MAPPA’s Latest Anime Oblivion Battery Kicks Off With a Questionable Premiere

The premiere of MAPPA’s latest anime Oblivion Battery premiered on Tuesday and it was underwhelming in some aspects, surprisingly good in others, then just downright awkward in other moments. Baseball anime is few and far between nowadays so I was excited to see what Oblivion Battery could deliver. Unfortunately, it was a simple grounder right to the first baseman.

Oblivion Battery had a decent amount of hype behind it for a few reasons, the obvious one is that it’s yet another MAPPA project. The second is that this is Makoto Nakazono’s anime series director debut, the same person who has worked as an episode director for other popular MAPPA anime including Chainsaw Man and Jujutsu Kaisen as well as popular anime from Studio Trigger such as Little Witch Academia, Kiznaiver, SSSS.GRIDMAN and DARLING in the FRANXX.

The last reason is that it’s the first legitimate baseball anime since Tamayomi and Major 2nd Season 2 aired in 2020. Tribe Nine aired in 2022 but I wouldn’t necessarily consider it a “legitimate” baseball series considering it was basically a death game surrounding a sci-fi world of baseball that almost had almost completely different rules entirely.

The Good

So, what was good about Oblivion Battery? For one, I’d say some of the animation and camera angles used, specifically at the beginning, were a step up from other big-name baseball anime that re-use the same shots over and over, like Ace of the Diamond had a tendency to do. There was personality in each of the players’ movements that felt hyper-realistic in a good way. So there was no doubt some creativity from Nakazono’s storyboard work and direction in this premiere I gotta tip my cap to.

There’s one scene in particular that stood out to me the most in which we see the character Haruka Kiyomine standing with his back turned to home plate as all the different ballparks are showcased in a flash as a way to show how far he can truly go as a pitcher. This scene ended in T-Mobile Park, which is home to the MLB’s Seattle Mariners and the famous Hall-of-Fame Japanese outfielder Ichiro Suzuki.

I’d say another good part of this series premiere was the story surrounding Kei Kaname and the amnesia he’s dealing with. While we didn’t even get the full story of what caused his amnesia in the first place, it was an interesting angle to take, especially when we consider he’s the catcher in his battery with Haruka and he’s damn good at what he does too.

I expect that his story will be told sooner rather than later and that it has to do with baseball itself. Perhaps he took a pitch to the head and that’s what caused his amnesia? It’s almost as if he has a main character storyline set up. “Kie Kaname, the genius catcher of Japan’s most fearsome young battery, suffers amnesia after a brutal pitch to the head. His best friend Haruka, Japan’s most sought-after pitching prospect, does everything he can to help him regain his memory through the game which they grew up loving-baseball. Can the best 1-2 battery across Japan rekindle what they once were in this newly formed club at their high school? Or will Kie’s amnesia tarnish both of their careers?” sounds like one hell of an interesting baseball story.

Unfortunately, it sort of felt like a side story in what is Taro Yamada’s own of joining his high school baseball club with Kie and Haruka after deciding to quit baseball entirely. Even though Crunchyroll’s official synopsis of the story says differently, it’s what it felt like.

The Questionable

On that note, the Oblivion Battery series premiere left a lot to be desired. The storytelling is a little off. Firstly, because the opening scene dealt with the main characters of the series and we don’t have a firm grasp on who the real MC is. Is it Haruka and Kie? Is it Yamada? Is it the former’s story told through the latter’s eyes? It was a little muddy.

Is this the story of Kie and Haruka or the story of Yamada? When we look at the official synopsis, it’s clear as day this is about Kie and Haruka, right? But when the main characters don’t feel like the main characters in some moments, it’s hard to follow which route the series will go down. It could diverge into the main story as the series progresses, sure. But for now, I was left wondering who really is the main character and who isn’t during the season premiere.

The humor in the premiere also felt somewhat forced. As someone who hasn’t read the source material, I can’t speak on a proper adaptation or not. That being said, some of the jokes simply didn’t land for me as they felt out of place. Others did make me chuckle a few times here and there, especially when Kie is struggling to hold his catching stance, but for establishing a serious story surrounding high schoolers and baseball, it leaned a little too heavy into the humor and not enough into the story despite something interesting being established.

The characters themselves also didn’t hit home any runs for me either. Haruka seems like the typical, cool, dark-hair character with tons of talent while Kie is the noisy, loud-mouth bright-hair colored character who flips his talent switch the moment a game starts. Then Yamada is…well, Yamada. He didn’t offer much other than being a pair of dugout eyes in the Oblivion Battery premiere. However, I’m not dismissing the characters or their possible developments—it’s only the first episode.

The Ugly

The one thing that stood out more than anything is how the characters’ facial features seemed completely out of proportion with the rest of their heads, or vice versa. The facial expressions were weird in an offputting way at times, like when Haruka was pitching at the end of the episode, his facial expression remained the same throughout his entire windup, and others where I wasn’t supposed to laugh, but I did, strictly because I was wondering what happened to their faces in some moments.

Whether this was the result of a rushed production or if it was for some reason intentional, you can’t watch the Oblivion Battery series premiere without noticing it. Some of the character animations while in the middle of playing the game were also noticeably choppy at times, but I think the storyboard work compensated at times. That being said, it just didn’t seem like the premiere lived up to the quality with the resources poured into it—a hungry director with a stacked cast of voice actors.

Oblivion Battery Premiere Wrap-Up

There are some anime that you can just tell you might not like off of the first episode alone. Luckily, Oblivion Battery isn’t one of them. The possibility of a great story developing is there despite its flaws in the premiere. I’m both excited and worried to see what the series becomes going forward, but I’ll always try to stay positive.

Episode 1 rating: 6/10

If you enjoyed the Oblivion Battery series premiere then be sure to vote for it in our weekly poll! Episode 2 will be released on Tuesday, April 16. Crunchyroll is streaming Oblivion Battery with English subtitles.

Images via Crunchyroll
© Eco Mikawa/Shueisha, KADOKAWA, MAPPA