「バックホーム」 (Bakku Houmu)
What an odd little series this Battery is.
This episode really was a tale of two halves, and they’re aligned with the two halves of Battery as a whole. That’s why it’s such a frustrating series – teasing you with high ambition in one moment and wandering off down the garden path in the next. Mochizuki Tomomi is an inscrutable director generally speaking, someone who never connects the dots for you, and that’s one of the things I love about his work. But there are times with Battery where I lose sight of the picture altogether.
Leave it to Seiha to inject some much needed energy into the first half of the episode – he was one of the most winning characters early on in the series before virtually disappearing from the narrative. The pickup game (with Seiha on the mound) got neither the buildup nor the duration it deserved, but it was still the most entertaining scene in the past few weeks. This is part of what could have been and for a while seemingly was a major theme of Battery – the importance for kids to actually play baseball like a game at least once in a while. Hell, we even got to see Takumi smile at Seiha’s antics – and I know we can count on one hand the number of times that’s happened.
After that, though, the focus returned to the drama surrounding Kadowaki and Mizugaki – a drama which, if we’re honest, often feels rather forced. I love Kimura Ryouhei as an actor but if Shuugo hadn’t punched Shunji in the face I might have jumped onto the screen and done it myself (seriously, does this kid ever shut up?). I just don’t feel as if we’ve been given enough reason to care about these two, or seen enough that’s genuinely likeable about either of them to make us want to.
This seems to be symptomatic of a larger problem with Battery, and perhaps it’s a function of the 11-episode duration (at 6 novels the source material is modestly outsized for that length). There just isn’t enough time here for the detours the series is taking – it starts to explore relationships and themes (often intriguing ones) but soon shifts direction and chases the rabbit down its hole. It would have been better served to genuinely pursue the issues of bullying or Japan’s obsession with conformity (or both), and Takumi’s relationship with Seiha, and left all this stuff with Shuugo and Shunji out, apart from their role as foils for Takumi as an athlete. But if wishes were fishes we’d all be eating Hayama Akira’s carpaccio, and this is the Battery we have…