Baseball prodigy, Jubeh Yakyu (played by Yudai Yamaguchi’s regular Tak Sakaguchi) is the most feared juvenile delinquent in all of Japan. I decided to review this film with the recent announcement of Tak’s retirement. Deadball starts with the main character being goaded by his father. He wants him to throw his fastball without holding back. After rocketing himself into the clouds by some imaginary force of will, he pitches it to his father whose response is disbelief. Then horror. As his father is dying from the impact of the un-catchable ball, our anti-hero promises never to pitch again. While some specious narrative did continue, however poorly, my concentration didn’t. So, these insane Japanese gore films are extremely hit and miss, and Deadball is one of these disgustingly extreme, mentally deranged and incomprehensibly preposterous Japanese gore films; only this time it centers itself around baseball.
Deadball is an unofficial follow-up to the director’s earlier film, Battlefield Baseball. I’d imagine that this will go down especially well with fans of Battlefield Baseball, of course, but there’s every chance that other folks may find this a lot more entertaining than I did, especially if you’re a bigger fan of this particular brand of humor. Deadball, for example, is a micro-budgeted comedy/horror that purposely defies all logic and sense of realism from start to finish in order to cram in as much deranged splat-stick nonsense as possible, including such mind-boggling strangeness as elbow-deep rectal cavity searches, Loony Tunes-style cartoon violence, vomit eating, a pair of cute Idol singers named Poo-poo, the rough removal of one poor guy’s testicles, Jûbei thrusting his hand so far inside a villain’s head that his fingers emerge from the nostrils and poke out the eyes (!!!), and an armored steam-punk Nazi cyborg wearing a metal skirt that reveals his skinny human legs.
I wanted to like Deadball, especially after having been surprised by just how appealing Yakuza Weapon is. Coming from the same creative team, with the same star and director, and with the added attraction of a psychotic sports based storyline, and with Nazis no less, I figured that Deadball would be even better. The shorter run time also hinted at a tighter narrative, and faster paced gags and mayhem. Unfortunately, Deadball turns out to be barely a patch on Yakuza Weapon, despite the better production values, and an even zanier sense of humor.
Only leading man Tak Sakaguchi has a part worthy of any kind of appraisal, with everyone else stuck in one-note roles that—for the most part—are too reliant on goofy performances. Sakaguchi, on the other hand, makes a decent stab at playing the antihero, with a sardonic tone and appearance that personifies the term “effortlessly cool.” It really sucks that he is retiring. I guess the difference is in that Yakuza Weapon is adapted from an existing manga property, while from what I can see Deadball is an original creation. The balance is not quite there. This film just needed to be structured differently.