Battery the Animation
by Gabriella Ekens,
How would you rate episode 1 of
Battery the Animation ?
6th grader Takumi Harada is a prodigious baseball player. Known for his strong pitching arm, he claims to have singlehandedly taken his old team to the regional tournament. But when his family moves out to the countryside for the sake of his younger brother's illness, he has to restart his career in a provincial town. Rather than being disappointed by the move, Takumi is excited to become the standout player at an even weaker school. What he doesn't expect is that his new teammates won't accommodate his showboating. Takumi immediately runs into Go Nagakura, the local catcher who happens to be his biggest fan. He demands that they play together, but when they do, Takumi is put off by Go's desire to form a real constructive partnership. Meanwhile, Takumi's grandfather – a former baseball player – refuses to pass on his advanced techniques. With school about to start, the adolescent Takumi is frustrated and confused by their refusal to sate his ego. How will this new experience change him? And what private demons do his new friends hide?
Battery is the anime adaptation of a series of Japanese children's novels. Written by Atsuko Asano, the lady behind the dystopian BL favorite No.6, they won a prestigious Japanese award for children's literature a few years back. Note that I'm saying “children's literature” and not “based on light novel” – since it stars 6th graders, Battery looks like it's aimed a few years younger than the typical young adult content we're used to seeing in anime. Apparently, Japan has something similar to the divide between “stuff that wins Newberry Awards” and “vampire werewolf academy” youth fiction that we see in our shelves, and Battery falls into the former category. I'm glad that this story comes with some assurance of quality, but maybe I should expect more Bridge to Terabithia than The Fault in Our Stars.
This first episode deftly established our main character and his immediate conflicts. Takumi has a self-isolating obsession with being the best. All he cares about is his own achievement, and he can't imagine playing baseball for any other reason. He also doesn't like to be reminded of his limits, even when paying attention to them may be necessary for his future growth. It looks like his relationship with Go, who doesn't coddle him, will be important to Takumi's maturation. Go will probably be an equally complex character, but so far we've only seen him in terms of how he affects Takumi. He seems content with the non-glamorous position of catcher, and he may have a complex over his family's wealth. Takumi's grandfather was himself a famous baseball pitcher, so he'll likely serve as a disregarded mentor figure for his young grandson. The final important-seeming character, Seiha, is Takumi's frail little brother. It's physically out of reach for him to play baseball competitively, but he's begun to inherit his brother's blind desire to be the best. This serves as an external negative risk to Takumi keeping up his current attitude. All of this is conveyed through naturalistic exchanges of dialogue. In terms of pure technical storytelling, Battery looks proficient.
It's appropriate that Takako Shimura did the character designs, since Battery most reminds me of her manga Wandering Son. They're both atmospheric, low-key dramatizations of fairly normal adolescent experiences. Like Wandering Son, Battery may also broach some LGBT issues. The most prominent thing about Asano's other known work, No. 6, was the overt romance between the two male leads. This may also be present in Battery, albeit in a more restrained form (the boys are 12, after all). The dialogue is already full of hilarious innuendos. But really, I'm betting that any romance shown will be on a Judy Blume-esque “adolescence is both wonderful and awkward” level. Queer romance would be a nice change of pace for YA, but it doesn't seem necessary to this story. Still, based on how much of the surrounding material is framed romantically (there's an “I love you” in the ED), I'd say that the show is at least fishing for the fujoshi bucks.
Fortunately, it's an all-around aesthetically pleasing experience. Battery borrows Shimura's characteristically restrained color palette to great effect. This is especially true of the OP and ED, which are done in the style of her watercolors. The animation isn't showy, but solid when it counts, full of evocative head twists and smooth renditions of pitching forms. If you liked how Wandering Son and One Week Friends look, you'll like this. Out of all the fujoshi sports shows we're getting this season, Battery looks like both the chilliest and most appropriate for younger audiences. It'll probably build into the most emotionally intense experience out of the three, with the least emphasis on hot boys (because again, 12 year olds). Well-paced in spite of the lackadaisical content, Battery the Animation looks to be loading my summer with chill feelings-filled Thursdays.
Battery the Animation is currently streaming on Amazon Prime.
Gabriella Ekens studies film and literature at a US university. Follow her on twitter.
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