KANO: 1931 Umi no Mukō no Kōshien

Over-sentimental, obvious and just too long

This Taiwan-Hong Kong-Japan co-production tells the true 1931 story of a small-town Taiwanese high school baseball team that made it against all odds to the esteemed Japanese tournament, Koshien—and had success once there. Add onto that the fact the team was ethnically diverse (Japanese, Han Chinese and indigenous Taiwanese players, which was unheard of at the time) and from a poor farming district of the country and you have a veritable fairy tale of a film…wait, make than an actual fairy tale.

In reality, the story takes place in a Taiwan under Japanese occupation and of course the coach, Kondo (Masatoshi Nagase), who comes along and whips into shape the scruffy team that has never won a game, is Japanese. When you consider an overwrought soundtrack, a three-hour-plus running time (with interminable game scenes) and a subplot of a Japanese agricultural engineer schooling the dumbfounded locals, you get a slightly different impression.

Despite having its heart in the right place, the work is over-sentimental, obvious and just too long. The factual story is indeed remarkable, but this film could have benefitted from some historical context, emotional restraint and a good editor. (About 70 percent in Japanese and 30 percent in Taiwanese; 185 min)