One year before the beginning of the story. Kaguyama feels intimidated by Haruna’s presence on the baseball team since he feels that his position as the ace pitcher is threatened. Kaguyama wants to quit, but Haruna talks him out of it after telling Kaguyama about his own past.
This episode is a side story about Haruna, who was a small supporting character in the regular season of Ookiku Furikabutte. (I read somewhere that this story was actually written first.) It can be watched alone without seeing the series and doesn't expect you to know anything about the rest of the show. So... even if you haven't seen Oofuri, you can watch this!! ;D
This single episode tells the story of a really good high school rookie and the dynamic he creates on his new high school's baseball team; more specifically, how another pitcher reacts when faced with all the talent and skill of this new pitcher. So, again -- like in Oofuri, you can really see the insight and thoughtfulness the mangaka brings to the genre of sports anime generally and the mental aspect to preparation and execution in baseball specifically.
The art is the same style as used in Oofuri, it's probably a little unusual for some people. I like it now; it's grown on me considerably. The colors are so rich and bright in a way that really makes me think of that time of year. The faces are still somewhat problematic: I personally still think that some characters bear too much of a resemblance to others and I still find it somewhat confusing at times -- for instance, there's one background person in this dvd episode that, to me, looked a lot like one of the recurring characters from Oofuri, but it wasn't him.
The voice actors here did a good job. I liked everyone and no one was particularly annoying. I'm still not a huge fan of the op/ed (which are from the regular season), but ...I guess you can't have everything at once. ;)
The character is the really interesting part of this. In the regular season, Haruna is introduced through the perspective of one of the main characters of the show (Abe) and the viewer doesn't get much of an opportunity (though there is some) to formulate an opinion about him outside of Abe's viewpoint. The Haruna you meet here doesn't seem like the same person and part of the story's charm is that this is Haruna's chance to make a second impression. At the same time, that tactic is such a great way to revisit one of the themes from the regular season, namely how people can can change in different environments and communities.
I think Asa Higuchi is brilliant. I have watched a lot of sports animes and I have watched a lot of shounens similar in style and plotline and I think that the level of insight and introspection and attention to the psychology of sport and of winning is extraordinary. And in a genre that's (arguably by necessity) fascinated with brawn more often than brain, it is refreshing and entertaining to see a show that's interested in both the physical and mental readiness necessary to achieve a goal.
Even if you refuse to watch 25 episodes of Oofuri, if you're at all interested (and you'd have to be to read this, right?) at least check this out. Really. XD It's probably labeled as episode 26.