe I was missing something, but very little of what Shirao does made sense to me. They give a reason for why he chose Joutoku instead of Dougaku at the end – a reason that you might be able to guess already – but that didn’t really seem to cover it. He seems to love the idea of becoming a pro baseballer more than he loves anything else. And besides, the explanation for why he chose to be at Joutoku didn’t even come close to covering all the other inconsistencies with his character – especially the question of why he thinks what the team has been doing so far will bring them closer to Koushien than Aoshi’s way.
In short, this episode was a disappointment. The writers took on some interesting challenges in the plots they created, and there were some fun scenes, but they didn’t really wrap it up to my satisfaction. Still, it’s a good indication that there will be interesting conflicts in the future.