Subtlety in Battery
I was glad to discover that Summer 2016 brought with it a promising sports anime—even if Battery is more of a drama than a pure sports anime from what I can tell. Baseball in Battery seems to be a vehicle for story and drama rather than a focus, but I’m fine with that. The show doesn’t attempt to hype up the actual sports-play (think Haikyuu!! showing off Hinata’s jump in Episode 1), but instead spends its first episode establishing character and mood. Appropriately, the directing functioned in service of character and mood instead of the excitement of the sport. Exciting is one of the last words I’d use to describe this episode, but ‘subtle’ is one of the first. Let’s take a look at one scene in particular.
As Takumi and Go play catch, we begin to see tensions rise. Go pesters Takumi about his pitches being weak, capitalizing on a trigger established earlier by saying “anybody could throw a pitch like that.” From his conversation with his grandfather, we know Takumi doesn’t want anyone to throw pitches he himself can’t throw, so we also know he values his own pitches as being unmatchable. Takumi then angrily orders his brother (whom Takumi has been nothing but gentle and kind to thus far) to get his cleats and starts throwing more serious pitches. Takumi’s shift in attitude and tone clue us in that he’s starting to take this game of catch seriously.
Go struggles to catch Takumi’s serious pitches cleanly, so now it’s Takumi’s turn to badger Go. All along, Takumi’s grandfather is watching. At first, he stands out in the open, as if he’s thinking about speaking up or giving advice.
Eventually, he leans behind a nearby pole, masking his presence and allowing the boys to sort out their issues on their own. Takumi and Go don’t seem to be clicking. Takumi’s pitches popping out of Go’s hand is a basic, but effective, symbol of this.
Once Go finally catches Takumi’s pitch and the boys begin to mesh as a duo, a shot of the street reveals that Takumi’s grandfather has left. He knows the boys have sorted out their issues and now their future as ball players looks bright.
Without any words or in-your-face directing, Battery conveys all of Takumi’s grandfather’s motivations, intentions, and thoughts. The way he is present in the scene—or whether he even is present—tells us all we need to know about what he’s thinking. Though we may often overlook details in the background, we’ll always notice a character from the main cast such as Takumi’s grandfather. By placing him in the background, his movements don’t interrupt the main action of the scene, yet he remains visible enough that we can read into his feelings. Battery’s deftness in layering such information on top of Takumi and Go’s bonding game of catch has me convinced that this show will be one of the season’s best.