As a way of passing time for baseball season, I spent hours watching several films and anime over the last few months. One of them is Kano, a 2014 film documenting a team 1931 Koshien tournament.
In a film based on a true story, it's nothing but interesting digesting the adventure of learning about how the Kagi Agricultural and Forestry School baseball team (嘉義農林學校野球部, Kagi Nōrin, abbreviated as Kano), a school from Taiwan (Chiayi), made a cinderella run to the Koshien tournament as a representative in the finals.
This story is told in flashback form, where it begins in 1944 during World War II as Japanese Imperial Army soldiers are prepared to depart for the Pacific Theater through southern Taiwan. One soldier (Joshiya) is a former baseball player wanting to see Chiayi when the train stops there, hoping to see where Kano was born.
The full context is given to Kano, where it's a group of scrappy ball players who never won a game and even went further back from their sloppy introduction to the tournament in 1931 to their true origins in 1929.
The audience sees the struggles of how the kids at Kano continued to train in hopes of reaching Koshien by even chanting the title as they run through the streets. Hyotaro Kondo (Masatoshi Nagase) is the manager of this group as he was once a player himself working in Chiayi.
From the failures of winning a game to the dedication needed to even become a ballplayer, Nagase's performance stood out in being the director of these players and leading the way.
This film shows the team losing in qualifiers before their miraculous run in 1931 to qualify. It follows a standards sports movie formula with a climatic run through the Koshien tournament, but it takes a pause when a younger Joshiya and his team loses to Kano on the way. Remembering his past, Joshiya took tribute on the sandlot field that Kano trained on while being a soldier.
We see the racial tension from the media and the country and how unusual it was to have a motley crew of Japanese, Taiwanese aborigines and Han Chinese as a reporter asks Kondo about this. The emphasis on this felt lacking, but Kondo answers in a simple response of how the squad responded with their play on the field.
Kano reached the finals and drew respect of the attendees and the nation with their spirit and determination in their tournament run. Their importance to baseball in Taiwan cannot be understated as the inspiration for all future generations.
From a technical standpoint, it's great to see details put on the clothing, backgrounds and even a revived Koshien Stadium from the 1930s being visible to the audience. We see the rural life in Taiwan under Japanese rule through the lens of the players themselves.
This film isn't without its flaws as its three hours in length. There's a vibe as if there were no deleted scenes and the crew continued to have ideas filmed without stopping. A few scenes drag to the buildup of the run through Taiwan before the tournament.
If anyone isn't concerned with the film's length and pacing, this three-hour drama gives all the context for characters, showing what everyone had to endure to come a long way, geographically, physically and mentally in order to earn their respect.
Music Video: 勇者的浪漫 (Brave Romance)
The ending song in the credits has its share of inspiration. The main version is mostly in Japanese with a few lines in Mandarin. You can hear the Mandarin and Cantonese versions too.
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