“Please Rely On Me!” The Breaking and Unmaking of Promises in Ookiku Furikabutte
Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform to the Lord what you have sworn.’ But I say to you, Do not take an oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. And do not take an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil.
– Jesus Christ (Matt 5:33-37, ESV)
We have escaped like a bird from the snare of the fowlers; the snare is broken, and we have escaped!
– King David (Psalm 124:7)
In this, my third essay of two on the baseball anime Ookiku Furikabutte or “Big Windup,” (the others can be read here and here) I hope to wrap up what I see as the overarching theme of the two seasons currently in existence. If a third season of this anime ever appears, my “two-part series” will probably expand further. (rim shot)
An important but ill-fated transaction took place early in the first season between pitcher Mihashi Ren and catcher Abe Takaya, when Abe promised that he would never get sick or injured all three years he and Mihashi would form a battery in high school. In return, Abe gave the condition that Mihashi must never shake off a single pitching call of his. The condition Abe placed on the promise arose mainly because, unlike Abe’s junior high battery-mate, Mihashi could throw accurately. When Abe realized to what degree Mihashi lacked self-confidence, he calculated that promising to be his catcher in every high school game would ease Mihashi’s worries – and (by his later admission) deep down also enjoyed the feeling of power Mihashi’s dependence upon him would afford.
Apart from any ulterior motives, there was one glaring weakness with Abe’s promise to catch every game for Mihashi: the promise was by its very nature impossible to keep. How did Abe suppose he could keep a promise never so much as to have the flu on a game day? It would be easy for me to berate Abe further, if I had never made the same mistake myself. Probably most of you have also made such ill-fated promises, or been on the receiving end of such promises.
The Old Testament laws on promise-keeping seem repellant at first, with their elaborate system of penalties to compensate for breaking promises. However, I don’t believe Jesus had any intention of erasing the Levitical system from history. Promise-making is serious business. It puts a person’s trustworthiness and reputation on the line. Perhaps a summary of the teachings of the two Testaments is that one shouldn’t make promises hastily, without due consideration of whether one can in fact keep the promise. So what is to be done when we, like Abe, have made a promise we cannot possibly keep? Worse yet, what if the counterparty to the promise has participated willingly by agreeing to certain conditions?
It is only a matter of time before promises of this kind are broken. In the best case, provided one has the foresight to recognize the situation before the promise is actually broken, the only way out is to unmake the promise. Go back to the other party, explain the situation, and work together to replace the bad promise with a better agreement, one which both sides can in good conscience hope to keep.
If it is too late, and the promise is already broken, the only way forward is for the one who broke the ill-fated promise to humble himself before the other party, as Abe did before Mihashi (much to Mihashi’s surprise, and over his objections at first) in episode 13 of the second season. This is a powerful scene, and perhaps the climax of the entire series as it now stands. Both Abe and Mihashi had to come to grips with their respective roles in the ill-fated promise, the original exchange they made to try to protect themselves and each other in a manner to which neither had the right. Together, the two boys unmake the old promise, breaking its snare, and forge a new agreement, looking forward to a new way of relating to each other and working together.
If we could somehow interview Mihashi and Abe ten years after the events of the second season of Oofuri, I think they’d both say that as devastating as the loss to Bijoudai-Sayama was, the lessons that came of it were so valuable that they wouldn’t change a thing. The foolishness of making unkeepable promises is a life lesson that everyone needs to learn, and the sooner the better. The more immediate issue, as far as the anime is concerned, is how these battery-mates will demonstrate what they’ve learned from this painful but valuable lesson. To see that, we will have to wait for a third season – and if you’re like me, it cannot come too soon.