Recaps for Baby Steps

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Baby Steps Season 2 Episode #25 Anime Review (Season Finale)

Baby Steps has had a fairly strong season overall with what it’s wanted to do as we got a number of great matches, some time in Florida at the start, and a real expansion in a sweet and honest way of the relationship between Eiichiro and Natsu. The final match of the season has given us a really strong series of games between Eiichiro and Nabae as the two go at it and it’s even come across in a way where it doesn’t feel as long as it has been simply because it’s changed things up so many times and we’re seeing just how much of a struggle Eiichiro is having with what’s going on. There’s always a struggle to be had in these extended focus matches yet this one feels different since Eiichiro had grown so much, gained a lot of confidence, and had been performing very well over the course of this tournament. What’s also always fun is seeing the commentary and view from the opponents and sometimes the stand. Nabae’s recognizing that Eiichiro is really evolving quickly here as he copes with everything. The idea that what he does comes across as reckless makes sense, but Nabae’s observing how he’s testing out new things on the fly and evolving it in order to push back against him. It’s not something most players can do in the midst of so many matches like this, or in general, instead forged into particular patterns and styles that serve them well. The first half works through all of this well, providing more back and forth and showing Eiichiro evolving and changing his style of play in a very good way so as to keep Nabae off balance. Interestingly, Nabae sees it as a threat but also Eiichiro overextending himself and not able to maintain it, giving him the chance to take victory himself. READ MORE...

Baby Steps Season 2 Episode #24 Anime Review

The match against Nabae has been one that’s really worked Eiichiro in a great way so far, pushing him in new directions and really making him struggle in a way he hasn’t for a while. The two of them are strong players with solid motivation and keep figuring out different weaknesses to try and exploit, though they last only so long when you get down to it as each tries to compensate for it. Eiichiro’s gotten a lot more pushback now though and is seriously struggling, which makes for some great internal dialogue from both of them and some really pained expressions that has you completely feeling his frustration in how it’s unfolding. With the way the series has had him lose at key times before you can’t help but wonder if this tournament will be one that he falls down with in order to build himself up again elsewhere later. With things tightening as much as they have, Eiichiro knows he has only so many chances left to try and correct things. There’s this sense in how he plans and plots things out that it feels like making moves in a game of chess and the opportunities that exist and seeing him attempting to achieve it is really thrilling to watch, mistakes and all as the pressure mounts in a huge way. The two of them really go at it well here amid this as Nabae processes what it is that Eiichiro is up to and that even gets some of those in the audience to compliment Eiichiro’s coach because of the kind of training he must be getting. The early part of all of this brings us a minor backstory moment as well for Nabae, which you can mostly infer without it, but it feels like a decent bit of additional humanization for him even if it’s largely forgettable in the grand scheme of things of this match. READ MORE...

Baby Steps Season 2 Episode #23 Anime Review

Baby Steps is getting frighteningly close to the end of the second season, leaving me hopeful that with the manga sales doing well because of it that we’ll get a third season. We’ve had some very fun material as of late with some of Eiichiro’s opponents and now that we’re getting towards the end of this part of the tournament, the new challenge is one that’s definitely exciting since it’s the semifinals. Having him going up against Nabae here, who has been given just enough of a taste of a backstory to work with after the last few episode and previous opponent, it sets the stage well. Particularly since Eiichiro has learned and grown a lot in the tournament so far with those that he’s been facing off against as there’s a sense that a lot has changed for him in terms of his ability. He’s close to truly being in the zone. READ MORE...

Baby Steps Season 2 Episode #22 Anime Review

Baby Steps admittedly felt like a slightly off show with the arc against Sakuya as Eiichiro had to struggle with someone unlike he’d played before. Bending of the rules is a given to some degree but he took it further and had a rough kind of intensity that just made it somewhat disconcerting. Even though they gave us enough to by sympathetic towards Sakuya, it just didn’t click and unlike most of the other opponents I couldn’t get behind him. That made it unnerving after being able to connect with the others that he faced, even as he both won and lost against varying players of varying skill. Sakuya simply left me a lot cooler towards him than usual and it really made me feel differently about the arc. With the season close to ending, we get a pretty good opening here as we see more of how the relationship between Natsu and Eiichiro is changing both of them in a way as she’s loving having someone she’s in a relationship with as a part of her overall tennis experience. The two keep it very simple and they aren’t outgoing in the American way of showing affection, but the little bit they do makes it clear to others quickly that they’re in a relationship and it has a really fun mix of reactions from others. It also kind of reinforces it for Eiichiro that he’s definitely in a relationship and that she’s very glad that it’s him. There’s a really sweet innocence and ease between the two of them that in just a couple of minutes of material – material where she’s in the midst of a match no less – that reinforces them as one of the more enjoyable couples to watch. I’d be happy with a spinoff that focuses just on them as a couple. READ MORE...

Baby Steps Season 2 Episode #21 Anime Review

Getting our full taste of Sakuya in the previous episode and what kind of gameplay he works with has definitely been something of an awakening for Eiichiro. He’s gotten hit hard in some creative ways by dealing with an opponent that’s overly aggressive but not in a kind of guttural or vocal way. Instead, what we get is someone who pushes hard against him and uses the rules to bend it as much as possible while coming across in an almost unsportsmanlike way. That’s not something that Eiichiro has gone up against and his reflections here at the start after a quick save has him realizing that this is a different kind of intensity and anger than what he’s dealt with previously. That forces a different kind of adjustment on Eiichiro’s part to push back. Amusingly, Sakuya also uses the rules to his advantage to throw off Eiichiro and one of the ways he does that is to get him called out on the time it takes between serves to get back on track. Eiichiro does take awhile to provide narration and context for the viewer with his internal monologue aspects and that’s getting called out by him to the ref, which in turn agitates Eiichiro on a number of levels. It’s amusing to see him getting flustered by that and what’s going on with how Sakuya is playing the match and that’s putting a spin on how angry he’s getting but also the kind of pressure he’s feeling. With the range of opponents he’s faced so far the idea of losing to someone like him just rankles in a huge way. Eiichiro’s finding his balance in this kind of match and learning a lot even while learning the first overall set against him. READ MORE...

Baby Steps Season 2 Episode #20 Anime Review

Baby Steps structure is one that’s certainly familiar to sports anime fans and while it can be frustrating on some level it’s also kind of reassuring. Especially for this show where the focus is on realistic play of the sport and not about team dynamics, jealousies or relationships. I really do like what we get with Natsu and Eiichiro but with it being sprinkled among these episodes that takes place over the course of at least a year so far it has a good slow burn to it that also comes across as more real and honest, even if we’re not getting all of their interactions. With both tracks what we end up getting is quite the engaging show that you really end up rooting for the characters and their journeys. With Eiichiro now going up against Sakuya, it’s already providing to be an interesting match as there’s a sense coming from Sakuya that he’s going to bend things in every way possible to win – right from choosing who gets to start serving. This all gets reinforced with the flashback sequence we get for Sakuya as well where we see the kind of intense player that he is. It’s reminiscent of a few others Eiichiro has faced but distinct enough that he’s his own character. Sakuya isn’t violent per se, but there’s a presence of that within the way he plays as it’s aggressive in style in addition to the way Sakuya just glares at Eiichiro. And as it goes on we see more of the ways that Sakuya plays that falls under what Yukichi tells him is pretty damn nasty. It’s certainly unsportsmanlike to be sure, which is why Sakuya is a very different opponent for Eiichiro as his past ones haven’t fallen to this level. READ MORE...

Baby Steps Season 2 Episode #19 Anime Review

Baby Steps worked through a strong arc involving the match against Ide which came to a conclusion the last time around as we get to see what he’s definitely on the right path. He’s not really been questioning himself, but he’s been looking for the sign he needs in order to really know that he’s going the right way here and has some potential future in going pro with it. The match against Ide was one of his toughest to be sure, but it’s one that made his way through and came out in a great position. But it’s also signaled to other players that Eiichiro is one that they have to watch as well and there’s that brief sense made clear at the start here that they’re going to be looking to take him down hard and fast once they get the opportunity; and to train harder themselves. With such a big match done and Eiichiro now going for the big event ahead, what we get is some of the usual post-game material. Some of it involves Ide and how he still does what he can to inspire others that believe in him and that’s a good thing, especially since a positive attitude is needed since he’s not going to the nationals. For Eiichiro, he’s spending his time with his friends and talking through what he went through and the meaning of it all for him while also getting some good time with them just as friends. It’s light and cute for the most part, but you can also feel the weight of the game and its impact on him. There’s a good mix of post-match wrap-up here that while it may not have a lot to it in a more general sense, it’s the kind of material that I do enjoy because it allows the pressure to drop down after the intensity of the match. This one adds a bit more with Ide getting some good time himself, including his plans for the future. READ MORE...

Baby Steps Season 2 Episode #18 Anime Review

Though the match against Ide may be going on a bit longer than one might care for, it’s mostly following in line with how this series works in general. And as frustrating as it can get at times, I do really enjoy watching the way these battles play out since there is that uncertainty about who comes out on top. Though there’s likely some logic to how it’s all written out that those that are wholly invested in the property can figure out, I still try to keep away from that so that I can enjoy that uncertainty. As the show moves into the final set against Ide, that additional bit of tension on top of seeing both young men give it their all helps to make it compelling and exciting to watch, something that I don’t always find with a lot of sports based series. Watching as these two re-engage with this match, it’s definitely intense to watch as Ide realizes that Eiichiro has come out swinging with some new data set and plan that’s letting him hold his own and push back as well, bringing him strong into the final set between the two of them. The best though is that it just gets Ide excited to go all out and really do his best here as Eiichiro is completely helping him to raise his game. For Ide, he’s completely in love with this game and these matches have brought him to life in a great way, making him a lot of fun to watch. We do get a little bit of flashback here as how he was when he started out a few years prior is brought up by other players and that adds a little additional context. But we also see from these established players that their admiration also has them viewing both Eiichiro and Ide as future threats as well. READ MORE...

Baby Steps Season 2 Episode #17 Anime Review

While the big matches have always been a complex series of back and forth moments between Eiichiro and his opponent, the match with Ide has its own flair due to the personalities involved. It also takes on a different feeling to it as Eiichiro is struggling as Ide figures out ways to gain the upper hand against him. Having seen Eiichiro grow to such a good level and having a lot more confident to his style of play, this isn’t putting him into a position of questioning everything but it is doing the reminder that there’s always someone better out there to struggle against. But what really reminds what kind of play Eiichiro is comes when he pulls out his notebooks during the break and examines everything he knows about Ide in such a brief amount of time in order to figure out what’s changed. And while that doesn’t bring about a rapid and immediate change to what Eiichiro does, it does give him the impetus to alter his play and to begin to make progress with it. Eiichiro’s struggle in some ways hasn’t been just against Ide but also the supporters that Ide has as the psychological impact of the crowd has been impressive. But we see that as Eiichiro begins to push back, winning the next match, that a lot of those watching in support of Ide are realizing that Eiichiro is a pretty unique player as well. And his uniqueness is now becoming something more in a way, noted by those from his club in the crowd, that he’s now playing his own style and truly finding his own way. This is even more important because his match against Ide is basically Eiichiro’s "logical" style against the more intuitive style of Ide where it’s not based in a certain kind of constant play that can be micro analyzed. READ MORE...

Baby Steps Season 2 Episode #16 Anime Review

The tournament enters its next big phase here with the match between Eiichiro and Ide, which was set up pretty well the last time around. With Ide running late to get to it, having gone to help a friend to the hospital after an injury in their match, he raced here and barely made it even with the minor delay that was given. It’s a positive for both young men that they went into the match with positive vibes and enthusiasm, but things have shifted in a new way for Eiichiro. While he’s heard the call of the crowd before during matches, it’s taking on a new tone here that he hasn’t heard before. This group is louder and more enthusiastic as they cheer for Ide and it’s very noticeable and disconcerting for him. The two didn’t get to play a lot in the last episode, but what we got showed that there’s definitely a challenge for Eiichiro here. This episode pushes things forward pretty well right from the start as the two go at it and play well, both of them definitely enjoying the moment as much as they can while also pushing themselves and keeping focus. With Eiichiro winning the first match, they’re both still feeling each other out with their abilities and that kind of uncertainty really is there since there’s the way so many players are cautious at first and then really cut loose. But we also see that Eiichiro’s calculations are working well in the second game as he finds a lot of holes in Ide’s defense and punches through. With Ide well ranked, what we see though is that Eiichiro’s memory and skill gives him a real advantage and he’s running hard over Ide for awhile until Ide can start pushing back some. But the realization of just how good Eiichiro is starts to sink in and the mental game takes its toll as well. READ MORE...