Swing With All Your Might! Courage, Loss, and Renewal in Ookiku Furikabutte

At the end of the first season of Oofuri, we left Coach Momoe and the ten boys on her Nishiura High baseball team savoring a hard-won victory against a stronger team in their first summer tournament. But rather than sharing responsibilities jointly with his battery-mate, Abe the catcher is more or less using Mihashi the pitcher (or really, Mihashi’s accurate throwing arm) as an extension of himself. Abe has expressly forbidden Mihashi to shake off any of his signs, and in return has promised Mihashi never to be sick or injured during their three years of playing together. While this ill-fated exchange seems to help Mihashi gain self-confidence, it cannot be healthy for the long term. Another weak point is that Nishiura’s bench is occupied by a single reserve player, Nishihiro Shintarou. While he is surely improving, Nishihiro seems a long shot for a starting position anytime soon. As if this weren’t enough, each game that Nishiura plays amounts to more data for their future opponents.

To guess that Nishiura must lose a game sometime during the second season of Oofuri neither requires much talent at guessing, nor constitutes much of a spoiler. Near the end of this losing game, after Abe has been injured after all, Nishihiro must leave the bench and join his teammates. To his horrible luck, Nishihiro comes up to bat at the bottom of the ninth inning, with two outs, and his team behind by a convincing margin. Terror written all over his face, Nishihiro rises to face the opponents’ closing pitcher, as Coach Momoe gives him the signal: Omoikkiri futtekinasai! “Swing with all your might!”

Ookiku Furikabutte Nishiro
Supported by the crowds, Nishihiro gives it his all

The outcome of Nishihiro’s at-bat is all too predictable, but we must not overlook the courage it took for him to try his hardest in facing this outcome. When the Nishiura team runs over to the stands to thank their fans and the cheering squad for their support, the look of courage on team captain Hanai’s face is too important to miss, cartoony as it may be. Meanwhile, standing next to Hanai, Nishihiro understandably needs all his remaining strength just to hold it together for a few more seconds.

Ookiku Furikubatte Nishi and Hanai
Not one but two courageous young men

Many would say that courage involves “reaching within” to find the strength to achieve at our best level, in spite of our fear. To Christians, this idea is at best incomplete. We Christians see courage not only as a good character quality that we must strive to acquire and cultivate, but also as a gift bestowed on us as we depend on God to provide it, at those times when (however figuratively) our legs feel leaden as we rise to face a challenge that we may not avoid or flee. “When I am afraid,” said David to God in Psalm 56:3, “I will put my trust in you.” There is no contradiction in saying that courage involves both a reaching outward in faith toward the one who can make us stand, and a reaching inward to do our level best. Yes, faith in a sovereign God who is able to deliver us is important, and the God in whom we place this faith is the most important of all, but this does not relieve us of the responsibility to excel for his sake.

Courage to try one’s hardest in the face of scant odds. Loss in spite of that courage. And yet, coming out of that courage and that loss, the hope for renewal. When Mihashi and Abe had a long-overdue talk after the game, I couldn’t have been more surprised to see Abe not only apologizing to Mihashi for his part in the ill-conceived agreement they had made, but also doing so while bowing in the style of his culture. Mihashi and Abe decide to work together in a new way, based on not dependence but interdependence: “I’ve always relied on you, Abe-kun. I’ll try my hardest, so please, rely on me too!”

Ookiku Furikubatte Mihashi and Abe
Ore wo tayottekure! (“Please rely on me!”)

Whatever our individual perspectives may be, the applications to our own lives seem pretty easy to draw out. Who has not experienced heartbreaking losses in spite of one’s best efforts? Who does not need courage to face those times when such losses seem imminent? And who does not depend on cherished and trusted friends while trying to grow after experiencing these losses (for losses in life are inevitable)? As for me, I’d never have expected to learn so much from this oddball group of boys, and animated ones at that. Put me down firmly in the category of those who hope for a third season of Ookiku Furikabutte, to see how a new kind of battery will lead this baseball team.

This post was written by co-blogger R86.  Please read his previous post about Ookiku Furikabutte, or continue to the next in the series: Please Rely On Me!”

14 thoughts on “Swing With All Your Might! Courage, Loss, and Renewal in Ookiku Furikabutte

  1. I really agree with your statment, “Yes, faith in a sovereign God who is able to deliver us is important, and the God in whom we place this faith is the most important of all, but this does not relieve us of the responsibility to excel for his sake.”

    It’s so easy for me to sit back and say ‘it’s okay. God’s in charge, so I don’t need to worry about it.’ It’s so hard for me to take responsibility or take on a new or difficult goal without stressing. I look at anime characters or even Bibical figures and want to have the same persevering traits as they do (perfectionist, much?). Then I get stressed, say “Here God, it’s yours” and run away. I think faith and courage show the most when we both work hard to succeed and trust God to help us through the rough spots.

    I really need to watch this show. These posts make it sound great!

    1. That reminds me of one of the objects of prayer. While God can work miracles, He tends to use US to accomplish his work instead. Thus, through prayer, we often become convicted to do His work. God is in charge and directs us, but He wants us to be the ones to show His love to the world.

      And by the way, it is an excellent show (well, what I’ve seen thus far – I’m only a few episodes in myself).

  2. It is amazing how God can use even something like anime to teach us things, isn’t it? This whole thing about an “external God-granted power that rests upon an individual” has dominated my thoughts for the last 5-6 years, and my next two columns for this website will be more or less on that topic. For me, the idea keeps popping up in the most unlikely anime shows.

    And yes, “Oofuri” is well worth watching. Amongst “Oofuri,” “Major,” and “Cross Game,” it is easily my favorite. Incidentally, TWWK, are you going to continue that co-blogging thing? I can definitely add grist to that mill if it will help. *poke poke*

    Thanks again for reading! 🙂

    1. I’m definitely going to continue…as soon as I start watching again, hehe. Summer Wars, Witch Hunter Robin, and, er, sleep have gotten in the way of me watching Oofuri lately. But coincidentally enough, I’m off to watch an episode RIGHT NOW.

  3. Having now watched the entire series, I can appreciate your posts better. Thanks for the wonderful pair of posts on the series – it really helped me put a handle on the show’s themes.

    Hmmm…could a third post (hinted at when you discussed Abe’s apology) be forthcoming somewhere down the line?

    1. An interesting idea to be sure. Perhaps it’s just as true that this show is about Abe’s growth as it is about Mihashi’s growth? Who knows, maybe if we knew more about Mizutani or Suyama, we’d find it’s just as much about their growth too.

      To your question, for me the real climactic moment is not Abe’s apology itself, but soon after, when Mihashi delivers to Abe the line I mentioned, “Ore wo tayottekure!” Watch Abe carefully. He is completely taken aback, in fact almost mists up, but catches himself just in time.

      I have to stop now, before I give you your third essay right here. I’m watching the show again with my friends, and still notice details like this that I didn’t see before. While I can’t give you an outright No in answer to your question, I will say that if we get that third season of “Oofuri” as I hope we do, there will most definitely be more for me to write. Unless they completely screw it up, which they’d better not! 🙂

        1. I believe the manga went on hiatus for a while, but subsequently continued. Last I checked, it was selling well in Japan. Of course this is no guarantee of another season of the anime, but let’s hope so.

          In the meantime, there’s always “Moshidora,” which I thought was no “Oofuri” but should do the job if it’s baseball anime you’re craving. Or you can always watch “Touch,” which I will skip because I watched the entire run of “Major.” 😉

          1. I’m more craving Oofuri…

            Touch is on my list, of course – you know how I like Adachi’s work (Cross Game). And I’ll (eventually) get around to returning to Moshidora!

            1. >Hmmm…could a third post (hinted at when you discussed
              >Abe’s apology) be forthcoming somewhere down the line?

              This method of planting a little hint is what I like to call “crude but effective.” 🙂 I’m about to watch the second season of “Oofuri” with my friends — they for the first time, and I for the third — and I go into it thinking there is something super important about Abe’s growth that I am almost but not quite understanding, that will take place there.

              It starts with the ill-fated exchange of promises I mentioned in my first essay, and continues through the moment in the Tousei game when Abe got angry at Mihashi in a manner that seemed out of proportion even for him, along with related comments made later by Abe, Tajima, and Sakaeguchi. This will continue through the events I brought up in this second essay. In any event, I am as certain as I know how to be that I should watch the second season putting Abe at the center this time, not Mihashi.

              Either that, or it’s just a silly cartoon about a bunch of boys with big eyes and weird hair who play baseball, and I’m wasting my time. 😉

              Finally, it goes without saying that if there ever really is a third season of “Oofuri,” I will be all over co-blogging on it. 😀

              1. The second season of the show is dynamite. There’s something to the whole “Abe’s growth” angel, and in fact, I think the second season reflects more growth on the catcher’s part than on Mihashi’s, even if he isn’t in the forefront. Actually, so many of the characters grow during the second season – ah, so much going on! Such a wonderful show – I’m so glad you introduced me to it.

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