Battery – 02

It’s probably no exaggeration to say Battery isn’t a series that’s going to play to the masses.  It doesn’t seem to have a natural target demographic, apart perhaps from the old NoitaminA audience (which tended to be pretty small anyway, and never had a sports-themed show to contend with).  It’s not a hard-core sports series like Diamond no Ace, nor is it an Ikebukuro shippers paradise like Haikyuu or Yowapeda.  It has no commercially powerful source material to support it and be supported by it (the novels it’s based on were released well over a decade ago).  In short, it’s one of those periodic anime that make you wonder how they were ever greenlit in the first place – and like many of them, it makes me heartily glad that in defiance of all logic it exists.

As if all that weren’t enough, Battery also gives us a main character who, at this point in the story, is pretty unlikable.  This is a syndrome I’ve seen repeated over and over in recent years – in a medium where light-novel adaptations have become highly influential, fans don’t have much patience for a character who has to develop into someone admirable.  They want a winning protagonist right out of the gate, because we’ve been conditioned to believe that everyone is going to be pretty much the same in the final episode as they were in the first.  That’s certainly not true with either the writer or director of Battery‘s prior works and it won’t be the case with this one, but I don’t know how many viewers are going to stick around long enough to find that out.

For now, though, Takumi is a big (abnormally big for a 12 year-old, even a jock) bucket of attitude.  There are some definite patterns emerging here, and one of them is that Takumi is someone for whom things have tended to come pretty easy – at least in terms of baseball.  As his grandfather says, he’s been given a great gift that no amount of practice can replicate – he can throw any pitch wherever he wants, at any time.  But as a result of it, he’s never really suffered adversity.  This is a syndrome common to super-athletes – as kids they utterly dominate the competition, to the point where their sport is barely a challenge.  But the higher they go up the chain, the less likely that is to continue.  Sooner or later, at least some of the c0mpetition catches up to you – and it’s how you react that determines whether you flame out or become one of the unicorns who can actually compete in a sport professionally.

It’s also clear that Takumi’s love for baseball is genuine – at least for as long as he owns it.  That makes it ironic that all of a sudden he’s being asked left and right to urge those close to him to give up the sport.  In the case of Gou, I think we can assume the reason his mother wants him to quit is so that her son can follow in his father’s footsteps (in Japan, it’s more or less expected that an eldest son will inherit a father’s medical practice).  Takumi’s own mother is asking him to convince Seiha to stop playing – or trying to – for reasons that were already clear in the premiere.

Takumi’s reaction to these requests is telling – he’s totally unwilling to entertain the idea of urging Gou to quit, because he knows Gou is good enough to help him succeed on the diamond.  But he’s happy to piss on Seiha’s dreams, and a real fault-line clearly exists in the Harada family over this.  Seiha’s medical issues haven’t been explained clearly yet, but there does seem to be some sort of legitimate issue at work there.  But Seiha is a pretty clear-headed and determined little boy, and he has allies in his grandfather and in Gou as well.  That’s why it’s no surprise when Takumi goes to meet his new catcher at the Shrine and finds Gou already there, playing catch with Seiha (who, as we know from the premiere, has a pretty good arm himself).

The contrast between the brothers could hardly be more stark here.  Seiha is adorably frank and wise, taking a very mature view about his possible future in baseball (“I don’t want to become you.  I just want to play”).  Of course for Takumi, everything has to be about him – his favorite response to other people’s problems seems to be “It has nothing to do with me”.  He’s really at his most obnoxious here – being rude to adults (as he is) may be more shocking in Japanese society, but being so cruel to a child who adores him is the far greater sin in my view.  Throwing away Seiha’s precious baseball is indeed crossing the line, and Gou points it out in no uncertain terms.

What this all comes down to, I think, is Takumi being “weak under pressure”.  His reaction to Seiha getting lost is for all intents and purposes abject panic, and his fall in the lake after he and Gou find Seiha once again highlights that there’s something going on with Takumi’s pitching arm (which he tries to protect when he falls – whether it be an anxiety disorder of a physical ailment.  Takumi defines himself through baseball, because in baseball everything has always been handed to him.  He’s going to taste the harsher side of life now, clearly (perhaps terribly harsh, though I hope what I’m imagining doesn’t come to pass), and how he’s able to persevere and grow through that experience is going to define both Takumi as a person, and Battery as a story.

 

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9 comments

  1. R

    Speaking of a main character who is not likable from the very beginning of the series and has yet to develop into someone admirable, Subaru from Re:Zero (adapted from *cough* *cough* a Light/Web Novel). And to be fair that is the most popular and highest rated anime this season, so people can look past characters who don’t start out immediately likable. Wish you had stuck with it, but just like many other anime such as Your Lie in April, Monogatari Series, there are things I know you wouldn’t be able to look past.

  2. I think the difference is because Takumi got his problems pointed out by Gou and even recognized them himself in this episode, while for Your Lie in April there was no indication that the series acknowledged it until the very end.

  3. Word.

    I have no problems with flawed characters. That’s real. That’s what character development is for. My problem comes when characters act in unconscionable ways and the author seems to endorse their behavior as admirable. And that’s categorically not what’s happening here.

  4. Y

    The way Seiha handles the verbal abuse his brother throws at him brings tears to my eyes. Like Gou stated, Seiha seems to be the more mature out of the two despite being younger.
    So far the story is progressing quite well, though there were a few moments where the animation could’ve been handled better: there were a few stiff facial expressions here and there and a few stiff transitions between scenes.

  5. I don’t disagree – there are a few dodgy moments visually (loss of background details, jerky movements). But then, on balance that’s not a deal-breaker for me.

  6. P

    I wonder what is Takumi’s “sickness” after the end credits rolled out.

  7. There’s more to Takumi and I am fascinated where the show is going to take us. He is definitely self-centred and obnoxious because he has things going for him. He is not used to being pressed by adults to do things. He has a lot of anger and unhappiness internalised. Given opportunity to snark, he would do so to vent out the pressure.

    You may view it that Takumi is pissing on Seiha’s dream but I see it as Takumi being very protective of his younger brother. He may be harsh/gruff in his approach but I also see genuine concern. The family is very protective of Seiha. Seiha, however, does not want to be coddled. Takumi does care about his brother. When Seiha did not get back to the house, he became highly concerned and panicked. Towards the end when Seiha told him how much he believed and trust in him, Takumi broke down. That to hear how much Seiha believed in him and trusted him even though he has been rough with Seiha mixed with relief that Seiha was okay is in my view what broke the dam.

    With regards to this right arm, there could be possibly some problem with it. The first episode had his right hand trembling – whether in anger or an injury – it is left to speculate until they reveal more. The protecting of his right arm as he fell into the pond was definitely a conscious effort as it is his precious pitching arm. Him testing his right hand after getting out of the water may be indicative of checking whether the fall could have aggravated the probable injury he has. The grandfather having said about keeping to what pitches he has instead of learning breaking balls when he asked his grandfather to teach him hints to me that Takumi has been trying out breaking balls and has not been successful. He is likely to have injured himself in practicing to pitch breaking balls.

  8. Z

    Speaking of unlikable characters, what is with these adult women pressuring a thirteen year old boy to do their dirty work for them? You want your kid to stop baseball, then YOU do something about it. Seriously, Gou’s Mother should be happy she didn’t get a big ol’ “F U”, and Takumi’s Mom should also be told to take a hike. Neither of those women get any sympathy or respect from me.

  9. R

    I’m loving Seiha…who doesn’t want such a kawaii ototo? I don’t dislike Takumi at all. He’s not ignoring and irritating — he’s just not pleasing. This is actually good — like many have said, this gives a lot more room for the character to grow.

    So far, orange seems to edge out as my favourite of the season, but I am a fangirl of Mochizuki-sensei — he has my vote of confidence. Besides, Battery is a slow burn — I will wait for the endearing part to come.

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