Time marches on and Eiichiro works harder than he probably ever has since it involves so many physical changes.
What They Say:
Baby Steps centers on a honor student named Eiichiro Maruo who becomes frustrated with his life and decides to join the tennis club. Despite lacking experience and physical strength, he utilizes his studious nature to develop a strategic approach to playing tennis. Taking notes of his opponents’ habits and tendencies, he is able to predict their next move before they even react. He also meets Natsu Takasaki, a beautiful girl with a passion for tennis. With her help, he aims to become a professional tennis player.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The heavy focus previously on getting Eiichiro to go up against Takuma worked well to energize both young men in different ways. With the coach understanding the greater picture as one would expect, he managed to get Eiichiro to realize what he needs to do in order to return serves and hit better, using Eiichiro’s particular methods, and he used all of that to get Takuma to play against him and realize that he’s been kind of coasting in a way. Something that needed to be dealt with in order to get him to take things more seriously and move forward. Sometimes when you play for years and years, something like ten years for Takuma, you can get lost along the way and someone like Eiichiro can be the spark to bring you back to life without even realizing it.
With a lot of this going on in the background, this episode thankfully spends some fun and free time in a way. There’s a lightness early on as we see Eiichiro doing better at returning serves to where he wants them to go as he sees the number grid the coach taught him. And he’s doing okay at school at well. But he also gets called out by one of his new friends at the tennis club to start calling Natsu by the name everyone else does, “everyone else”, with Nat-chan. While he’s kind of nervous to do so, when he does it really is an adorable moment as you see it register on Natsu’s face. Similarly, you get a different kind of social changing moment for Eiichiro at school when Takuma comes to visit him during class, which causes everyone to worry since Takuma’s such an imposing second year. It’s cute how they’re all worried he’s going to get hurt but instead just has a normal conversation with him.
The more character driven part of the show dominates this episode, which is good since we’ve been focused on a really good mix of sports and learning development. So seeing Eiichiro interacting with both regular students and his tennis club friends, impressing his mother with his dedication to something of his own choice and his continued interest in Natsu helps to flesh him out and humanize him more. He’s not just focused solely on what’s in front of him for studies but rather more. There’s also a festival segment where things get nicely amusing as Natsu’s older sister is there as well and she makes it clear that Natsu was interested in Eiichiro in some way since she had been talking about him at home and they do their wishes together as well. It’s a simple moment, but one of those realistic telling moments that comes into play. With that and a few other moments throughout, the show is really doing a good job of making Eiichiro realistic in so many ways, especially the simple moments with his mother that are scattered throughout.
With time progressing nicely across the episode, showing us the growth of Eiichiro without resorting to montage material overall, Baby Steps takes some good steps here both in school, personality and relationships with others. Eiichiro is growing, but he’s having his struggles and is doing his best to overcome them. Hard work is what’s shown here more than anything else and that continues to be one of the best messages. So many of the shows that focus on the gifted players do show the hard work, but it doesn’t resonate in the same way as someone who starts this late, fails regularly, but keeps trying and begins to grow and change through this kind of direct and hard work. Eiichiro’s progress – across twenty notebooks worth of notes! – is simply enjoyable and fascinating to watch.
Streamed By: Crunchyroll
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