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Touch (30-54)

Many spoilers for these episodes ahead.

After the major event ending part 1, most of the characters have begun to move on with their lives, though their memories are very important to them, similar to the analogous character in Cross Game.  The bulk of Touch is about Tatsuya growing and proving himself, and the first 20 or so episodes were clearly a prelude to this main part of the story.  We see Tatsuya traded to the baseball team and begin to hone the talent that he’s suppressed and ignored for so long.  Since childhood he didn’t like to compete with his brother, but with Kazuya’s loss, he’s the only one that has the potential to fulfill that dream in the place of his brother.

It’s difficult to really describe the “plot” of the series or this batch of episodes because we don’t watch each episode to get a new plot twist or development.  This series, despite being called a “baseball series”, is really a look into the lives of these characters through this long part of their lives.  And just like in real life, people enter and exit their lives and different intervals.  I was sad to see Kuroki, the former Captain, manager leave the show (as he had completed high school, and thus his last chance at the Koshien).  Hopefully he may make a cameo in future episodes because I really did like his character (and his voice).  There was something very welcoming and friendly about him.

The earlier part of these episodes spent some time on the relationship between Koutaro and Tatsuya.  Koutaro was Kazuya’s best friend and in his grief he says that it was Kazuya’s friendship that motivated him to continue catching and become better.  The loss of his best friend left a hole in his motivation and his spirit.  Tatsuya and Koutaro were never really the best of friends.  Unlike Minami, Koutaro never saw beneath Tatsuya’s surface and thus thought he was just Kazuya’s “Baka-aniki” or stupid brother.  Thus when everyone begins to talk about bringing Tatsuya into the team as pitcher, Koutaro is outraged.  But there are nice moments between them as their negative disposition slowly turns into some kind of friendship, different from that with Kazuya, but friendship all the same.  I imagine that by the end of the series where some inevitable climax at the Koushien will probably occur, we’ll see them and wonder how they ever could have been enemies.

Every main character needs a rival, and two are introduced in the scope of these episodes, one more interesting than the other.  The first is Nishimura, a loud and conceited pitcher who is given a somewhat unpleasant attitude.  He overestimates himself, but he isn’t a bad pitcher.  Regardless, he isn’t the ultimate rival for Tatsuya and is downplayed as the series goes on.  He still appears but his role is to pester Minami into spending time with him.

The next character introduced is Akio Nitta, and it is clear that he is going to play a much bigger role than Nishimura.  Even though he is brought on as a possibly “enemy” for Tatsuya to defeat, both in baseball and elsewhere, some of the first scenes involve a friendly Nitta bringing Tatsuya into his home.  We aren’t meant to hate Nitta, we actually grow to like him as a member of the cast, and writing that sort of rivalry is a lot more interesting than the traditional kind.  In a way it reminds me of the relationship early on between Kazuya and Tatsuya with regards to Minami.  They “rivals” in some sort of way, but they all genuinely cared for each other.

There are plenty of highlights here but I really liked the ending of episode 42 pictured above, where Tatsuya ponders the question of what the two of them “are” to each other.  Now how often do you have a character in these kind of high school love stories just sit down and let loose a – yes, somewhat convoluted and vague – but honest description of their thoughts?  Not often, because it’s much easier to be “dramatic” when you have characters who try to hide their own thoughts and are afraid to voice their own affections (I’m looking squarely at Love Hina) and thus have endless misunderstandings and other artificial tension devices.  So I have to give it to Adachi for writing this sort of scene in this kind of an anime.

As for what I think of Touch as a whole so far, I think it’s safe to say that you can expect a review similar to my review of Maison Ikkoku.  I gave that series five stars despite having some imperfections because of the strength of the attachment you develop for the characters which in some (very few) anime is so strong that it makes you ignore the faults it may possess.  Barring any slips the series could potentially take later on, I think I’m looking at a new entry into my top 10 (which I still have to write, by the way).

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