From Yuri On Ice to Haikyū!!, it seems every conceivable sport has an anime adaptation. Baseball, in particular, has an astounding number of shows dedicated to it. Not everyone likes sports shows, though, with fans of real-life sports accusing them of being predictable and formulaic. To see if these criticisms hold up, let’s take a look at two different baseball anime, One Outs and Ace of Diamond.
Ace of Diamond’s storyline can be considered fairly standard. Eijun Sawamura is a pitcher who wants to become his team’s star player and lead them to the nationals. The average episode shows him training to improve his pitching technique or participating in a game.
Most other sports anime emphasizes team spirit and hard work. But that’s not the case in One Outs. Tōa Tokuchi, the would-be protagonist, doesn’t care about the baseball itself. Rather, he merely enjoys beating people. Whether he uses mind games to trick the opposing batter or exploits the rules of the game to find loopholes in his unfair contract, anything is acceptable as long as he wins.
The two shows couldn’t be more different in terms of pacing and narrative development. One Outs is 25 episodes long with games rarely lasting more than a single episode. The show relies on the tension between rival teams and focuses on baseball tactics. Ace of Diamond, however, regularly takes several episodes for high-stakes games, highlighting team dynamics and individual team members, and spans over 126 episodes and 5 OVAs.
Despite this, both shows are exciting. One Outs toys with the audience’s expectation by giving them little insight into Tokuchi’s thought process until after the game. As a result, the show heightens the sense of anticipation. Ace of Diamond, in contrast, develops the narrative incrementally with characters working toward specific, definable goals. Whether it’s the friendly match against a rival school or a national championship, there’s always something to achieve. Much like real sports, Ace of Diamond relies on the audience’s love for Eijun Sawamura’s team to maintain interest.
One Outs typically focuses the growth of a single character, Tokuchi. The Saikyou Saitama Lycaons have a team with memorable players, but they are given far less screen time than Tokuchi. He is an unlikable character at the beginning of the show but commands respect due to his in-depth knowledge of the game. As the rival teams test Tokuchi’s abilities, however, Tokuchi finds himself needing to rely on his teammates more, eventually opening up and becoming a team player.
Ace of Diamond is the complete opposite. Every member of the team is considered equal, and the series focuses on their strengths and weaknesses. Additionally, this show details the development of friendships between individual players. Unlike One Outs, Ace of Diamond dwells on relationships along with character growth.
The differences between One Outs and Ace of Diamond illustrates how series with similar premises can be worlds apart in execution. Ace of Diamond is about progressively becoming a better player and team whereas One Outs features game theory heavily. Perhaps this is due, in part, because One Outs caters to a male audience and Ace of Diamond, like many other sports anime today, appeals to a female audience in Japan. But, what show wins the game outside of Japan? There’s only one real solution to this showdown, and that’s to watch them both.