#2: Taking the Next Step with Touch

Touch is the kind of show that’s often glossed over and ignored because of its episode length. It’s a perfectly understandable assessment, as not everyone has the sort of time to commit to a show like that. For someone like me who often likes to experience stories at once, I like the marathon approach simply because of the immediacy of story; characters change over time, and seeing them do so within a short timeframe allows me to take a closer look at the big picture, rather than pay attention to the minute-to-minute minutiae of whether or not changes, or how they do if at all.

On the flip side, however, I really enjoy shows that take their sweet time at making incremental changes to a person. For stories that span a year or more, it allows me to slowly digest the manner in which a person grows throughout their story arc, and the best subset of stories that employ this particular quality is that of the sports/competition narrative. I watched shows like Chihayafuru, whose second season aired in 2013 and brought the episode count to that magic yearlong; like Aikatsu, whose second year of episodic continuity has only recently started and continues to slowly bring about change in its cast in the most wonderful ways; I’ve come to enjoy these particular shows the most, as the gradual pace the story allows us to grow old with the characters themselves.

The best thing about Touch is how the show’s length essentially forces me to take my time with this show, to see the change of Tatsuya Uesugi and paint a picture of the developmental curve that he undergoes as a function of the influences of certain presences in his life, namely those of his twin brother Kazuya, his childhood friend and love interest Minami Asakura, and his friend and mentor (frientor?) Shohei Harada.

Yet, despite how apparent his developmental influences are in his life throughout the story, none of them are more mysterious to me than that of his underclassman, Takeshi Yoshida. Watching the resolution of his arc, if you really want to call it that, I’ve come to truly accept the reality of his situation. While you can probably read into his character as a sort of contrived foil for Tatsuya in the absence of his brother and the not-yet-arrival of Akio Nitta that fills in the gap in between important events like the heavily emphasized Koshien tournaments and qualifiers. Yoshida’s presence is convenient, but feels all too real at the same time because of how jarring his development is compared to Tatsuya’s.

Unlike Tatsuya, who spends the entire series going at his own gradual pace to improve, Yoshida takes an even more interesting curve, initially appearing as a non-threat to Tatsuya’s title of Ace Pitcher; in life, as well as on the field, Yoshida seemingly settles for less, and is perfectly content with idolizing from afar and developing by himself in order to chase his internalized, yet somewhat detached ideals. It’s at the point where Yoshida realizes that he is actually capable of earning that position over Tatsuya — having accelerated incredibly, yet convincingly in his development — that he makes a conscious push to compete with him.

What makes me so fascinated about this sudden change in attitude is how it completely goes against the slow pace that Touch has given with Tatsuya’s development as a pitcher; in fact, that juxtaposition makes such a great statement in regards to real life. Everyone and everything develops at their own pace, and is never suited to fit that of someone who wants to progress in something, whether it’s becoming a kaibutsu or whatever one’s career may be.

This is quite amazing, because those moments are inevitable for one’s development in anything. Even Tatsuya needed that one moment in that series to push him in the direction that he’s headed at the time of me writing this (I’m only halfway through). While life is fraught with plateaus that people hopelessly stare at and struggle against for long, agonizing periods of time, it only takes a single moment for someone to simply see the way through and take the next step and blast off from there.

My life, as difficult as it is for me to admit this, is nothing but turning the corner, making it over those cusps that punctuate the end of arduous streaks of boredom and/or frustration. This entire year for me has nothing but an experience in going past a particular cusp of my life, separating that of uncertainty and not knowing what my future holds for me, and suddenly knowing what you want to do, or making a random discover about something you really love.

It’s that realization that something is so important to you that you simply cannot go back to stagnancy. Once the way is opened, you have no choice but to keep plowing and see the opportunities that are available as a result of that single development. For music, that moment was a quiet night in my room in a high-rise in a Toronto suburb, and I had played Nirvana’s Polly on the guitar and sang along to it. For anime, that moment was when Naota swung his guitar at the satellite in FLCL. For relationships, well, I’ll save that one for tomorrow.

The idea here is that there’s nowhere else to go but up once that corner has been turned, and somehow, to hideously stifle Yoshida’s moment by putting him on the bus and having him never return. What really frustrates me the most about this is that Touch, as a result, communicates favor of slow and steady development over punctuated, yet rapid changes; through Yoshida’s removal from the cast, the show feels like it’s dismissing the viability of that approach altogether. From a narrative standpoint, it doesn’t fit the show’s intended length and the pace that it’s trying to deliberate, but to portray both at odds with each other is something that could have been amazing for me to watch as someone who identifies much more strongly with the latter camp. I certainly wouldn’t have minded if Tatsuya won in that respect; to not even give an opportunity for Yoshida to lose to him prevents this show from truly speaking to me. It was getting there, but somehow never arrived at all.

That isn’t to say I don’t love Touch. It’s fantastic in what it does, and I can still love something that I don’t necessarily resonate with. I’m just glad that I was able to identify this moment in the show and think to myself that I don’t need a story to tell me how I should live my life; my life is its own story, even if it’s one that will never be suitable for anime, no matter how many or how few episodes it takes to tell it. I’m my own person, and I’ve recently turned the corner and can see plenty of opportunities for myself going forward.

I’m simply glad that Touch has been there for each moment along the way.

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