By Chaz Lipp
I hardly know where to start with director Yūdai Yamaguchi’s 2011 violent baseball comedy Deadball, new on Blu-ray from Well Go USA. I’ve never seen any of Yamaguchi’s previous films (which include Yakuza Weapon, Meatball Machine, and Battlefield Baseball), though they may have prepared me for this bizarre mix of blood, sports, hot women, and general disgustingness. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve seen and enjoyed plenty of Troma films and Deadball is very much in line with that kind of twisted wackiness. I laughed a lot, though I can’t say I imagine the film will stick with me for long.
The plot couldn’t really be much simpler, which allows this Japanese film to translate to English-speaking audiences with ease. Deadball is built around sight gags. Seventeen-year-old Jubeh (Tak Sakaguchi) discovered his deadly fastball at a young age. In fact, his father was a victim of one of those high velocity pitches, leading Jubeh to swear off baseball for life. That is, until he’s thrown in a juvenile detention center more hardcover than the average maximum security prison. It seems Jubeh’s failure to look out for his brother (now presumed dead), coupled with lingering guilt over the accidental killing of his father, led him to a life of crime.
Life in Pterodactyl Juvenile Reformatory is no picnic. The teenage inmates are subjected to viciously aggressive cavity searches. The cook serves soupy puke for breakfast. The chief warden Ishihara (Miho Ninagawa) is the granddaughter of a Nazi collaborator and she has retained much of his sadistic sensibility. However nasty and mean-spirited this all might sound, Yamaguchi and screenwriter Keita Tokaji serve it all up with tongue firmly planted in cheek. You probably already know if this sounds like something which appeals to you, so consider yourself warned if you give it a try.
Jubeh gets coaxed onto the Pterodactyl Gauntlets baseball team and the warden matches them against the St. Black Dahlia High School all-girl team. It’s a death match and the Gauntlets are woefully underwhelming versus the girls. Think of it as a Road Runner cartoon, except with a lot of a hilariously fake-looking CG blood. Baseballs split in half mid-air, revealing razor sharp wire that can (and do) slice off opponents’ appendages. I don’t think it’s too big a spoiler to reveal that Jubeh’s brother Musashi re-enters the situation, because it’s in a way that almost no one will be able to predict.
Deadball was produced cheaply and while it shows, the Blu-ray transfer looks easily adequate. Detail is perhaps just a little lacking, considering there’s a hazy, soft-focus look to some scenes. But overall this is a bright image that looks fine. The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 is even better. Given the live-action cartoon nature of the film, the varied sound effects that whiz around the spectrum sound as good as they should. The Japanese dialogue presents no problems in terms of distortion or related issues.
If you haven’t already guessed by this point, Deadball is definitely not for all tastes. It’s a bloody, gory, gross-out comedy that has little to do with baseball. It is fun though and I recommend it for anyone with a taste for extremely poor taste comedies.