Having never seen a Yudai Yamaguchi film before, I went into Deadball not knowing quite what to expect. Produced in Japan and originally released theatrically there in 2011, it’s a violent baseball comedy. The emphasis should go on “violent” and “comedy,” as there’s very little traditional baseball content. Everything about the film is pushed to extremes, coming across as a Japanese answer to Troma. The el cheapo digital and practical effects are only part of the fun. Much of the humor is of the gross-out variety, but there’s nothing dark or disturbing about this gag-a-minute splatterfest.
Jubeh (Tak Sagakuchi) is a supernaturally gifted pitcher, with a fastball that literally kills. Early on, we see young Jubeh fatally wound his own father while playing catch. This occurs in plain view of his younger brother, Musashi. Jubeh makes a promise to his father that he will look out for Musashi. Instead, he turns to juvenile delinquency (i.e. mass murder) and winds up in the Pterodactyl Juvenile Reformatory at age 17.
In an effort to improve the food served to inmates (which consists of the cook’s vomit), Jubeh agrees to join the institution’s Juvie League baseball team, the Pterodactyl Gauntlets. He vowed never to throw another baseball after causing his father’s death, but he has nothing to lose since it’s assumed he will die in the reformatory either way. Ishihara (Miho Ninagawa), the warden at Pterodactyl, has essentially set the Gauntlets up to fail, pitting them against the notorious St. Black Dahlia all-girl team. The objective isn’t to score the most runs, but rather to rack up the most kills. First team to run out of players loses.
Deadball has to be seen to be believed. It’s outrageously disgusting, but somehow in a good-natured, cheerful way. When a player is struck by one of Jubeh’s fireball pitches, the ball lodges in his eye socket permanently. That player is henceforth known as Eye Ball. The warden’s grandfather was a Nazi collaborator, resulting in some extremely poor-taste humor. A jar of MSG seasoning salt doubles as a weapon—more than once. We also are treated to some of the most graphic full-cavity searches ever depicted in a prison film. But rather than try to explain the gags any further or elaborate on the nearly non-existent plot, I’ll simply say that if anything of this sounds intriguing, give Deadball a spin.
No real complaints to lodge regarding Well Go USA’s Blu-ray presentation of Deadball. The 1080p, AVC-encoded transfer is framed at 1.78:1 and offers a bright, fairly high contrast image. This was a low-budget production and that’s exactly how it looks. This isn’t the sharpest, most detailed high definition transfer I’ve seen—far from it. But it’s decent. The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix is solid, with the film’s barrage of goofy sound effects attacking the viewer from all channels. The Japanese dialogue is always clear and crisp.
Deadball comes equipped with a few extras, including a 20-minute “spinoff” short film, Final Deadball. There’s also a 12-minute featurette that takes us behind the scenes and a selection of cast interview. Not for all tastes, Deadball is a jubilantly off the wall “sports” comedy that might strike a chord with more adventurous viewers.