This’ll be the last time I put Touch on here, if only because I’m done with it and it was awesome and any further thoughts will be coming in a full review up sometime next week. But before I lock the stadium up, I just want to geek out about one more thing. As before, major spoilers for a 20+ year old manga are coming up.
The title of this chapter alludes to the fact that it concludes a subplot between leading lady Minami and one of her admirers. This process includes a very touching scene of Nishimura, a sympathetic gag character, going full swirly on a couple of asshole guys who mocked his childhood friend. Which is all well and good, but that has next-to-nothing to do with why this chapter’s on here. It’s on here for one face, one which perfectly demonstrates the fiercely expressive power of Adachi Mitsuru’s character designs.
At this point in the Touch manga, the final game is about to be played, and most non-main plotlines have been wrapped up. The threads that remain are few; Tatsuya’s desire to reach Koushien, Tatsuya and Minami’s relationship, Nitta Akio’s long-awaited showdown with the Uesugi brothers, and the fact that Meisei high’s team is being coached by the man who’s been running the baseball team over the last 6 months with the expressly stated goal of making sure there isn’t one when he leaves. The focus of the moment in question is on that last thread, the grudge of coach Eijurou. Eijurou’s story dates back to the time when he was a first-year at Meisei High, when the small-minded and undertalented ace of the team at the time crushed his promising career through a deliberate smear campaign. This already-underhanded smear campaign was made worse by the fact that it mainly ragged on Eijurou for taking the fall for a motorcycle crash caused by his brother, the team’s ace last year and an upperclassman of the guy doing the smearing. Feeling guilty about this, the team’s old coach Shigenori calls Eijurou up when he becomes unable to handle his workload, giving him a chance to enjoy baseball again. Initially, this is portrayed as the result of a miscommunication where the couch mistook Eijurou for his more successful older brother. However, the two share a conversation after Shigenori returns from the hospital in which he casually refers to Eijurou by his real name. The couch knows. Even if he isn’t saying or doing anything, he knows. Which brings us to this chapter.
Cut to game day in the final match of the series, the one for all the marbles that decides whether or not Meisei reaches Koushien for the first time in decades. The underhanded ace from all those years ago, now a prominent alum/fan of the team, is surprised to see Eijurou in the stands. He asks Shigenori just why the devil he isn’t the one managing the bench today, disparaging Eijurou’s attitude in the process. After a few short words, Shigenori does something it’s safe to say I’ll never forget:
I’ve never seen anyone pack more “I’m disappointed in everything you are, and what you’re saying right now isn’t especially helping your cause” into one quick look. It’s all I can hope that I never give any kindly old men cause to look at me like that. It’s a fantastic, once-in-a-decade level of meaningful. For all the glory that it precedes*, this is one of the two best scenes from the entire Touch manga. It seems unlikely I’ll ever lose adoration for any part of those last 60 chapters, least of all this one.
*I’m talking about a climactic game featuring hits on intentional walks, multiple game-saving hits with two outs, stolen home bases, and a bullheaded, unnecessary duel between a pitcher and hitter that seems to last an eternity. All while the team is being coached by a man concealing the fact that he is too blind to see anything happening on the field. Before all that happened, I still wasn’t sure whether I liked Touch or Cross Game better. Right now, if I stacked up a list of my 10 favorite moments in a baseball series, Touch would have at least 3 (lowball; that’s probably closer to 5) and Cross Game would have the time Yuhei told coach Daimon his hand was broken.