What They Say:
A classic Japanese comic written by Mitsuru Adachi (written from 1981 to 1986)—it is a love story moving around baseball. Tatsuya and Kazuya the twin brothers, have a mutual girl friend, Minami, who has been their playmate since they were babies. After they enter the same high school, Minami harbors a dream To participate in the national high school baseball championship tournament to Koshien Stadium…
Packaging comes in a standard, clear DVD case, with the front cover featuring the three main characters, with focus primarily on Minami. The inner sleeve features a nice spread of Meisei High School, with the three main characters again featured, each in their own baseball-shaped frames. It’s not the most impressive of packaging, but it is a step up from your ordinary black DVD cases.
I’m not sure if this is intentional, but rather than starting at a home menu, the disc begins playback from the chapter selection screen. Regardless, it’s a nice layout, making reference to the movie’s origins as a manga with each chapter having its own comic panel, and color palette of white and orange matching the packaging nicely. Transitioning from the home menu to secondary menu screens plays a simple, but effective animation as the baseball on the screen moves from one part of the screen to another (moving back a screen doesn’t trigger any animation, however).
Disc extras are what have become standard for all movie releases—three teaser clips, one theatrical trailer, and two TV spots. There’s also an additional extra of B roll footage totaling at 6 minutes, mainly featuring the scene between Minami and Tatsuya when he first joins the baseball team.
Amazingly enough, all the extras have the option of English subtitles, which was a pleasant surprise considering even American releases tend to skimp out on doing that for trailers when releasing foreign movies.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
When looking into major manga titles of yore that helped define not only dramas, but the manga medium as a whole, you will inevitably stumble upon Touch, a story combining the high school drama genre with that of baseball. Having originally run from ’81 to ’86, this movie adaptation is a modern re-telling (well, “2005-levels of modern,” at least).
The movie begins with some simple introduction of the characters: twin brothers Kazuya and Tatsumi, and their gal pal neighbor Minami. The three have been inseparable since they were babies, grew up playing catch together (hence Minami’s nicknames of “Ka-chan” (catch) and “Ta-chan” (touch) for the twins) and have always made it through whatever life threw at them, including the untimely death of Minami’s mother. It’s a mostly standard introduction for the characters, with just enough of an uncharacteristically abrupt interruption via a death in the family to prove that the story isn’t afraid to throw something heavy-handed so early on.
Fast forward a few years, and the three are now in high school, Kazuya is on the baseball team with Minami as the manager, while Tatsuya has fallen into the role of the dopey, lazy brother. Golden boy Kazuya needs little in the way of a re-introduction, with more attention being given to Tatsuya and Minami. Tatsuya is clearly at a loss for what to do with his life, not wanting to re-tread the same ground as his brother, even if doing so would mean doing something he genuinely enjoys. Instead, he spends his days tagging alongside his friend on the boxing team, getting caught in the middle whenever students from rival schools decide to pick a fight. When he isn’t doing that, he’s checking out scantily clad ladies in magazines and playing videogames while the rest of his family backseat-games at him. Minami meanwhile is the epitome of the girl next door, with a plain but somehow incredibly amiable personality, and an undying determination to get her high school’s baseball team to the Koshien stadium as the best high school baseball team in Japan.
It’s this mix of ordinary, yet still likeable and relatable characters that makes the heart and soul of Touch. Even with slight modernizations like girls taking pictures of Kazuya with their flip phones, and Tatsuya getting frustrated over videogames in the living room, it’s still expressed in a refreshingly straightforward manner that’s characteristic of the source material.
It’s this initial feel that makes things that much more heart-wrenching when Kazuya suddenly dies in a car crash.
Up until this point, Touch plays out as more of a high school romance story, with the twins Kazuya and Tatsuya in a silent war of sorts over the affection of Minami. So to have one of the leads suddenly die with little warning is something different to say the least. Unlike most modern storytelling that brings an unnatural amount of focus to a character before killing them, Kazuya’s death is brought up just as suddenly as Minami’s mother’s at the start of the movie, and the story works all the better for it. Death isn’t something that’s gradually introduced into one’s life—it’s sudden and traumatizing for everyone involved, and the movie plays it out with this in mind.
After this sudden shift in the plot, Tatsuya jolts back into the world of baseball, not as a means to replace his brother and prove his worth to those around him, but rather to prove his worth to himself. Baseball has been a major aspect of his life for so long, so to see himself finally immerse himself back in the world is a great relief to himself as well as Minami. And that’s not to sell Minami short—Masami Nagasawa’s portrayal of the character captures the kindly girl-next-door vibe without coming off as overtly there for the sake of romantic drama. She’s a solid character in her own right, serving as more than mere support for the two twins even if it doesn’t necessarily feel that way at times.
Of course, it wouldn’t be a true Touch adaptation without baseball in the front and center alongside all the drama. The two major baseball scenes that play out in the movie are similar in that they’re a bit overdramatic and play out their drama for a beat longer than I would like. That’s not to say the scenes themselves aren’t well done, however, as the built up tension does make the final release that much more rewarding. The added bonus of the Touch anime’s opening theme playing during a key scene of the final ball game cements this movie as being worthy of the Touch name.
By today’s standards, Touch is a simple drama told through the backdrop of baseball, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. The movie does an excellent job of boiling down the source material to its bare essentials, while still maintaining the integrity of its story and characters. Seeing the everyday life of students and their longing to live up to their potential proves that Mitsuru Adachi’s original story still holds up today.
Japanese 5.1 EX Japanese Language, Cantonese 2.0 Language, English subtitles, teasers, theatrical trailer, TV spots, B roll
Content Grade: B+
Audio Grade: B
Video Grade: B
Packaging Grade: B
Menu Grade: B-
Extras Grade: B
Released By: Panasia Films Limited
Running Time: 116 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
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