View Full Version : Battlefield Baseball

08-21-2003, 06:41 AM
Here is a review from midnighteye.com, which is one of the best Japanese cinema sights available, that I would like to share with everyone. Battlefield Baseball or in Japanese Jigoku Koshien which roughly translates to Hell Baseball Ground/Tournament. Long story short it's a baseball zombie horror flick. If you're really interested in Japanese film, midnighteye.com is a great place to learn about it. Enjoy...

The competitive sports genre is an enduringly popular one. The trials and tribulations of both the team and the members of which it is comprised form a natural readymade dramatic backdrop for the action, in which the core values of team spirit, reliance on others, the pride of being part of a collective and the competitive spirit that accompanies the desire to win are extolled. The main appeal is dynamic and of course, like the sport itself, primarily visual. In recent years Japan has given us synchronised swimming in Shinobu Yaguchi's Water Boys (2001) and Ping Pong in Sori Masuri's film of the same name.

Baseball is the school sport of choice in Japan, and on a national level, it's as big as it is in the US. Ken Takakura's stoic coach fought a battle of wills with over-the-hill American ball player Tom Selleck in Fred Schepisi's Mr Baseball (1992), and Takeshi Kitano's Boiling Point (1990) saw two hapless amateur players pitting their wits against the local yakuza. Then there was the celebrated showdown at the baseball stadium in the finale of Akira Kurosawa's film noir-ish post-war thriller Stray Dog (1949), which was later re-staged in Shinji Aoyama's new take on the material in An Obsession (1997).

For certain, Battlefield Baseball is like none of these films. Instead, director Yudai Yamaguchi, in his debut film, gives us a world first - a baseball zombie horror comedy, complete with chainsaws, corpses sailing through the air and high-kicking kung-fu antics. Based on a popular manga story by Gataro Man that ran in the top-selling Monthly Shonen Jump magazine, Battlefield Baseball almost dispenses with the bat and ball altogether, and instead deals up a whole lot more fun in its place, mocking the clichés of the genre in a manner as spirited as it is funny.

The field of dreams to which all school teams aspire in this case is Koshien. Driven by a fanatical coach, the members of the school team at Seido High are literally dying to get there. Unfortunately, their rivals at Gedo High have already died doing so, and the ranks of the team are now swelled with zombies armed to the teeth with an assortment of hard-edged implements.

Seido's crude bullying slugger Gorilla is one of the many wiped out in the early rounds when the two teams first come head to head, but fortunately help is at hand when simpering Megane ("Four Eyes", played by the frog-faced Ito of Boys Choir and Kakuto) falls victim to a gang of violent punks when he goes to retrieve a missing ball. Leaping to Megane's defence comes mean and moody local hardboy, Jubeh The Baseball (Sakaguchi), who immediately catches coach's eye when he fends off an attack by baseball bat from one of Megane's assailants with consummate ease. Jubeh's skills may be the only way to save the day for Seido against the Gedo team's specialised brand of "fighting baseball", but having accidentally slain his father during pitching practice years before, he seems adamant to live his life as a loner rather than bring his skills to the team.

From the very outset, Battlefield Baseball comes at you so fast and furious that it's almost no surprise to find out that its director was a former AD for Ryuhei Kitamura. In fact, it was Yamaguchi who was also responsible for the screenplays for Kitamura's first two features, Versus and Alive. A further giveaway is the presence of Tak Sakaguchi, the star of every one of Kitamura's films up until this point, as Jubeh, and Kitamura listed as one of the producers.

Now I have to confess that personally Versus wasn't entirely to my taste. Whilst you couldn't have asked for much more from the film in terms of action and bloodshed, it was ultimately too reductive to really appeal beyond a limited cult market (though I have to confess that Kitamura has come a very long way since - one of fastest working and most technically adept directors in Japan at the moment, he has four films out in Japan this year alone: Azumi, Alive, Aragami and Skybride, and they all look technically beautiful).

If Yamaguchi's debut sticks with the fast-cutting, airborne kinaesthetic approach of Versus, then it's great to see that he has also managed to bring the comic book humour of the source material to the screen in a manner sorely lacking from that original film's poker-faced posing. Battlefield Baseball is a delirious send up of sports movie clichés and soap opera histrionics (Jubeh breaks into song when explaining the demise of his father). It's a bit raw-edged at times, but the breakneck pacing and irreverent humour mean that Battlefield Baseball is destined to become a cult favourite.

08-21-2003, 06:51 AM
Thanks DDM , I read about this movie awhile ago and have been dying to see it ever since.

Is this on DVD already? or any dates announced?

This is a little picture of this movie I found


08-21-2003, 07:17 AM
It was released in the theaters mid July so it will probably take a couple of months. It may be available in bootleg in Hong Kong. I'll check next time I'm there.

The official websiite is http://www.klockworx.com/jigoku/

The bottom right white circle type spot with three kanji is the trailer. It works best with real player.

08-21-2003, 10:04 PM
thanks alot! I sawa trailer for this a few weeks ago and have been dying to see it ever since. I heard Azumi is coming to DVD soon too:D

08-21-2003, 10:17 PM
Originally posted by aoiookami
I heard Azumi is coming to DVD soon too:D

Sometime this November in Japan. I doubt if it will have any English subtitles in the Japanese release but I wouldn't be surprised if Miramax releases it in the US as part of their deal with Kitamura in the near future.

08-22-2003, 03:10 AM
Cool post Deddevilman, I hope to see on DVD sometime in the near future!

08-23-2003, 12:25 AM
I'm hoping the Azumi DVD will be similar to the Versus and have english subs, I'm keeping my fingers crossed. I dont want Miramax to release it, in fear they will butcher it like Shaolin Soccer