So – I went to a baseball anime and a baseball game broke out…
For now, at least (some might say at last) the focus of Battery is fully on baseball. I don’t know whether the larger issues of bullying, suppression of individualism and personal freedom vs. social responsibility with reassert themselves at some point (I definitely hope they do) but now it’s time for Battery to show what it can do on the diamond. Since we know it’s not going to wow us with lavishly expensive sakuga animation, it’s going to have to do so with staging and drama.
What strikes me again with this episode is just how minimalist Mochizuki Tomomi’s directing style is. If it seems an odd fit with a sports anime perhaps that’s because it is – it’s certainly not something we’ve seen play out very often. There’s almost no background music and an almost total dearth of tricky staging – you’ll never see baseball play out in more matter-of-fact fashion in anime form. It’s just a bunch of kids playing ball, the smack of the ball in the glove, and (occasionally) the crack of the bat.
The fact that there’s a game at all here is the result of Kadowaki-kun’s fascination with Takumi’s pitching. He takes a good deal of ribbing for that from Mizogaki Shunji (the unmistakable Kimura Ryouhei), his friend and the boy who follows him in the Yokote batting order, who refers to Takumi as Kadowaki’s girlfriend or “princess” more times than I can count. But since the school is unlikely to greenlight a match with a lowly doormat of a school like Nitta, Kadowaki proposes that the guys do what schoolboys have been doing pretty much since baseball was invented – play a pickup game.
I like that development, because anything that gets Japanese kids playing baseball for fun and its own sake is OK in my book. The reason that Kadowaki is intrigued enough to do all this is that he knows the only reason he got a hit off Takumi is because Takumi eased off on his fourth pitch – eased off because he was afraid Gou wouldn’t be able to catch it. And for a player who probably hasn’t been challenged very often, the idea that a first-year might be good enough to muzzle him is irresistible.
The larger issue, though, is the rift this causes between Gou and Takumi. It’s obviously a non-starter if a pitcher doesn’t trust his catcher enough to throw his best stuff – and for Gou, this represents the ultimate humiliation. Takumi takes heat for it from pretty much everybody (including Seiha) – so much so that he goes to Gou’s house late at night with the seeming intent to apologize (as hard as that is to believe). But Gou gives him a little love tap in the form of a right cross in an ages-old male bonding ritual, just to let Takumi know he’s gone too far this time. That’s very much in-character – Gou is a straight arrow who seems to pretty much say what he means and do what he wants. The difference this time is that Takumi seems to actually realize he’s in the wrong, because he doesn’t fight back either verbally or physically.
The question now is whether Takumi, at his best, is really good enough to contain a top-tier middle school team full of third-years. The only way he’s going to find that out is if he says “screw it” and trusts Gou to do his job – which I’m sure he’ll do eventually. But the point here, I think, is that Takumi has never really been able to trust anybody, and doing so now doesn’t come naturally to him. But it’s a necessary step for him both on the field and off, so I think this practice game is a chance for real progress. There’s still time in the final four episodes for Battery to delve into how Takumi got that way, and that’s something I very much expect to happen.