Battery the Animation
by Gabriella Ekens,
How would you rate episode 9 of
Battery the Animation ?
After last episode's brief breakup, the pitcher/catcher power couple of Takumi and Go are back together. However, they're not quite in top form, as Takumi's pitches have suddenly increased in power, but neither he nor Go know how to control them yet. Coach Tomura, however, suspects that this is for the best. He attributes Takumi's newfound strength to his blossoming relationship with Go, and he's willing to give them time to figure out how to properly function as a team. They're far from perfect, but for now, these two seem like they're in a stable place.
The opposite is true for their mirror couple, 9th grade superstar Kadowaki and his wingman, Mizugaki. (I erroneously referred to them as high schoolers before, but this episode confirms that they're still in middle school. That makes Takumi a lot more believable as a threat to them. I apologize for this mistake.) From the beginning, it's been clear that these two represent a toxic version of Takumi and Go's dynamic, and that all comes to a head this week. Mizugaki finally unleashes his acid tongue against his beloved classmate, cutting through all of his pent-up insecurities. Ultimately, however, this is a masochistic action on Mizugaki's part, since it reveals the depth of his self-loathing and fixation on Kadowaki. I like these two because they've developed adult capacities for emotional deception, unlike our younger players, who still possess some childlike emotional straightforwardness. Atsuko Asano knows a thing or two about portraying the different stages of adolescence.
I'll have to apologize to Asano on one count, though. Right when I make the effort to complain about it, Battery's gay subtext becomes text, at least in terms of Mr. The-Lady-Doth-Protest-Too-Much. In the middle of a sudden argument with Kadowaki, Mizugaki accuses him of being romantically interested in Takumi. Kadowaki is taken aback by this accusation, taking their confrontation from verbal to physical - meaning that Mizugaki gets punched, you perverts. Now I'm not sure what this says about Kadowaki. It could be that Mizugaki hit a home run in suggesting that Kadowaki has some confusing feelings for the younger teen. Or Kadowaki could've just been angered at the assertion that he's one of those dirty gays. It's hardly a stretch that he'd be homophobic – sports culture has that in spades, especially amongst teenage boys. Either way, I'm on the fence, as I haven't read Kadowaki's previous attitude towards Takumi as anything other than admiration. If they wanted to make his feelings explicitly romantic, they would have to build that dynamic up from this point onwards, but Mizugaki is another story. The fact that he brought up sexual tension in the first place tells me that he's not content as Kadowaki's platonic wingman. To me, this is confirmation that his overt romantic jealousy of Takumi is more than just out-of-place BL pandering, but a more a deliberate aspect of his complicated relationship with Kadowaki. It's still subsidiary to his inferiority complex and masochistic self-denial for the sake of Kadowaki's success as a player, but it's still there, and that's interesting. I hope that Battery the Animation doesn't drop this angle, since it's probably the most unique thing about its story.
Otherwise, this exchange brought Kadowaki's conflict to light – he's so invested in his role as the local sports superstar that it hits him hard when some kid shows up and threatens to steal his thunder. This doesn't make him antagonistic toward Takumi. He seems to genuinely like the kid, and he's excited by his talent, but he also realizes that Takumi's arrival could undo everything he's worked for over these past few years. The spotlight has imposed high expectations upon Kadowaki. Failing to live up to them could decimate his ego or worse. For now, Takumi has the advantage in not having to deal with those expectations (yet). For all his nastiness, Mizugaki is correct in his assessment of Kadowaki's character and how Takumi has been affecting him.
The introduction of this secondary couple has done a lot to make Battery the Animation more interesting. This and the last episode are the most fun I've ever had with the show. That said, it's still a very mild and pastoral experience, but now the dramatic gears are turning.
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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