Sunday, 29 June 2014
I started this blog on June 23rd last year. So this post marks a full year of posting, not very much of it in the last months. That's likely to continue (or get worse) for the next few months, as I struggle to meet a work deadline. For now, here's the next review.
バッテリー (Battery, 1996) is the first in a series of six children's novels of the same title by あさのあつこ (ASANO Atsuko, born 1954). I haven't read Battery II-VI, published from 1998 to 2005, so I don't know how the story goes on from here. There's a film with the same title from 2007 and a television series from 2008; but I haven't seen them and don't know whether they're based on the whole series or only part. The first book is structured as a complete narrative, with a ring composition motif in the titles of the first and final chapters; but a lot of elements of the story are still only slightly developed at the end of the book. American readers will probably recognise the use of the word "battery" in the title, which according to Wikipedia, "refers collectively to the pitcher and the catcher" in a baseball team. I'm English, and I don't know much about baseball. So I can't say how well it's portrayed.
The book follows twelve year old Takumi (巧), who had been the star pitcher in his primary school team, as his family moves to a new town, over a few weeks of the spring holiday before he starts middle school. Takumi is the book's main character, convinced of his own ability as a pitcher, and with no interest in anyone around him (almost every chapter has him saying, "As if that matters" or "What's that got to do with me?" more than once). Takumi's family are returning to their home town. His father has been transferred there after becoming ill from overwork in his previous position. They are moving in with Takumi's maternal grandfather. Takumi is happy about this, as his grandfather was very active in baseball. His mother is less happy. She had felt that her father neglected her for sports, and in reaction had married a man with no interest in baseball. In particular she is worried that he will involve her younger son, Seiha (清波). Seiha had been seriously ill when he was younger, and his mother now treats him over-protectively. Seiha wants to play baseball too; but Takumi is hardly willing to acknowledge his existence. (It isn't clearly stated, but I think it's implied that the family neglected Takumi when Seiha was sick, and that Takumi resents him.) Beyond the family, the most important character is Gou (豪), like Takumi a boy about to move up to middle school, and a baseball catcher. Takumi is relentlessly concentrated on his own achievements. Gou is more easy going and kinder, noticing the feelings of those around him.
The story follows Takumi's interactions with his family and with Gou and other baseball playing boys. The narrative and dialogue style is simple but lively, painted in a few bright colours. Much of the narrative follows what is going on inside Takumi's head. His thoughts tend to go round in circles, which is realistic, but a little wearying to read. The story progresses (not very fast) through conversations, where everyone brings out into the open underlying issues without much reserve, but without ever getting to any resolution either.