Battery – Review
Reviewed by: Tom
Original Air Dates: July 13, 2016 to September 22nd, 2016
Synopsis: Harada Takumi is the best pitcher in the region and he’s not even in Junior High yet. However, Takumi finds himself increasingly frustrated as he’s unable to find a catcher who can keep up with him. When his family moves to a backwater town, his frustration only gets worse until he comes to meet one Nagakura Go….
REVIEW (WARNING: SOME SPOILERS TO FOLLOW):
If you’re going to watch Battery it won’t be for the sport. Battery has little real interest in Baseball, which acts mostly as a backdrop to the drama that unfolds throughout its eleven episode run. Characters rarely take to the field for more than practice, and on the rare occasion they do matches, of which there are very few, they last no more than half an episode, if that.
Rather, the focus of Battery is on its characters, particularly the struggling relationship between Takumi and his budding friend, Go. The show tries to paint their friendship as one riddled with Takumi’s ego and obsession with baseball. Go and Takumi are meant to form a Battery, a concept underplayed in the west, the union between Pitcher and Catcher. But every time these two seem on the cusp of making a breakthrough and growing closer, Battery essentially resets them to day one. After a while you’ll feel like you’re going round and round as Takumi and Go struggle with the same issues that never ever evolve.
It doesn’t help that most characters are inexplicably rude to one another, happy to throw out insults, make threats and more. But it’s never really clear why everyone is so obnoxious. Characters berate and insult one another on a frequent basis, some incidents even culminating in abrupt violence that will take you completely by surprise. But it rarely feels natural, or earned.
One particular instance occurs in the back half of the series, between another duo of characters struggling in their friendship, Shun and Shugo. These two boys from another school and baseball team have a very awkward friendship, at times seemingly adversarial, but mostly ill-defined as Battery doesn’t seem interested on feeling us in on the details. But when Shun attacks Shugo it feels sudden, abrupt, and entirely out of pace. It speaks to a greater problem Battery suffers from– It has a message, but it doesn’t know how to get its point across. In fact, there’s even dialogue that speaks directly to this, as the coach and captain of Takumi’s team converse about Takumi and Go’s Battery issues, yet neither can convey via words what the trouble between the two really is. This moment hammers home how Battery cannot define its central theme and issues.
Despite the asshole-like nature of the majority of its characters, there’s a couple bright spots in the cast otherwise: Takumi’s brother, Seiha, a young boy who dreams of playing baseball just like his brother, is really too good for the world of Battery, to the point where you have to wonder if he’s about to die of cancer. There’s also Takumi’s grandfather, a more nuanced and kinder voice within the narrative, but he’s given such a backseat that he feels as disconnected as Seiha from the otherwise sociopathic main cast.
The above is all the wrong reasons to keep watching but, like a train wreck, it’s hard to look away. However by this point I’d really encourage anyone to do so as Battery’s final episodes just aren’t worth the journey. The story focuses on Takumi’s obsession with baseball to the exclusion of all else. It’s a fine narrative, but because Takumi never develops, and we just go round and round in his relationship with Go, you never feel like you’re making any progress. And even if the surprise asshole-ish behavior is amusing, it starts to wear thin as so very few characters are actually likable or, more importantly, relatable.
It doesn’t help that once you really become aware that all these characters are in middle school, it seems outright absurd that they’re taking baseball this seriously. Characters talk as if they’re much older, and in fact one character’s dialogue is much more in line with someone in their late twenties, or even early thirties rather than the raw age of fifteen. Fifteen.
As if any of that wasn’t already an issue, the final episode struggles to make one last attempt to hammer home its central theme and message, but falls flat on its face. The episode opens with a dream-like sequence as Takumi is approached by a walking, talking, baseball that disturbingly reminds me a lot of the Dwarf in the Flask from Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood as it scolds him to focus on baseball and nothing else. Whether you want to go the extra mile and read this as the inclusion of a supernatural element or not, the entire thing feels hamfisted, thrown in, and out of place.
Capping the entire affair off is an ending that lacks closure. Now, obviously Battery, like most anime, is based upon preexisting material. Specifically the Battery story originated as a short Light Novel series (six volumes). It was first adapted into an audio drama spanning ten episodes, then an eight volume manga, followed by a live-action film, then a ten episode TV drama, and finally this anime. Without access to any of the other forms it’s tough to know exactly what’s going on with this adaptation, but I’ll assume for the moment that Batter could only adapt so much of the original six light novels, or eight volumes of the manga. It’s not uncommon for anime to adapt a story part way, but even then they usually offer some form of closure, either through capping off the current arc, or providing a sense of evolution for its characters. But Battery offers none of that. Takumi and Go are just as hopeless a duo as when we started, and the arc concerning Takumi’s attempts to out-pitch rival team leader Shugo is left hanging. The ending screams as if Battery feels it’s delivered some profound message, one that doesn’t require finishing off the narrative surrounding Takumi and his internal struggles, but that just doesn’t ring true. There’s no epiphany to replace that much needed narrative end and without something, anything to make the journey feel worthwhile, Battery is practically worthless as a watch.
One point worthy of praise is the animation. Zero-G, the studio behind Battery’s adaptation, does a remarkable job for their first effort. Sure, some long shots look a little sloppy, and character’s outlines feel a bit weak and thin, and a handful of characters share a bit too much resemblance, making some scenes confusing as you try and figure out which character is which, but otherwise Zero-G shows significant promise and I only hope their next venture is even better.
I had some enjoyment here and there, and when I originally wrote our Mid Season Review I was satisfied to enjoy Battery as this odd parade of assholes as everyone was right dicks to one another. But now having felt the sting of an entirely unimpactful ending with zero closure I can’t help but feel I’ve wasted my time. I urge you to stay away from Battery, unless watching people be major douche bags to one another sounds like a fun idea in and of itself. But if you want something worthwhile, an ending that’s satisfying and makes the journey feel worth it, know Battery offers nothing at all like that in its final moments.
Battery is available for streaming via Amazon.com.