「終わりの秋」 (Owari no Aki)
Battery is definitely a case of gratification deferred at the moment.
At this point I think it would be fair to say that Battery is turning out to be quite a different series than the one I initially imagined it would be. It manifests not so much in tone and style as it does in theme – certainly, I knew we were in for a measured and naturalistic narrative style in the hands of Mochizuki Tomomi. It’s a style which, as I I think about it, seems almost as odd a fit with a baseball series as it does with one based on a novel by Asano Atsuko, if No. 6 is anything to go by (and that’s the only one of her works I’m familiar with).
No, where Battery has surprised me (and not for the better, on the whole) is that it seems to focus very little on what I thought would be the major themes based on the first few episodes. The sibling relationship between the Harada brothers has effectively disappeared from the story, and the subject of Takumi’s individualism and and stubbornness clashing with rigid Japanese sports culture isn’t far behind it.
Some of this, no doubt, is my fault for jumping to the wrong conclusions. The name of this series is “Battery” after all, so it only makes sense that the pitcher and catcher would be the center of the narrative. The problem for me comes in the fact that it was that other stuff that had the most build-up, and was frankly the strongest and most compelling drama. As a result, the current breakdown between Takumi and Gou seems comparatively overplayed – I just don’t think we’ve been given enough reason to really invest ourselves in it emotionally. And that is a problem, any way you look at it.
Indeed, the primary voice of the narrative for now at least has turned out to be Mizugaki-kun. He’s kind of Battery’s Greek chorus, providing a snarky running commentary on the breakdown of Takumi and Gou’s on-field relationship and constantly ribbing Kadowaki for his obsession with his “princess”. Mind you his read of the situation is generally pretty on-point – indeed, Takumi is a pretty fragile figure, as wunderkinds like him often are. With young kids who’re supremely talented at a sport, finding others who can play on their level genuinely is a problem – and nowhere is that more obvious than with a baseball pitcher. If Gou can’t catch Takumi’s pitches at full power, it’s not as though there’s anyone else in backwater Nitta who can.
There is an elegance to the way this plays out, I’ll say that much. In a sense, Takumi’s problem in baseball now mirrors his problem in life – you can’t just go 100% all the time. Takumi never has an unexpressed thought, he never tempers his demands to the situation. That causes all of his relationships to be strained, and unless he can prevent the same thing from happening on the diamond he’ll destroy the one real friendship he seems to have forged. Maybe throwing at 70% isn’t such a bad thing if it means you can actually be part of a team, play catch with a friend and actually have fun. And maybe compromising once in a while can make life a little more pleasant. That would be a novel (no pun intended) take on an anime coming-of-age drama, especially a sports-themed one…