Japanese manga adaptations tend to be absurd–at the same time amateurish and sublime, as all the actors in Battlefield Baseball keep a straight face throughout. The movie’s low budget, so very few of the punches connect and waiting for Versus’s Sakaguchi to have similar, beautifully choreographed fight scenes (even with Kitamura producing) is in vain. Most of the fight scenes are slow motion, absurdly stylized. Battlefield Baseball, while keeping (I imagine) the manga’s plot line, is also a very well-conceived rip on sports movies. Not being a fan of that genre, I didn’t notice any direct references, but the overbearing, sappy melodramatic music as the characters embrace or realize baseball’s all about friendship… it works beautifully.
There’s a significant problem with the film’s structure though. It’s split in to three parts, the lengthy introduction–complete with Sakaguchi singing about himself (one of two great musical sequences)–the baseball game, then the attack on the enemy team’s “Invincible Hell Island,” or something to that effect. The movie’s best when it’s dealing with the absurdities in a mildly realistic setting (the obsessive school principal), the pseudo-sappy moments and so on. The rest doesn’t quite work (particularly the running gag of a constantly reincarnating villain turned hero)… it’s sometimes cute, sometimes funny, but it doesn’t actually work… much like the film’s frequent saunters into misogyny.
Sakaguchi is more of a screen presence than a good actor and he carries the film quite well (though, like I said… keeping a straight face through this one is a sign of some acting quality). The best performance is from the principal, whose name I can’t find online (IMDb is useless for Japanese films).
The director shoots the locations, for the first half hour, rather well and it makes it rather unfortunate the film doesn’t stick to those settings. Good cinematography, a little flat, but good.
I was expecting a lot less from Battlefield Baseball, but it has some good laughs in it–and it knows how to build a joke, particularly the big reveal at the end.
Directed by Yamaguchi Yudai; screenplay by Kiriyama Isao, Takatsu Ryuichi and Yamaguchi, based on the manga by Man Gatarô; edited by Kakesu Shuichi; produced by Kitamura Ryuhei and Satani Hidemi; released by Klock Worx Co.
Starring Sakaguchi Tak (Jubei), Ito Atsushi (Megane) and Sakaki Hideo (Hôichi).