Bankûbâ no Asahi (2014)

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Bankûbâ no Asahi: Directed by Yûya Ishii. With Satoshi Tsumabuki, Kazuya Kamenashi, Ryô Katsuji, Yusuke Kamiji. 1918 -1942 , A Time Period passed . Vancouver Canada , a Japanese Community and the struggles and triumphs they faced , and the Spirit of a Baseball Team that won over many, and overcame barriers . A Story with history embedded in the Museum of Baseball in Vancouver Canada.

“Based on a true story of second-generation Japanese baseball players who are eternal losers until their captain Reggie figures out a way to level the playing field against their taller, beefier, Caucasian Canadian opponents. Their strive for success gives heart to their put-upon community, while also generating conflict across cultures and families.u003cbr/u003eu003cbr/u003eThe waterfront Japantown of early 20th century Vancouver is lavishly recreated in a sprawling set, but that scale is at odds with the modest ambitions of the narrative. Eternal underdogs finally having their day is a well-worn sports genre. Inter-generational conflict in immigrant communities is similarly familiar fare. The heroic arc that would be foregrounded by a Hollywood movie is eschewed here, apparently deliberately, though in favour of what emotional replacement it is difficult to say. The Asahi did go on to penant success, and that fact is depicted across one season when the Asahi turn around their fortunes. In the climactic game, the tension is created by Reggie stealing bases, and his teammates abandoning the bunt plays that have served them well over the season. But then we go to slo-mo, the sound drops off, and when we return to normality the season-clinching moment has passed. The umpire has made his call – off-screen – the opponents are leaving the field, and the crowd is cheering. The Asahi players stand around bewildered, as if they canu0026#39;t believe what has happened. It is a bathetic moment, one that jars because it suggest that the whole project of building self-belief has, in this moment of triumph, collapsed. This moment may be a fumble in the storytelling, or a bold attempt to show the everyday prosaic nature of such moments; either way, it makes for a less than satisfying viewing experience.u003cbr/u003eu003cbr/u003eThe moment is symptomatic of missed opportunities to provide catharsis for the audience. Reggieu0026#39;s sister Emmy has her hopes high for receiving a scholarship, but is refused because of her race. The news is delivered by her teacher and mentor, the woman who nominated her and knows her worth more than most. The mentor forced to deliver news that she considers unjust and goes against her own principles, to a brilliant, blameless student whose life will be changed forever by this decision. Two women, friends, forced apart by cruel social circumstances. The moment is ripe with drama, and yet the Caucasian actress – possibly an extra – delvers her lines flat, is hardly seen, and after a quick reaction shot of Emmy we are back to the baseball. The film is a montage of such missed opportunities and missteps.u003cbr/u003eu003cbr/u003eThe saving grace here is the acting. Satoshi Tsumabuki astutely realises less is more in his portrayal of reluctant leader Reggie. Koichi Sato as his pugnacious, ignorant father is cast against type but pulls it off. Mitsuki Takahata excels, her Emmy being humane, vulnerable, but also exhibiting some steel that inspires the players. A cast of famous Japanese supporting actors keep the level high.u003cbr/u003eu003cbr/u003eUnfortunately, the script gives them very little to work with. There are various little melodramas swirling around the immigrant families and the failed assimilation of the community, but they are lite fare that are less than involving. Strangely, there is not a single romance subplot. Instead, we get a husband who prefers baseball practice to his bean paste family business. A son despairs of his fatheru0026#39;s return to the motherland. A hotel busboy is laid off. These stories are all surface level moments, with no depth, layers, or nuance. A cast of bar customers provides a Greek chorus on events, so the presence of a second chorus, hookers-with-hearts-of-gold who do no more than look down on the games and smile, is superfluous and time-consuming. The players are all supposed to be second-generation Japanese but their English gives the lie to that, while the Canadians seem mostly to have been cast from gaijin extras, exacerbating the gap with the Japanese pros who shine in their use of meagre fare.u003cbr/u003eu003cbr/u003eDomestic audiences will enjoy the triumph of Japanese guile over gaijin brawn, though that message is somewhat tempered by the background newsreels of Japanu0026#39;s expanding military aggression. When Reggie thanks his father for bringing them to Canada, you sense he is more grateful for missing the Japanese draft than for any intrinsic attraction to Canada. International audiences will be less appreciative of the made-for-TV feel to the narrative, and the lack of emotional pay-off.”


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