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Big Windup! – Episode 10

Hello folks, and welcome back to Wrong Every Time. Today I’m delighted to announce we’re returning to Big Windup!, and checking in with the increasingly reliable battery of the anxious pitcher Mihashi and cynical catcher Abe. Big Windup!’s first stretch was largely preoccupied with Mihashi unlearning the bad instincts prompted by his traumatic middle school experience, and gaining the confidence to form a genuine partnership with Abe. With Mihashi having achieved at least a degree of trust in his curmudgeonly catcher, we then turned to Abe’s own history, as he described the frustration of the self-absorbed Haruna sinking his own middle school team’s aspirations.

The symmetry of these experiences points towards Big Windup!’s general understanding of personal psychology, its emphasis on the fact that we are all products of our prior experiences, carrying baggage and preconceptions through which we filter and contextualize any new information. Mihashi’s servile affectation is simply the “solution” to conflict he carried over from middle school, while Abe’s bitterness and need for control are clearly an overcorrection from his time with Haruna. Of course, there’s more to it than that, because humans are complicated: Abe would always be less of a people person given his fiercely analytical mind, while Mihashi’s inherent sensitivity to emotions is part of the reason why he felt the frustration of his prior teammates so deeply. And on top of all that, we’ve got the crunchy mechanical structure of baseball itself, a sport that through its distinct, repeated confrontations of batters and pitchers is uniquely well-suited to tactical feints and mind games.

It’s a rich and nourishing stew of variables, and it’s been far too long since we dug in. Let’s return to the pitch for a fresh episode of Big Windup!

Episode 10

Ah, there’s that flanged guitar and disco hi-hat. Yep, we’re back in the ‘00s again

Though there are obviously anisong genre trends, OPs also frequently just mirror the popular genres of the time. This is of great benefit to ‘00s shows that got to enjoy the Japanese garage rock revival, and of terrible consequence to modern shows that must suffer the fallout of vocaloids and vtubers

Hah, I’d forgotten just how gentle Mihashi’s voice is. Good to see him mentally committing to this battery – he’s no longer thinking in terms of avoiding failure, he’s actively planning for success

Of course, just as Mihashi acknowledges this bond, Abe raises his hand to say they need another pitcher

Mihashi takes this as a sign of distrust or betrayal, but he really shouldn’t. Any baseball team having only a single pitcher is absolutely preposterous – professional teams will have more like four or five, and frequently run through at least three of them in a given game. The incredible physical strain that is pitching is essentially baked into the physical dynamics of a game’s runtime; a tired pitcher will begin to give up runs, and a pitcher that is consistently stretched across games will swiftly wear out his arm for good. Human beings weren’t really designed to throw balls with the speed of professional baseball; every pitch at that speed is a sacrifice of your arm’s long-term health, and that health must be protected, even if only for the pragmatic fact that you want your own best pitchers to keep throwing great pitches

Of course, that necessity often runs at odds with the determination and aspirations of young would-be professionals. As such, it is any great coach’s job to actually limit their stars’ time on the mound, lest they sacrifice their arm’s health to high school games before they even get to the majors

“So his wish to monopolize the mound is still alive and kicking on this team, huh?” A telling reflection from Momoe, revealing she still distrusts Mihashi herself. I’m persistently amused by how this show frames character anxieties and growth – sometimes it’s about growing beyond them, yes, but at other times it’s about exploiting them to the best possible athletic effect

Apparently in middle school, he actually pitched two games a day. As Momoe points out, that was only possible because he was constantly losing, and thus not really pressuring himself – if they’re actually planning to win their games, the amount of effort the pitcher will have to put in will clearly not allow for three to four hundred pitches a week

Tajima swiftly cheers Mihashi up, simply by drawing a “1” on his jersey, emphasizing that he’s still their number one pitcher. Another flourish of this show’s psychological insight – understanding precisely what anxiety of Mihashi’s is being provoked, and finding a way to resolve that without actually changing their plans for the team. Mihashi didn’t actually need to be their perpetual pitcher, he just needed to be assured his position within the team wasn’t being usurped

Momoe sets to work deciding on their next pitcher. Hanae has apparently pitched three games, while Oki the southpaw has pitched five back during middle school

She then suggests Tajima for the substitute catcher, which Abe can see the wisdom in. Tajima not only has a great arm, he actually gets along well with Mihashi

Though hesitant, Tajima is swiftly seduced by Momoe’s extolling of the tricky pitches that catchers must contend with. Some people aren’t so complicated

Momoe also instructs the whole team to work on at least one additional position, which is a smart practice regimen regardless of your sport. When you’re working as a team, it is immensely helpful to know what the requirements of play look like from other positions, so you can better accommodate the needs of those positions when you return to your own

Mizushima generally lets the material speak for itself in this show, but his quiet excellence is clear in the procession of shots as the players practice, with the sightlines of the players’ own perspectives guiding us from one shot to the next with utter smoothness

Still, he’s to an extent limited in adapting a fairly subdued drama. Mizushima’s genius is his mastery of direction itself as a tool for comedy, and that generally requires either an existing comedy to adapt (Witch Craft Works) or an original that is designed from the ground up for his style (Girls und Panzer)

“Stop nodding with that big question mark floating around your head.” Mihashi and Abe still have some fundamental issues of communication – Abe seeks clarity but gets angry when he’s misunderstood, while Mihashi frequently just pretends to understand so people will stop yelling at him, leading to natural friction as Abe gets increasingly frustrated trying to explain himself, making Mihashi all the more likely to try and avoid the conversation

Mihashi reveals his worries extend beyond his own role – he’s scared of losing Abe as well, and thereby returning to his useless former self

And Abe, to his credit, sees the good in this: Mihashi might be frightened, but he’s nonetheless attesting that he now believes he can be a good pitcher, so long as Abe is there

The team collectively chose Hanai as their captain. Little surprise that Abe doesn’t want that pressure; his skills are better employed in the background, anyway

Hanai in turns choses Abe and Sakaeguchi as his sub-captains. The consultant he needs to represent the infield, and a representative of the outfield who’s well-liked by everyone

You can really feel their growing unity and desire to succeed as we cut in back to their regular practices, with all of the players calling ball positioning and congratulating each other for good catches. It might feel arbitrary or insincere at first, but it’s essential practice to actually saying such things earnestly, and also for ensuring the players trust each other. You’re not competing with your teammates, you’re trying to build something that’s greater for all your collective efforts

Mihashi collides with the manager while pacing at the dugout. And she knows it’s his birthday!

Momoe encourages them to study for midterms with a long-winded and oddly personal anecdote about poor grades encouraging slacking in both baseball practice and studying. What happened to you, Momoe?

Excellent faces as she lectures apparent underachievers Mihashi and Tajima

Oh my god, Mihashi. He essentially constructs a fake birthday party for himself by inviting the whole team over to his place to study. He is the saddest boy

Damn, Mihashi’s mom looks overworked. Revealing faces are sort of a trend in this show’s character designs, which makes sense for its persistent interrogation of our unspoken anxieties

Oh my god, even his mother can’t help laughing at him throwing himself a surprise party. How will he ever recover from this

As ever, Tajima is the glue holding this group together, swiftly embracing the fact that this is now a birthday party

It’s unsurprising for a show this interested in human psychology, but also welcome that Mihashi’s mother is also something of an anxious mess. We don’t always grow out of such affectations, I am afraid

And in the end, it becomes a collective team birthday for all the boys whose birthdays have already passed. They’re really trying hard to support each other here, and it’s delightful to see

Even Abe helps boost Mihashi’s confidence in his own sneaky way. Seeing Mihashi’s practice setup, he engineers a situation where Mihashi is asked to throw pitches at specific targets while all the other boys watch. As a catcher with a keen eye, he was already able to appreciate Mihashi’s control – but here, the whole team is allowed to see just how precise Mihashi’s pitching truly is

And just as Mihashi has changed, Abe can now recognize his own growth, and marvel at how petty he was for once assuming he’d just exploit Mihashi’s shyness to his own ends

And Done

Our boys are gonna make it! Well, so long as they don’t actually fail their midterms, that is. But scholastic mediocrity aside, this episode served as a charming affirmation of how far both Abe and Mihashi have come, as they’ve learned not just to communicate effectively as a battery, but to serve as the cornerstone of an ambitious and mutually trusting team. Basically the whole group understands and sympathizes with Mihashi at this point, while other members of the team like Tajima and Hanai are coming into their own as emotional problem-solvers and group leaders. With so much productive growth behind them, I’m eager to see our boys take on some fresh challengers. Bring on the summer games!

This article was made possible by reader support. Thank you all for all that you do.

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