WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for Episode 4 of Tribe Nine, currently streaming on Funimation.
Minato Tribe's defeat and disbandment in Tribe Nine's third episode was shocking enough, but Episode 4 of the sports anime revealed an even more disturbing development: Shun Kamiya, Minato Tribe's ace, has died. In hindsight, Kamiya's illness and death seem obvious. His "coffee" was actually a euphemism for medication, and his need for "fresh air" was not to cope with his devastating loss, but to die in peace.
Nevertheless, the violent world of Tribe Nine gave the remains of Minato Tribe no time to grieve as the ruthless Adachi Tribe kidnapped their de facto leader Saori Arisugawa. When the remaining tribe members resolved to rescue her, Adachi's Hyakutaro Senju challenged them to one more game of Extreme Baseball before they could get her back. To Minato's surprise, Adachi Tribe's way of playing the game used a variety of techniques that challenge the sport's very boundaries.
Rankichi Umeda, an Adachi Tribe member with a grotesquely distended tongue, leeringly commented that he "can hardly wait to do this and that" to the captured Arisugawa as he and Senju laughed. This perverse-sounding comment seems too disturbing for the fun and accessible tone of Tribe Nine, even if it was just an empty threat. Its implications also seemed at odds with the way the rest of Episode 4 tried to set Adachi Tribe up as an exciting new antagonist.
Adachi Tribe had many significant advantages over the current Minato Tribe, the first of which was Adachi's home turf of a labyrinthine abandoned shopping arcade that was so huge, people have apparently gotten lost and died in it. When Manami Daimon finally hit one of Umeda's pitches, he got lost in the mall and was approached by what appeared to be an elderly woman carrying a heavy load.
Episode 3 emphasized Daimon's compassionate nature as he consistently cheered up, checked in on and cooked for the other tribe members. Here, Adachi Tribe took advantage of his kindness as the lost citizen was actually a fielder in disguise, who tagged Daimon with the ball. This disguise, a close-up emphasizing its tape and drawn-on wrinkles, was an unexpected example of a fielder psychologically engaging a batter in order to tag them.
Adachi Tribe exercised another remarkable advantage as its most level-headed member, Tatsuto Tatsunuma, reached base on a motorcycle. Taiga objected, to which Tatsunuma responded that he was technically only wearing extremely complex "judge-approved spikes." These "bike spikes" may be the most comically contrived rule adherence yet, and they showed the creativity with which tribes could engage in XB's rules in the future.
Minato Tribe members frequently lamented how unskilled they were without Kamiya on their side, but disappointingly never mentioned how undercut they were by Arisugawa's absence. When things looked hopeless, it might have been an uplifting turnabout for one of them to point out that they were playing at a disadvantage without Arisugawa, and for her to join the game. Episode 4 of Tribe Nine went in a different direction, as a completely new member stepped up to the plate and guided the tribe with a new strategy.
Seeing Arisugawa become Minato Tribe's new leader in the heat of a seemingly un-winnable game could have been an exciting and unexpected way for the second in command to assume her place as leader. Kamiya observed when dividing his possessions in flashback that "She'll find something to keep, even if I don't leave her anything," which could be leadership of Minato Tribe.
It also would have been a much-needed win for the character after spending the episode frustrated that Kamiya kept his illness from her and at the mercy of her obnoxious kidnappers. Even so, Minato Tribe's newest recruit, Kazuki Aoyama, looks to be an interesting character in his own right.
Aoyama condescendingly referred to Santaro Mita and Taiga as "Toy monkeys," showing the exact kind of superiority complex that Kamiya's character defied. This made Aoyama feel like a poor substitute for the effortlessly inspiring Kamiya, though it may have been intentional to highlight the audience's grief at losing such a great character. Episode 4 ended with Taiga confronting Umeda underground, and Aoyama observing that there was hope for the team yet.
It appears Minato Tribe's game against Adachi Tribe will continue into Episode 5 of Tribe Nine. Minato will hopefully be able to overcome Adachi's tricks, possibly with some techniques of their own. After all, Aoyama's various holographic screens with surveillance data on the field seem like a significant advantage that doesn't technically break any XB rules. Hopefully Arisugawa will also escape her captivity, and take her rightful place as Minato Tribe's new leader.