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Battery – 02 »

Battery – 01

OP Sequence

OP: 「Itsuka no Jibun」 (いつかの自分) by (anderlust)

「出会いの日」 (Deai no hi)
“Encounter of the Day”

God’s in his Heaven, all’s right with the world.

When this season was just a twinkle in Buddha’s eye, there were two series that immediately stood out for me as the cornerstones. The first was Mob Psycho 100, with its immaculate staff and highly-regarded source material. And the second was Battery, which checked about as many boxes for me as any show could sight unseen. Among the greatest anime directors of all-time in Mochizuki Tomomi, original character designs by Shimura Takako, a return to restrained and mature material for NoitaminA, an exalted novel as source material, and baseball. I love baseball, I love baseball anime, and I figured I was going to love Battery.

Welp, I was right. There have been other shows that have deeply impressed this season, but my two titans haven’t let me down. There’s some interesting history with this series and NoitaminA. The last (and only, unless my memory’s faulty) pure sports series airing in the block was Ping Pong, and that sure turned out well (though it took a while for a lot of viewers to get past its eccentricities). And the other time NoitaminA adapted a novel by Asano Atsuko (No.6), it brought out a rather sickening explosion of homophobia and narrow-mindedness that hardly did anime fandom proud. So there’s plenty of precedent here, though where it points us is hard to say. While there’s no indication of serious male/male romance in Battery yet (honestly, even No.6 was barely shounen-ai) I don’t think the audience has matured much when it comes to even the suggestion of it in a mainstream title. I would love to be proven wrong, if it comes to that.

If ever any two series could be more stylistically opposite and in the process prove the range of ways in which you can make great anime, it would be Mob Psycho (or Ping Pong for that matter) and Battery. Mochizuki-sensei (who’s also writing this adaptation) is by nature an extremely restrained director. He understands the value of silence and stillness as few others, and uses them to great dramatic effect. Zero-G is a newer studio and the animation is fairly modest here, but the art and character designs are really stunning. Kusama Hideoki’s resume as a key animator is packed with tasteful and aesthetically refined anime, and it shows here. And Mochizuki uses Senju Akira’s background music sparingly, to gently season the narrative rather than overwhelm it.

Battery is just that sort of show. It takes its time getting where it’s going, and prioritizes being natural over being artificially dramatic. It’s the story of a boy named Harada Takumi (Uchiyama Kouki) about to enter middle school, who’s moving with his family to rural Okayama to live with his grandfather for reasons not yet elaborated. Takumi is a star pitcher, full of confidence and lofty ambitions, who views joining a small-town team as an opportunity to make a big splash in a small pond rather than as a drag on his ambitions. Takumi is close with his adoring little brother Seiha, who’s played by young Fujimaki Yuui. I’m a big believer in casting kids to play kids, because even if there’s a lack of polish it’s usually more than made up for by authenticity. And in a series going for a naturalistic style like Battery is, that’s invaluable.

There’s some interesting subtext around the family. Seiha is apparently sickly, to the point where both Takumi and their mother are overprotective of him, yet he longs to follow in his brother’s footsteps and become a baseball star himself. Grandpa was one of those – in fact he went to Koushien, though Takumi isn’t interested in hearing about someone else’s trip to that hallowed ground – and he seems to take Seiha’s side in all this (as a veteran anime watcher I see unsettling signs for Seiha, but we’ll see). I loved the scene where Grandpa refused to teach Takumi a breaking pitch, citing the danger to his elbow – it used to be widely held that kids shouldn’t learn breaking balls until high school, but sadly the business of youth sports seems to have made that passé. And then there’s Takumi’s hand shaking as he holds his chopsticks at the dinner table, which could be a sign of almost anything from elbow fatigue to anxiety disorder.

The X-factor in the story is the kid Takumi meets on his evening run on the night of his arrival, Nagakura Gou (Hatanaka Tasaku). He’s a classic country bumpkin (when Takumi meets him he’s carrying a pail and a fishing pole) but Gou is also a baseball boy. A catcher, in fact – and a much more upbeat and agreeable personality than Takumi. He seems destined to form a battery (thus, the title) with Takumi, and their clumsily machismo-driven feeling out process is the bulk of the premiere. Their partnership will no doubt cause great consternation to the more reactionary members of the audience, but whatever it eventual develops into it’s clearly going to form the heart of Battery.

There’s a definite hint of Adachi Mitsuru in this premise and the way it’s executed (which is a great by me), though Battery is less whimsical and more organic than the typical Adachi story. Having spent some time in these small Japanese mountain towns with their roadside canals and stone bridges, and their gorgeous Shrines atop tall staircases with their central railings (remember, the middle is for the Gods), I really appreciated the way Mochizuki and Kusama instantly made that world seem real. There’s great art in telling a story without forcing a story, and in that it really seems as if Mochizuki is a perfect match with this material. It’s never going to be a commercial hit and I’ve no doubt it will have its share of detractors, but series like Battery are a big part of the reason why I love anime, and why NoitaminA has been such a big part of its history. This series always seemed destined to be one of the season’s best, and that’s exactly what a NoitaminA series should be.

 

 

ED Sequence

ED: 「Ashita, Haru ga Kitara」 (明日、春が来たら) by (anderlust)

July 15, 2016 at 5:18 pm
19 comments »
  • July 15, 2016 at 6:02 pmjosue

    Japan had a very bad habit of burning out young pitchers by overworking them, because they “hard work” values that often lead to adding up injuries. They only started to change the young training program recently by limiting their workload, however this was sadly true several decades ago.

    • July 15, 2016 at 6:28 pmguardian enzo

      Indeed – and this can be seen in anime and manga very clearly.

  • July 15, 2016 at 6:38 pmLitho

    What’s this? A baseball anime and no Adachi Mitsuru in sight? Color me interested!!

  • July 15, 2016 at 8:07 pmNarvi

    I heard this has Shounen-ai undertones. Is that true?

    • July 15, 2016 at 8:21 pmguardian enzo

      And so it begins…

    • July 15, 2016 at 9:29 pmWhatusername?

      Honestly, speaking as an MLB fan, pseudo-homoerotic bonding is just kind of inherent in the sport (even if the players themselves, at least in MLB and its affiliates, tend to lean more conservative on gay issues); I was initially amazed to find how many slashfics ship Buster Posey with seemingly the entirety of the San Francisco Giants, even unabashed redneck Madison Bumgarner.

    • July 22, 2016 at 2:56 pmChell

      Just as many as Code Geass, take that as you will.

  • July 15, 2016 at 9:01 pmKim Pine

    I really enjoyed it so far, but the only thing that irked me a little was that the characters, despite just entering Jr. High, look and sound more like high schoolers.

  • July 15, 2016 at 9:18 pmdanes256

    I wish a football anime could be this good.

    • July 15, 2016 at 9:20 pmKim Pine

      Eyeshield 21 was pretty top.

      • July 15, 2016 at 10:29 pmLitho

        I think he meant real football, not padded rugby.

      • July 15, 2016 at 10:36 pmKim Pine

        Except there’s even more cases of those. Area no Kishi, Giant Killing, Captain Tsubasa etc.

      • July 15, 2016 at 11:47 pmGuardian Enzo

        And Ginga e Kickoff. Don’t forget the best one of recent years.

        But given that soccer and baseball have more good anime than any other sport by far, I wonder if danes didn’t mean American football. And yes, the cupboard is pretty bare there – pretty much just Eyeshield 21.

      • July 16, 2016 at 6:03 amKurik

        Giant Killing was the only football anime i watched and it was great. Will check out the Ginga e Kickoff if Enzo thinks it was better. Re: Battery, I am not a fan of the protagonist at the moment. He is a bit of a semi-tool but I don’t know his background so interested to see how it became that way and no doubt he will develop into a more likable character. I like how the grandfather speaks to him frankly. If I had a little brother like that i would be encouraging him regardless of what he is going through. He doesnt need to be the best but if he enjoys the sport no harm no foul.

  • July 15, 2016 at 9:47 pmyoloalchemist

    I wish I had a little brother like Seiha.

    • July 15, 2016 at 11:46 pmGuardian Enzo

      But without the death flags.

      • July 16, 2016 at 10:49 pmyoloalchemist

        Oh man. I already felt it was gonna be this kind of dramatic outcome, but I wish the story doesn’t necessarily go that route simply because if it does, it doesn’t feel like it will significantly push the story forward and will develop the protagonist more, and will simply be for dramatic effect. I could be wrong, or I could be just not wanting him to die.

      • July 17, 2016 at 1:06 amLamphun

        Do you have any brothers Enzo? I wonder if Seiha’s death would be more affecting for those without…

      • July 17, 2016 at 12:09 pmguardian enzo

        No brothers, and no younger siblings. I do feel sometimes as if Im missing something in my life because of that, and I can’t even really imagine what it would feel like to lose a younger sibling.

        But whatever, please no spoilers – I have no idea what’s going to happen in Battery and I’d like to keep it that way.