「いさかい」 (Isakai)
“Dispute”

Considering 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.

I 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.

I 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.

Takumi 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.

Japan 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.

Of 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.

It’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.

10 Comments

  1. It’s not a Japan thing in this case. Sports in general a lot of coaches thinks discipline is very important, and that includes keeping your hair short, and it’s necessary as a way to keep everyone in the same book which is important in team sport. Examples include Daniel Pasallera who cut several players for France ’98 for no cutting their hair, John Wooden who was very strict about keeping your own lockers clean. And that’s not going into coaches that actually verbally harass his player to motivate them.

    On the other side of the coin there are very talented player that ended up not living up their potential/expectation for trying to do the things their way.

    josue
    1. It is more extreme in Japan than in almost any other industrial society, however. Look at any U.S. high school baseball team and you’re not going to see a group of boys effectively shaved bald – and that’s only one example (albeit a highly visible and symbolic one).

      1. Why is this A Japan only problem with coaches I played sports and quit one of them because of a coach . Takumi was being pretty agreeable to a point but that hair grab is out of bounds.

        Every Football season we see coaches getting dismissed for hitiing / abusing players from junior leagues to College, IDK if you watch the news or not ! It happens very often.

        If anything we have a big prpblem with sexual crimes with minors in the US. So that hair grab was bad but there is worst going on!

  2. Battery: the anime where everyone acts like a jerk to each other. Takumi towards Gou, Gou towards Takumi, Takumi towards his mom, bro, and grandpa, Takumi towards his teacher, the teacher towards Takumi…..

    But mostly it’s just Takumi being a selfish, self-centered ass.

    ET
      1. also Charlotte, did he was not an self centered guy too? So this “i am the Sun, why i care for the others?” attitude is still “cliche”, its bad cliche, but still cliche..

        Worldwidedepp
  3. Maybe part of the reason why some don’t think that Takumi is acting his age is because he isn’t exactly someone we all can relate to easily as we weren’t all sports superstars when we were young. But I’ve seen some kids (even younger than early or pre-teen age) who act like him, but they pretty much are a minority. But I think that when we start fleshing out his character (catalyzed by Seiha, Gou, and their coach), we’ll see all the humane things we all can connect with. I look forward to how all these will be explored in the coming episodes.

    JD
  4. Again I didn’t really have any problems with Takumi. All his issues can be summed up with – He’s a Teenager.

    It was the adults again I had issues with. I wasn’t into sports so I wouldn’t know if its normal or not, but I found it a bit weird for the coach to ask Takumi to strip & then feel him up. I’m sure they probably do that to check muscle growth, but maybe during a health check-up or something, not in the teacher’s lounge lol

    & the mother is trying her hardest to catch up to Gou’s Mother for the title of World’s Crappiest Parent 😛
    We can all agree Takumi could have asked nicely, but again he’s a teenager & surely in this family its a foregone conclusion that Takumi will join the baseball team, so why would he feel the need to beg his mother to sign the sheet when we all know he’s joining the team? I don’t get why she made it a big deal, or how she could complain about how she has to support him (that’s your job, you horrible woman!). Most Mothers love helping their children & understand that the child won’t always appreciate it, especially during their teen years.
    Then she threatens to stop him joining. Yeah take away the only thing he shows interest it, something that he can go pro in & have a happy life doing. Nice parenting 😛

    She’s not quite up to Gou’s Mother’s level of bad parenting (since she make 12year olds do her parenting for her), but she’s getting there.

    For anyone who thinks I’m just moaning, I’m actually really enjoying Battery. It’s the perfect balance of realism against DAYS more Everything works out Great cause you’re the MC type story. Really starting to look forward to watching these 2 sports anime each week 🙂

    Adam
  5. I’m not sure where to fall on the hair issue. I get that the Coach is God & should be obeyed no matter what, but that shouldn’t extend to issues that have little to do with baseball. Plus I’m sure some of the other boys had long hair (or at least not all skinheads), so really the coach is just bullying Takumi?

    Of course Takumi is a problem, if the coach doesn’t gain dominance in this fight, the other kids could lose respect for him & stop listening to him as well. He probably assumed someone like Takumi would want to be on the mound all the time & that it would be a good threat to keep him in check.

    Hopefully the Grandpa will stop by & give both of them a much needed smack on the head 😛

    Adam

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