Battery the Animation
by Gabriella Ekens,
How would you rate episode 4 of
Battery the Animation ?
In this episode, Takumi continues to learn that no one will play ball with his emotional immaturity. Following his (lovers') quarrel with Go, Takumi finds himself oddly shaken. He rarely allows other people to affect him, but his new classmate has managed to crawl under his skin with unnerving ease. Takumi's grandfather discerns this and anticipates how this attachment might change Takumi. After a day of the silent treatment, Go comes to Takumi's defense when Eiji Nobunishi, a senior on the team, tries to intimidate him. Following this, Go confronts Takumi over his refusal to respect others. He also insists that he won't allow himself to be used whenever Takumi finds him convenient. Unfortunately, Takumi still doesn't get it. It looks like our hero has some growing up to do before he can begin to deal with his issues. Later on, the two seem to have patched up enough to play catch together again. Still, the overcast skies on this tranquil day suggest a coming storm.
Go's complaints about Takumi's personality are valid. But other people, like Coach Tomura, are just being jerks. Takumi may be rough around the edges, but that doesn't actually interfere with his ability to play ball. Tomura's authoritarian streak prompts him to treat Takumi's individualism (itself a doubled-edged sword) as insubordination. Takumi needs to learn some sociability, but this antagonistic approach will only continue to push him away.
As it turns out, Tomura's authoritarianism is rooted in his own experiences with middle school baseball. Takumi's grandfather was Tomura's coach back then, but one day, Gramps suddenly quit the job. This demoralized his trainees, who diligently followed his instructions in pursuit of victory. They took this abandonment as an indication that he'd given up on their ability to win a tournament. (In reality, he left to care for his sick wife.) It didn't help that their principal went on to call them all worthless when they eventually lost. Tomura has spent the past twenty years nursing that chip on his shoulder, and now he sows the seeds for a similar emotional trauma in his young players.
This happens in two ways: first of all, he's used to a strict authoritarian coaching style, so he doesn't know how to deal with Takumi's willful self-motivation. That's both the boy's greatest strength and weakness – you can't tell him what to do, but he'll also push himself harder than anyone else all on his own. He's talented, but also easily stifled because he doesn't vibe with the educational system's typical methods of cultivating talent. Secondly, Tomura still doesn't seem all that interested in baseball as a fun pastime. Learning to enjoy the game will be key to both Takumi's emotional growth and, if Gramps is correct, his development as a player. Despite initially being hostile to Takumi, Tomura is suddenly eager to work with him once he witnesses his talent firsthand. In this instance, his desire for achievement seems to have overwhelmed his dislike for the rebellious youngster. As it stands, Gramps claims that he doesn't believe his grandson has the potential to improve at baseball at this stage of his life. My takeaway from this is that he thinks Takumi is on the road to burning himself out. Playing for fun might reinvigorate him to get past this early plateau, or else it won't, and he'll just move on to a career path that isn't playing professional baseball. Either way, Takumi is going to face some complications in what he thinks is his set future.
Battery's theme continues to develop past the typical sports anime “yay teamwork” stuff. It's turning into a critique of the school system's push for achievement in youngsters and how that negatively affects their emotional development. That's what demoralized Tomura, and it looks like Takumi could be next, when he can no longer keep up with the rough pace he demands out of himself. Go is basically the human embodiment of the “play for the love of the game” ethos, but his mother still pushes him to drop baseball in order to focus on cram school. I can see how this is adapted from an acclaimed children's book. It's an important message for young people that I agree with wholeheartedly, presented gently and deftly.
This episode looked better than the ones preceding it, featuring some more creative direction and expressive animation. The standout moment was Takumi and Go's confrontation in the storage shed, where much of the emotion was conveyed through the stormy weather and the subtle ways in which the characters moved their heads. There were also some solid cuts during the pitching scenes. This is a very nice-looking, cinematic show, albeit in a low-key way.
My biggest hope going forward is that they flesh out Go's character. So far, he's mostly Takumi's manic pixie dream (boy)friend, having formed an overpowering attachment to the kid at a glance. There are hints at some trouble in his home life and emotional instability that could justify him latching onto Takumi as a sort of coping mechanism. I'd like for those to amount to something. Otherwise, Go pays lip service to not letting Takumi take advantage of him, but they're quickly friends again without adequate explanation. Go remains the biggest opportunity for Battery to complicate its already mature and realistic adolescent drama. Judging by its quality so far, I have faith that they won't drop the ball.
Gabriella Ekens studies film and literature at a US university. Follow her on twitter.
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