Battery – 03

Battery - 03 -1Considering this episode didn’t feature who I felt was the strongest character of the first two episodes (Seiha) it was remarkably successful in moving the story forward.  Battery isn’t a series that’s interested in warm and cuddly, that’s for sure, and that’s very much reflected in its main character.  But when you start out with a character who’s full of rough edges, that gives you a lot of dramatic surface area to polish.

Battery - 03 -2I noticed an interesting trend in some of the commentary about Battery after the second episode especially, and that’s the opinion that the cast (particularly Takumi) didn’t “act like middle-schoolers”.  The implication is that Takumi was acting like a child, and I think part of that disconnect comes from the fact the he and Gou certainly look older than the typical seventh-grader.  But the irony for me is that Takumi (and Gou, for that matter) is very much acting like a kid his age (an athletic star especially) – self-centered, cocky, emotionally tone-deaf.  I think the issue is more that we rarely see 12 or 13 year-olds in anime who act their age.

Battery - 03 -3I wonder if the same thing isn’t going to happen to a degree with the tone of this episode.  It was awkward, very awkward at times – and I suspect there are going to be commenters who point to that as a flaw.  But just as with Takumi and Gou’s behavior, that awkwardness is very much intentional.  This is just a function of Mochizuki Tomomi as a director – he’s a naturalist of the highest order.  He embraces the silences and the glares and the sinking feeling in the gut when you’re losing control of your surroundings, because those things are powerful emotional drivers at many times in real life.  Mochizuki is a master at depicting alienation, as anyone who’s seen shows like Zettai Shounen or Sarai-ya Goyou could tell you.

Battery - 03 -4Takumi is not a boy who sees room for compromise or placation in any phase of his life.  Even in asking his mother to sign his permission slip for the baseball club he forces a confrontation – not so much because he wants one, I think, but because it simply doesn’t occur to him to do anything but blurt out what he wants.  The awkwardness continues when he crosses paths with the vice-captain of the baseball team, Nobunishi-kun (Morishima Shuuta) on entering the school grounds.  Nobunishi admonishes him for not having the top button of his jacket done up, but whether this would have been enough to turn things ugly or not becomes moot when the boy grabs his arm.  That arm, as we know, is (figuratively, and maybe more) a sore point for Takumi, and soon enough he’s dragged into the staff room to be dressed down for his insolence.

Battery - 03 -5Japan is an uncomfortable place for someone like Takumi – a person who doesn’t see the value in ritual for its own sake and respect based on things like seniority or position.  And in Japan, like it or not, children are not viewed as having the same fundamental rights as adults.  And when the teacher who also happens to be the baseball coach, Tomura Makoto (Gouda Hozumi, the original Leorio and one of the most accomplished sound directors in anime) manhandles Takumi, it feels very much like an intentional attempt to humiliate and dehumanize him. Talk about awkward – this scene is brutally so, by design.  One of the themes of Battery is clearly the difficulty people like Takumi have in adapting to a society that’s not built for them.

Battery - 03 -6Of course, this is Japan, and this is middle school – and abjectly defying your coach is clearly a course fraught with peril.  “Otomurai” is as stubborn as Takumi is, and clearly we’re headed for a collision. The coach does let Takumi pitch, and he’s enough of a baseball man (he played under Takumi’s grandfather before he “abruptly quit”) to see the boy’s talent.  Takumi is initially asked to throw to Nobunishi, but intentionally throws a fastball in the dirt to try and knock him out of commission (he’s wearing no gear bar a mask) so he can pitch to Gou.  It’s a nasty thing to do, but this is still the most upbeat scene of the episode because for the first time, we really see Takumi express joy.  Being on the mound, going all-out throwing to Gou, he smiles like the child having fun that he is.

Battery - 03 -7It’s clear that Takumi loves baseball.  But is there any reason to doubt him when he says he’d rather be benched and not get to play than follow the coach’s wishes and cut his hair?  Yes, he’s right – there’s no reason why Japanese baseball boys should have to be buzzcut boys.  It’s a ritual that makes little sense – but ritual is important, especially in this kind of environment.  This is the struggle for Takumi – he’ll brook no one and no thing unless it makes sense to him.  And the world just doesn’t work that way – he’s going to find that out sooner or later, and it’s going to be pretty damn painful when he does.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

8 comments

  1. H

    This episode really solidified it for me – I really like this anime. I was surprised when the credits rolled, it just went by in a flash. Something interesting you brought up though – while you mention that there is a lot of commentary implying that they act too young for their age, I’ve been seeing more that they act too old for their age. Like, they’re only 12/13 (and also Seita, who might be considered unrealistically mature for his age), why do they sound like they’re 15? I think it’s less the character designs and more the casting and the delivery – even though Takumi is quite cocky, he doesn’t have that signature passionate voice that you might expect of a cocky 12 year old in anime, ie Hinata. Although, Ryoma from PoT has a similar type of character and voice, although he’s short. It may just be the disconnect between voice and appearance, as you say. I think I’m writing myself in circles.

  2. Yeah, definitely flew by – I was very much aware of that too. I think it’s because the entire episode had you slightly on-edge, because of how tense it was.

    I would argue that “signature passionate voice” is an anime cliche rather than a real thing, though I would agree these actors (while good) aren’t making an attempt to sound younger than they are. It’s funny you mention Hinata though, because Murase-san is really the only seiyuu among the baseball boys so far who does sound roughly 7th-grade-ish. Of course the best answer would be to get kids the right age (like they did with Seiha) but we know that’s not going to happen 99% of the time.

  3. I’m glad Uchiyama Kouki isn’t attempting to sound younger, it was bad enough hearing him singing in Nijiiro Days…

  4. That has to be one of the most down-to-earth anime episodes I’ve seen, Takumi is almost painfully relatable. I’m expecting a lot of incoming pain for him, while anticipating some incredible backlash because of unlikeable characters dishing it out; to repeat a quote from you the thought “a pox on both your houses’ came to mind several times.

  5. Yes, Bill Shakespeare cribbed it from me!

  6. s

    This show is so unusual. It’s about baseball but it’s not. Everybody’s flawed, both the young and old. The MC is not likable (so far) but relatable. The pacing was slow but the atmosphere was tense throughout, except for that little moment where Takumi smiled. And can we guess with some certainty of what’s going to happen in the next few episodes? Nope. All the reasons I’m enjoying this show so much.

    Enzo, you’re spot on when you pointed out how well Mochizuki portrays alienation. Zettai Shonen felt lonely. I also kind of felt that with another show he directed, Twin Spica, which you may or may not have seen.

    I must say, as someone raised in the Asian education system, I understood both the necessity and ridiculousness of conforming to established order and rituals, especially as a newbie. That’s probably why I didn’t find Otomurai manhandling Takumi surprising (though I don’t agree with it). On the other hand, this hazing-like situation often breeds camaraderie. You endure and follow the group order, so you become part of the group. But Takumi is an egoist – for now he’d rather be benched and endanger his battery relationship with Gou than follow the group order. This sets Gou off and rightfully so because he values their relationship and potential a lot. Yes, Gou too is acting like a child, but what else is he supposed to do? Takumi isn’t going to listen to sweet words or persuasion so something has to happen later to change his mind. As you say, Takumi is going to learn some painful lessons in the future…

  7. I didn’t find it surprising at all – just disturbing. And I agree with you that surviving the rigid system of ritual and hazing does tend to create a bond between the survivors – that may even be by design to some extent.

  8. R

    I’m loving it. Mochizuki-sensei has the magic to draw the audience in because everything that comes out from him feels so natural and real — it’s as if you were living in the world that he depicted. Battery feels like a live-action series, and that makes me wonder…perhaps Mochizuki-sensei can try directing live-action series, too.

    Yes — I miss Seiha. He’s one of the cutest boys in recent years. But the dynamics in this episode is strong enough that a 23-minute episode feels like 5.

Leave a Comment