Sakurazawa: An Inspiration (A Daiya No Ace Post)

Personal post. Mild spoiler for Daiya no Ace. Feel free to skip.

Recently, I showed my mother, a complete newbie to anime, the Sakurazawa vs Inashiro match in Daiya no Ace as an introduction to anime.

It may have been a slightly bewildering choice. Out of all the rival teams that are mentioned throughout Daiya no Ace‘s highly competition-focused first season run, Sakurazawa is accorded a mere two episodes. Moreover, it was smack in the middle of the season, and Sakurazawa was not even a ‘main rival team’ – a sports anime plot development cliche where protagonists’ main rivals are usually given fleshed out backstories, large amounts of humanisation meant to induce empathy, creating emotional dilemma for viewers as they waver in their otherwise no-questions-asked support of the main protagonists. I had to keep re-emphasising to my mother on how the ‘main characters’ in the series were seated in the stands throughout the entirety of the forty minutes. 

Sakurazawa was merely a rival of the main rival, a team that should have been given close to zero screen-time, or whose existence would probably have been passed over by half an episode of being massively overpowered by the main rival just to emphasise the strength of the latter.

So, why did I choose these two episodes as an introduction to anime? Why bother talking about two measly episodes at all and cramping my style of long-winded self-serving ambitious arguments about over-arching phenomena that nobody likes to read anyway?

Japan’s favourite formula in any competitive skill-based activity is how hard work, dedication and motivation are inevitably intertwined with the youthful zest, vitality, and strengthening of teammate bonds, all which are necessary for ‘memory-making’. While shounen anime is renowned for any catchphrase that is nakama-related, it is in sports anime where such ideals are potentially more grounded, partly because it is more difficult to pull off supernatural deus ex machina without becoming far too removed from what sports, a real-life entity and common source of fanaticism, essentially is. (Kuroko no Basuke comes close, but the bishies and the animation saved it.)

Because anime is essentially an escapist form of entertainment, fans naturally prefer stories where effort is commensurate with outcome, embroidered with flashy tactics that are a by-product of the long-running shounen that the current anime-watching generation grew up with. Such formula is a sure-win, as evidenced by the success of Kuroko no Basket and Haikyuu!. 

Ironically, it is also only why only Sakurazawa’s forty-minutes of fame hits the closest to my reality, no matter how many sports’ rivals’ backstories I have sat through. (Daiya no Ace essentially is bae, but I’ll leave that for another day.)

Sakurazawa is a Tokyo prefectural academically-acclaimed school, whose students are merely in the baseball club as a means of keeping fit since their time is mostly devoted to attending cram schools for college preparation exams. Nobody seriously considers that they would ever have a chance for making past the preliminaries for Nationals. That is, until Akira and his two friends came into the school as first-years.

Even though they know that it is near impossible to go to Nationals, Nagao Akira dared to dream.

“If, and only if, since it’s a very low chance, statistically speaking, we went to Nationals, wouldn’t it be cool? I bet we could change the world!”

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A team with a Professor at its helm, the team experiments and deduces, logically and academically, how baseball should be played. They think through ball movements, and they write notes – just like how academic minds think. They eventually derive their own formula of winning – one that depends on Akira’s mastery of a difficult, unique pitch – a knuckleball – a ball which breaks (in non baseball-speak, curves or moves) in unpredictable ways that make it a difficult pitch to anticipate on time and thus hit.

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As the game continued in the present, it becomes clear that Sakurazawa’s prevailing philosophy was to continue to believe in their version of baseball and success, calmly and steadily, no matter who they were up against. That was how they had faced their opponents thus far, and how they were going to deal with Inashiro, who were the obvious tournament favourites and had drastically more skilled players.

“If I can master this pitch successfully, then maybe I can dare to dream.”

Even so, Akira continued to be single-minded, focusing on his present – that he was finally being given a chance to play in a game. This had a two-fold meaning; a good knuckleball required a completely zen state of mind, but it was also important how in the face of seemingly insurmountable obstacles, what one ought to do is to continue believing in his efforts and his way of life thus far, because that is one’s greatest weapon.

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“No matter who we’re up against, let’s play persistently and patiently, just like we always have. If we do that then, we’ll get a chance to score at some point.”

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In reality, there are often too many things out of our control. Life is never a surefire formula of effort = outcome. Anime often aims to subvert this because it is meant to be entertainment, and never a truly reflective outlook on what life is in the eyes of the jaded, who turn to anime precisely because it offers the sanctuary that we need – the escape valve. Anime is not the only medium with that characteristic, but it is certainly the most closely associated with it.

What Sakurazawa’s story presents is an ultimately pessimistic outlook, but harshly reflective of those who have constantly been disillusioned – whether its grades, social relationships, unsuccessful job searches, or what the context of this story is – high school competitive sports. In terms of abilities or notions of success, comparison with others only yields dissatisfaction because there would always be somebody better than you.

But what is truly important is one’s attitude with dealing with such failures and challenges in one’s way, and continuing to believe in what is truly important – the fact that you truly did try your very best, and in celebrating what you have achieved till now.

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“We get to play baseball in such a large stadium. Let’s not worry about the results, and play like we usually do to the end!”

So when Mei Narumiya, star pitcher of the Inashiro team, told Sakurazawa at the end that they should not be to discouraged since they ‘only lost to the best team in Japan’, it was sufficient.

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“The best in Japan?

No wonder we lost.

We never even had a chance.

I have no regrets.

Now I can finally … give up on my dream.

My mother got the message in the end, because she said “This is you, isn’t it?”

To which, my answer is: the failure is mine, but Sakurazawa’s spirit is what I am working towards.

 

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26 thoughts on “Sakurazawa: An Inspiration (A Daiya No Ace Post)

  1. GDI you’re giving me feels again, I’m tearing up just rmembering those two episodes. Whenever there’s tears, I get emotional too ;_;
    You’re giving me Daiya feels again haha ORZ

    Kuroko and Prince of Tennis certainly like to reach the fantasy sports level of things, there’s also too many geniuses in Kuroko which is a bit crushing. I prefer my sports with hardwork and effort, not with genius and everything is easy. Though I certainly loved PoT, I didn’t get as involved as I did with Oofuri and Daiya 😅😅
    Love seeing you post about Daiya, mostly because I’m biased towards it 😁
    I certainly can understand what you mean, because I suffer from depression and I quit a long time trying to get better, I’ve only recently put in my head I can’t just give up and not fight. I’ll say sports anime hold excellent advice and role models, Daiya in particular is the most realest of them all. But, I get motivated by it too 😊
    I’m not even sure if I made sense, sorry if I didn’t 😅

    Liked by 1 person

    • You had no idea, when I was writing this and rewatching certain parts of the episode I was literally tearing off as well I had to sit on my bed and let the tears flow freely ;_;
      That’s one of the biggest problems I have with Kuroko (and the reason why I found that I was unable to continue watching PoT) – lots of ‘cool’ stuff, but not much on the emotional front because you know they are gonna win anyway.
      Now I feel like acting on my biases and posting more of Daiya xD
      Exactly, even though Daiya can be very frustrating and a huge emotional toll to get through its really because its like that which is why it comes up tops for being most inspirational T.T Daiya holds some of the best advice out there – mostly because even though other anime have good quotes, their scenarios are too fanatical or too far removed from reality for me to believe in what they say.
      Nope you made perfect sense!! To another Daiya fan anyway ^_^

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      • Daiya is an emotional journey, I always feel so sad for the losers. The poor babies 😭
        I liked the PoT manga, but the anime is pretty flat and old for my tastes, but I didn’t get deeply involved with it and Kuroko. Though I think Kuroko has more issues, or maybe it’s me that isn’t all that fond of basketball. I only watch Kuroko because it has high budget values and Kuroko himself is super cute and makes me root for him~
        Oh yeah, Daiya definitely makes you experience bitterness and defeat when you think they’re going to win 😢
        More Daiya! O(≧∇≦)O
        Daiya is really on a different level of other sports, not only for being the most realistic, but because I definitely feel part of their passion infuse me. Daiya and Whistle are my favourite sports manga, they’ve both made me cry and inspired me ;_;
        I find shounen fantasy are pretty empty or filled with the typical fanfare we’ve all seen in other shows of friends and allies. Sports grounded on reality give far more than that, they teach you you’ll lose and win, and it’ll depend on your effort and also luck, which can be crushing but is true.
        Yay! (≧∇≦)/ I’m glad I made sense ヽ(*⌒∇⌒*)ノ
        I’m looking forward to see what new sports anime will start, but I am skeptical. Some start good and then derail 😅
        /prays at altar for another sports anime like Daiya and Oofuri to start up
        It’s hard waiting for Haikyuu and Yowamushi Pedal to make up for the Daiya void ;_;

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      • Yes exactly! Daiya boys are all my babies T.T
        I was actually a raving fan of Kuroko, even if I only really loved Kuroko as a character cos he’s cute \o/ i guess its cos it was my first sports anime, and it was really entertaining & fast-paced. I liked it the most even when I watched Haikyuu but that changed when I watched Daiya ^^
        I’ll have to check out Whistle then! Sometimes I am not sure whether its cos Daiya had the benefit of more episodes which is why I felt more attached to it, but I would still maintain the position that there is something very different & special about Daiya (as you see, I am unable to express myself cos I am still organising my thoughts xD)

        I don’t actually hold very high hopes for new sport anime because I like it to have more eps so that I feel ‘safer’ emotionally investing in them (Oofuri suffered from too little eps T.T)

        There’s this ‘Battery’ anime right? No idea how good it’ll be. Oh and Haikyuu is a good choice for the void which is why i am still saving it up huehuehue. Yowamushi actually is an above average anime i.e. quite addictive & i did get attached to the characters but somehow it doesn’t stay very long in my memory either xD

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      • Daiya babies ;___;
        I like Kuroko for Kuroko himself, and it’s definitely entertaining or I wouldn’t have just the third season left to watch (´∀`)
        I found the cast more likeable in Haikyuu mostly because they are all such good kids and try so hard ❤
        Whistle manga is super, super good! The anime I have yet to watch, I'm really glad Whistle is going to get a stage, I hope they do a remake of the anime ;_;
        PoT has more episodes than Daiya, so it think Daiya is special because sadistic mangaka + masochist readers + amazing boys + tensenes = I can't help but want more (✪㉨✪)
        I'm curious about what you'll say makes Diaya special when you've organising your thoughts then! (^_-)≡★
        I actually don't really liked this new trend where anime's get 12-13 episodes per season, and it's always the ones I really like that end up like that :/// Like I became a big Nozaki-kun fan and I'm like "what's this sparse number of episodes???"
        I suffer 😭
        Oofuri really deserves that third season, as does Daiya! ;_;
        YowaPeda is a good distraction, I get invested in the moment while watching but then can sleep. Something I can't do with Daiya, the bane of my existence 😂
        I know people might not like YowaPeda because of the art style, but I think it stands out in a good way, so I'm fond of it~
        Baby Steps suffers from pacing issues, sadly ._. But I do enjoy how it's a more grounded, realistic depiction of tennis and how to improve through hard work~
        Sports anime need to happen in every anime season, because wtf is with this emptiness of titles???? 😢
        Sometimes I get really salty that other series get 5 bajilion spinoffs and every single season they're there, be it magical girl shows or what have you, and sports it's like once a year they show up, if we're lucky ._.
        /salty

        Liked by 1 person

      • Ooh you haven’t finished Kuroko S3? I basically marathoned that when it ended its run. But well I got over it strangely fast, mainly because I actually started Daiya to get over Kuroko and it worked a little to well 😀
        Awww yeahh that’s how you summarise Haikyuu! Its full of youth and joy lol it has its sad moments but compared to Daiya it feels like heaven xD
        Nice, I’d check out Whistle once I am in a sports .. manga .. reading mode. Which I can’t give any guarantees whatsoever cos nowadays my mood shifts a lot xD
        Hahaha I try, I’d try xD I kind of paused watching Daiya S2 for the moment because it was too much for me though. You actually summarised Daiya pretty well there. That’s basically it 😀
        IKR. New anime has waaaaay too little eps. Its why I don’t even want to watch them in the first place because I don’t want to get invested in something and then … it ends on the 13th ep.
        YEAHH Yowamushi is like a quality show, good enough for me to get invested when I watch, but I don’t suffer so much after watching i.e. I don’t harp on it much. Which basically makes it all around good 😀 Oh right the art always turns people off, but hey I got past that so I am good ^^
        Ah, I see. No wonder there aren’t too many people saying Baby Steps is really good .. or something. (Not that I have heard anybody really praising Daiya until I watched it and became a fan of it and found the other fans xD)
        Hahaha I agree. The recent seasons have seen a dearth of sports anime titles, luckily for us summer is here!
        I KNOW RIGHT. Japan needs to acknowledge that the female market exists. And give us more sports anime instead of just pandering to the male audience ;_;

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      • I haven’t yet, no >_<
        Daiya will always trump, that's for sure!
        HQ is like a nice piece of confectionery, you eat, it tastes good, and you forget xD
        You definitely should, once you're in the mood! (★^O^★)
        Aww, thanks! ❤
        New anime will soon be all ONA's or something, considering how they're shortening everything =_=
        YowaPeda is nice to decompress to~~~
        I don't think YowaPeds looks ugly, so dunno why they would not watch over it since it has good quality 😅
        Daiya is extolled by Daiya fans, but it's true not many know it. More should!
        Let sports come bless my life this year, plz 🙏
        Definitely that! Plus it annoys me when they act as if only males like sports series =_=
        It makes me really wish there was a female only sports anime that followed on the footsteps of Daiya/Oofuri/HQ/YowaPeda, instead of that shit where it's just gags/comedy and no actual sports =_=

        Liked by 2 people

      • Haha for me, YowaPedal is the confectionery xD Haikyuu is – slightly – better, but then again I am definitely not one of its biggest fans in any case.
        Hehe well, its been a while since I continued Daiya. I have a few ideas up my sleeve but since I forget lots of stuff easily, I may have to rewatch those eps again. 😀
        Yeah I dislike it when they shorten the newer anime and the ‘guy’s stuff’ just get more and more ;_;
        I think YowaPedal’s character designs are just more crude than the rest of the sports anime, but I think its good in a way because its way more simple. They don’t compromise on the scenery and the animation so I suppose that’s okay for me ^^
        I think its because the fujoshi crowd surrounding Daiya is a lot so it turns away some potential sports fans. And most people think baseball is boring or complicated so T.T (But baseball is my favourite sport because it is complicated!!)
        I haven’t tried any female only sports anime and I agree that its the ‘moe factor’ surrounding those that usually turn me off. The only closest thing I have tried is Chihayafuru but then again that has a hugeee shoujo/josei dose to it plus romance. Its a good story but I feel its still very different from the shounen sports anime we are used to. :p

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  2. Wow that is some analysis. And your mum got it.
    I think when playing with fun and heart while trying to win you can always say you played a great game even if lost. It might be that we put emphasis on winning, in game, sports and even life.

    Great read. But a chance is always there as nothing is sure in life.

    I just loved the Kuroko, Diaya and Haykuu
    babyy steps was okay as they got in a repeating groove. Just like Eyeshield though that was just a laugh
    I am secretly hoping for a new racing anime. R. as i hope they will not skip years like done in capeta
    Yawamushi was nice as was over drve.
    Ookay I am ratling LOL

    Still think we have shortage in sports anime. at least good ones.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks! Yep she got it haha 🙂
      Yeah I do believe that there’s still a huge shortage of good sports anime. I can only list a few titles, and most of the rest are pretty mediocre to me at this point. I haven’t watched Baby Steps but I heard its more ‘realistic’ so I was thinking of giving it a try soon.
      I basically don’t care what sports they give me, but it’d better be good! (lol)

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Awesome post as always, Shiro. I really like how DnA provide backstories to minor teams. We sympathize more with them, so even if just a little bit we cheer for them and hope that “maybe” they win. Sakurazawa is one of my favourite of such teams. Even when they know that they’re at a huge disadvantage compared to established baseball school teams, they’re still doing the best of their abilities to chase after their dream of going to the Koshien. I love it! And I thought that their professor coach was an old woman when I first saw him, so I was shocked when he spoke with a male voice. Ahahaha!
    Anyway, DnA is not my favourite baseball anime. . .that honour belongs to Major, but DnA is more realistic so perhaps in time, I may change my mind and make it into my favourite baseball anime.

    P.S. I hope your mom watches more anime.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Haha you’re definitely right about the professor, I thought he was female at first too xD I think Sakurazawa was unique enough to make an impression even though it was one of the most shortly featured – hence I thought that was rather impressive. In fact, I was hoping to show that since the series is able to give so much depth to minor characters, it really just reflects how well written the show essentially is.
      I see, I have a feeling that I probably would have loved Major if I had seen it before DnA. After all, its a relatively fun sports anime to watch with more of Goro’s life incorporated rather than a pure focus on the sport, making it more holistic as a story and basis for development. But I like Daiya more precisely because its more realistic 🙂
      Haha, I am actually watching NANA with her now, so we’re off to a start :p

      Liked by 1 person

      • Indeed, I think that DnA is well-written, too, especially in terms of character development. Take that, hatersssssssssss!!!! Hmph.
        Well, I was younger when I watched Major and I thought that it was the most awesome sports anime that I’ve ever watched. Now that I’ve watched several other sports anime, its #1 spot in my heart is slightly changing but I’m still too attached to it as a whole to entirely dethrone it. But yes, you’re right. DnA is more “realistic”, especially compared to other mainstream anime series out there.

        Oooooooooh. You’re quite hardcore watching NANA with your parent. Ahaha. Oh well, have fun.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Hahaha! I believe the haters just cannot accept an anime that’s hits hard on the realism. After all, anime is a means of escapism. I can’t really blame them, its just different tastes 😀
        Yes I do understand that. Any of our ‘firsts’ would make us specially attached. I have a few other genre ‘firsts’ that I will still rank amongst my favourites, even though I know that there are probably better titles out there. ^^
        Haha yep, but its because I couldn’t really find anything else that’s suitable, so I ended up with NANA. Hehe well, at least its unpredictable in a sense so it can at least hook first time viewers xD

        Liked by 1 person

      • Very true. It seems that a lot of fans are expecting a miraculous comeback of some sort everytime without even enough training. But in reality, that’s not the case. The sports world is so competitive that one wrong move and someone’s going to take your place and outshine your achievements. But in anime, we get attached to the characters so we want them to always win come what may.

        NANA, I don’t think I’ll watch it with a parent but then I already watched a yaoi show with my dad so NANA is tame compared to it. Ahaha! My dad left before even finishing the episode we were watching.

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  4. To answer above about the all girl sports, there is.

    Taishou baseball. Not saying to much but I thought it was adorable and taking on the big boys with grace.
    I think it is a must see and a hidden gem. I seriously enjoyed this one. It also addressed an common issue.
    Princess Nine, pretty damn old baseball. Old school anime that not many these days can watch.
    Than there is a sword club – bamboo blade again an old anime..Not best made or good but you know… I came across it and watched.
    If memory serves me right there is a cute basketball girl team. But Kind of forgot that one. Just not my style. think loli modern powerpuff girls
    And I think it was ‘major’ or was it major leaque where I cried my eyes out when his dad died. a baseball anime again that kind of had mixed team. Again if memory serves me right. It ran for many seasons
    Well there is that

    In a racing if it fancies you there is sometimes a girls team or mixed.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Haha, those are a lot of titles. I checked out Taisho Baseball and it leaves a good impression on me. At least it doesn’t seem to be one of those anime that are really just focusing on moe instead of the story. As does Princess Nine.
      I have heard of Bamboo Blade, but I passed it off as ‘moe’. Is it anything more than that?
      Ah yes, I did cry a lot when Goro’s dad died. I do get irritated at Goro sometimes though, because he is rather impatient and a little arrogant. But then again I have only watched the first season of it.

      Liked by 1 person

      • True he doesn’t have a lot of patience, but what you expect from a 6 year old. And he does not change much as the seasons go along, Still good to watch.

        Bamboo blade is just meh. You won’t miss much if you wont see it. Coach (guy) in it for the money, bet with other girl team coach. And I guess the focus is to much on that.

        Taisho has a real story hiding behind it. about girls being as good as boys. In a time where women weren’t seen as equals.
        Princess Nine. Early girl version of DnA with hint more fantasy.

        I can’t help loving Anime. hahaha. Many Girl sports unfortunately are fanflicks with big breast and sexy outfits. Take the wrestle anime. Wanna be the strongest, was it? Other than that, if the anime is sports related women are sword fighters or doing an odd sports/game. There are some more like, tennis, volleyball and figure skating but they are one of a kinds and oldies.

        In some way a shame, but this was a post about DnA so i am getting off topic, but might be a good topic to write a post about for you. Women in sports anime.

        There are like girl teams in race Anime like in IGPX or Red Line.

        Still hope you enjoyed the shows.

        Liked by 1 person

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