Battlefield Baseball (2003)

Directed by Yudai Yamaguchi
Written by Yudai Yamaguchi & Isao Kiriyama

Finally we get to what is easily the most unique entry on the baseball movie marathon, and perhaps in all baseball movies ever. Why? Battlefield Baseball, despite its name which actually very accurately describes what is happening in this film, is hardly about baseball at all. That may seem contradictory, but what “Battlefield Baseball” is does not exactly align with what we know as “Baseball” in the traditional sense. The film also follows no known conventions of the baseball movie, while also somehow following the standard convention of a baseball movie. None of this makes any sense, and neither does the movie, but what sets Battlefield Baseball apart from the rest of the bunch is the fact that is is very much a baseball film, but it inserts characters and concepts which are so foreign to the formula otherwise.

The Koshien Tournament in Japan, for those unaware, is perhaps the biggest sporting event in a baseball crazed Japan. The most prestigous high school tournament around, the principal of Seido High School has high hopes with his star player, Gorilla. But when the Head Teacher informs Principal Kocho they must play Gedo High, whose on field tactics push the envelope, to get there, his hopes are dashed. But when new student Judeh shows his baseball fighting prowess, Kocho once again has hope heading into the literal battle between Seido and Gedo, which includes little baseball, and mostly fighting and killing, Battle Royale style, until one team no longer has any living players and the opposition is crowned champion.

If all this sounds like nonsense thus far and you’ve stuck around, good on you, and hopefully you stick around long enough to be persuaded to check out this incredible gem. Of course, in order to enjoy a movie like this, you must first suspend all disbelief and really just give yourself over to what Yamaguchi and co. are doing with this film adapted from a manga by Gataro Man. Battlefield Baseball never takes itself seriously, and neither should you. I was immediately drawn into the film from the opening 20 minutes on, as the film very quickly communicates the tone and comedy that will follow. We are introduced not just to the concept of “Battlefield Baseball”, but also the legend of Yudeh and much much more.

As I said in my introduction, the baseball movie formula is there: promising team who must face a daunting opponent who is then helped by a new star player on their way to a championship. We’ve seen that movie before, but never in the style provided by Yamaguchi. There are fight scenes, which border on horror. There are comedy scenes. And there are even musical scenes which push the envelope of trying to define this film even further. The savior character of Yudeh is played to perfection by Tak Sakaguchi, who embodies everything in a hero while playing the character fairly straight in the face of the otherwise ridiculous tone of the film, which only makes it even funnier.

I think the appeal of a movie like Battlefield Baseball, especially within the context of a baseball movie marathon but also just generally, is just how different it is, and how funny. It definitely comes across as a second rate, or B, movie with its shody production values and otherwise ridiculous action scenes, but in many ways that is the precise charm of a movie like Battlefield Baseball, which certainly would not be as effective, funny, or entertaining if it were to take itself any more serious than it already doesn’t. It’s a stupid movie, completely stupid. But it’s also completely refreshing and entertaining, good for more than a few laughs and eye rolls.

***1/2 – Great

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