Major 2nd and Being a “Second”

Of all the new shows this season, the one I did not expect to love as much as I did is the baseball manga adaptation Major 2nd. I never saw the first Major series (not that I wouldn’t like to but with over 150 episodes and no legal streams, it’ll be hard) and while I do generally like sports anime, they aren’t usually at the top of the list for what shows I want to watch. As for why Major 2nd in particular caught me, it’s because of the show’s character-driven focus on the protagonist and his struggles.

Our protagonist, Daigo Shigeno, is the son of Goro Shigeno, the protagonist of the first Major series. The entire family is baseball-crazed, with both his older brother and sister actively participating in the sport and Daigo about to join the local little leagues as well. He loves his father, he loves baseball, and he can’t wait to follow in his father’s footsteps… but then, when he actually joins a team, he finds out his own talents are not quite what they could be. His throwing arm is weak, which puts him far away from being the legendary pitcher his father was, and for all of the expectations everyone talks about given he is Goro’s son, his overall baseball skills are average at best. When it comes time to actually play his first game, at a critical moment, the pressure of living up to his father’s legacy crushes him: he completely flubs his turn at bat, and soon after, he quits baseball entirely.

major 2nd daigo shigeno
When the goal you strove for becomes a shadow you cannot escape…

Two years later, we see a sixth-grade Daigo, who just plays video games all day and wants nothing to do with baseball. He’s tried various other activities and has given up on them, and his mother and sister both nag at him to do something productive. At this point, though, he meets another “second” like him: Hikaru Satou, the son of Goro’s teammate and long-time friend/rival Toshiya. The turning point in Daigo’s life comes when his mother more or less bribes him into filling in for his former team in a training match, and as it turns out, Hikaru is there too. At that point, he learns that one, Hikaru has actually never played baseball before, and two, his natural talents at baseball are very good, with a strong throwing arm and the ability to quickly pick up on the basics of the sport. This frustrates Daigo as Hikaru has all the talent he lacks, and what makes it worse, even after his “trial” run, Hikaru says he does not find baseball particularly fun.

Here, we find two conundrums for two “seconds”. One loved baseball as much as he loves his father, but lacks the talent his father has and is burdened by the expectations placed on him. The other has his father’s talent but lacks the passion for the sport his father had. In a way, you can consider this post a follow-up of MDMRN’s recent article about family and choosing a different path from your parents. Whereas in that article we see a son who has found happiness in choosing a different path from his father, here we see two sons who find themselves discontent with the paths their fathers went down, and must now choose whether to keep going down that path, and if not, which other path to go.

Hikaru, for his part, decides if he’s not going to enjoy the sport at the game level, he wants to at least experience the fun of standing out, and aims to become a pitcher, the most visible position on the field. While fame might not be the most virtuous motivation for doing something (though maybe it can be, in a roundabout way), given that Hikaru is still a kid, it makes sense, and it sets him on a path that, while going the same general direction as his father, who was a catcher, still differs just enough to keep him motivated. One interesting part about all of this is that Daigo is insistent on Hikaru continuing with baseball because he sees Hikaru’s talent and believes it would be a waste for him to quit that. It brings up the question of whether, if a person has a talent for a certain profession, it would be wrong to not pursue that profession. While the Bible’s Parable of the Talents makes it clear that those things God has gifted us with, such as talented skills, should be invested in and not left buried and unused, it is worth noting that there are multiple ways to use one’s skills; Hikaru could just as easily use his strong throwing arm in another sport or even in some non-sports profession requiring good arm strength. For now, though, he has chosen to stick with baseball, even if just to see what it’s like to be in the spotlight.

As for Daigo, Hikaru does try to convince him to not think too much about what others think of him and that he does not have to be just like his father, and what he lacks in skills, he makes up with “the talent of loving baseball”. Those words have yet to completely sink in for him, but a small breakthrough occurs when Hikaru suggests that Daigo become a catcher to form a battery with him. At first Daigo refuses, saying that being a catcher is hard work (by the way, if you don’t know much about baseball and think all a catcher has to do is sit there and catch the pitcher’s throws, you have no idea how complex of a position it is), and that with his weak arm, he wouldn’t be able to throw to second base to prevent base-stealers. However, his sister Izumi encourages him to try it out, saying that most junior team catchers aren’t particularly skilled players or strong throwers anyway, and that catcher might actually be a fitting position for him, given his knowledge of the game to be used in analyzing the field, player positions, and pitching strategies.

For all that one might criticize Izumi early in the show for trying to push Daigo down a path he doesn’t want to go on, it seems she just wants him to rediscover the love he had for baseball when he was younger and have fun playing the sport, and is okay if he does not go down a professional path like his father. Of course, later events will push Daigo into learning to be a catcher seriously, but nevertheless, Daigo has found a part of baseball he can invest himself in, perhaps escaping a little from the shadow of his famous pitcher father. That the sons of pitcher Goro and catcher Toshiya have switched roles is certainly some high-level irony, but that irony may just lead to something greater down the road.

The story of Daigo Shigeno and Hikaru Satou has only just begun, and if this anime is anything like the first Major anime, it will be following those two from elementary school all the way to adulthood, which means viewers are in for a long ride. The two of them may have only just begun to figure out how their fathers’ legacies will play into their own paths, but they have many more years to work that out. For now, it seems that, while they will stay in the general direction of their fathers’ paths by continuing with baseball, they will take somewhat different routes down that direction, and I am definitely interested in seeing how their story develops from here.

Major 2nd can be streamed on Crunchyroll.

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