I was probably asking for trouble, when I started considering all the ways in which Echizen does not, as initially indicated by the early story, seem to find a tennis that is not a copy of Nanjirou’s. Now my Echizen-muse is insisting that I figure out what his own tennis would look like and write it.
Incidentally, spoilers ahead.
So let us meditate on this. The last reference point we have in the original “become not-Nanjirou” trajectory is the Regional finals. There we see a move of Echizen’s own invention, Cool Drive. It’s a move born of necessity, of needing to get up high enough to smash back a ball with the right spin and of figuring out exactly how to do that, however it takes–by climbing the referee, in the event. This move comes after Echizen has already pretty much burned himself out of muga no kyouchi, and it is, as Sanada notes after, a gamble. Using it gives Echizen an even chance of returning a shot he has no other way of getting, and he takes it without hesitation.
And then, of course, the story shears off into Nationals and the internal AU and focuses on muga’s “three doors”. And Echizen achieves the third, which no one but Nanjirou previously had, and thereby alters the progression of his skill from “finding himself” to “finding True Tennis is his father’s footsteps”.
Bah, I say; that isn’t nearly as interesting. Let us, therefore, take muga in its initial, less fantasy-esque, application, as a state of heightened awareness or response and leave it at that. What interests me more are the implications of Cool Drive.
For one, developing it shows that Echizen has started thinking in terms of evolving his own game. That’s a major hurdle right there, and indicates to me that he’s already reached beyond simply perfecting and reflecting back everything Nanjirou does to actively striving to find new ways to do things for himself. The alphabet drives in general show that, and the way we see him working on Cool Drive shows the importance he’s started to give the project (before Konomi lost his mind, anyway).
For another, the shape of the move shows something about Echizen’s approach. He doesn’t bother with conventional wisdom, which might be to work on strengthening his legs enough to jump for the height required. He also doesn’t choose to cultivate the strengths of his own body type, which might result in working on his ground speed to catch high shots when they come down and apply a different spin on return. Instead he takes all shots head on, and finds a way to meet and return them directly. And then he takes that way despite it being a risk and a gamble.
From this I take the conclusion that Echizen’s tennis doesn’t have a reverse gear. It doesn’t even really have brakes. He will just keep moving forward, believing that the skill and strength he has will find a way, and taking whatever way presents itself.
Really, it’s no wonder he does so well at Seigaku.
Echizen throws himself into the breach. Translated into actual martial arts, I might say that his style is purely aggressive, moving straight in and directly blocking rather than diverting or avoiding counterstrikes. He’s a stubborn little cuss.
So, for all his penchant for adopting everyone else’s moves, I don’t think he will ever use things like the Tezuka Zone or Fuji’s Triple (and counting) Counters very much. They’re not his own style. And, as he moves away from copying his father, I think the modality of copying in general may become a secondary rather than a primary tool for him. I don’t doubt he’ll use whatever move he knows that will do the job to win whatever game he’s in. But his own game, the moves he develops on his own, those I think will mostly be drives.
So I think what I would expect to see, in the future that is not a cracked canon-AU, is Echizen working to develop more such moves and using them with determination and forward momentum. Damn the torpedos and full steam ahead.