Again, also called Agein 28 Nenme no Koshien, is a Japanese movie about second chances. Estranged fathers and daughters have a second chance to reconnect. And the dads have a second chance to play in a baseball tournament again, something that they missed out on 28 years before.
Mie Tozawa is a college student whose parents had divorced when she was in elementary school. She hadn’t seen her father for many years, and then he was killed in the 2011 tsunami. She knows he played baseball in high school, so when she finds out that one of her professors is helping organize a tournament for adults who had played in high school, she volunteers to help.
The next summer, she cleans out her dad’s house and finds a stack of hand-written New Year’s cards. She remembers him writing them when she was a child, knew they were for his old baseball teammates, and wonders why he never sent them. “One ball, one spirit,” they read. She looks through them and finds that one of the cards has an address on it.
She goes to see this man, Mr. Sakamachi, who turns out to have been the team captain. She has two purposes in mind: to find out about the cards and to invite the members of the old baseball team to participate in the senior league. At first, Mr. Sakamachi is dismissive, but he agrees to introduce her to some of the other players, thinking no one will be interested and she will give up. But then he starts to feel like a stand-in for the father Mie lost, partly because he is divorced and hasn’t seen his own daughter, Sanami, for a long time.
Some of the old team members have kept up with baseball and like the idea of playing together again. But some are hostile and give Mie a hard time. She discovers that her father had been involved in a scandal that had caused his coach to resign, and the team had to withdraw from the year-end finals at the famous Koshien stadium. There had been a lot of rumors and a lot of hard feelings, which still exist. Along with her, we gradually find out more about what happened.
It is very interesting how these guys progress from their memories of disappointment to bit by bit becoming excited. Mie and Mr. Sakamachi go to see Mr. Takahashi, who had been the pitcher. He is pretty crabby, but after he sends them away, his daughter, Natsuko, starts in on him. She reminds her dad that he used to tell her, “It’s not bad to lose a game, but only to run away from losing.” So she must have played ball, and we see that he plays catch with her. He calls Sakamachi back and tells him, “I’ll play, but only if you do too!”
The next person they try to recruit is Mr. Yamashita, who was the catcher. He coaches his son’s little league team. The son is not a good player but loves the game. Takahashi asks Yamashita, “How can you let anyone else catch for me?” and challenges him to show the kids whether he can still hit or not. The cutest parts of the show are these kids reacting to their coach playing ball again.
It’s easy to see how the idea of second chances plays out. The dads had not been able to play their high school baseball finals at Koshien. Mie is trying to get to know her father through his friends. Interacting with her prompts Sakamachi to try to make amends with his own daughter, but she is resentful. Nevertheless, Takahashi urges him to invite Sanami to the tournament.
I was fascinated at all the talk about how to deal with losing. In baseball, someone always wins, and someone always loses. We see that Natsuko and her dad have talked about how to react to losing a game. Sakamachi has a great speech about not giving up just because we think we might lose. And Yamashita and his son obviously don’t win all the time but enjoy playing anyway. The last time Mie saw her father, she was in sixth grade. He had told her, “when you lose, lose with all you’ve got.” She had not understood him then, but by the end of the story, she has figured out what he meant.
I really liked this movie. It is fun to get to know these guys and how they love their kids, and still love their old teammates. These actors are wonderful and really pulled me in. While this is a fictional story, Masters Koshien is a real tournament for adults who played baseball in high school. There are a fair amount of scenes with baseball games as a background, but you don’t need to know a lot about baseball to understand the show. As long as you can look at this picture of the ball splashing in the pond and understand what happened in the game, you’re ok. Except… it might be nice to know what a sacrifice bunt is.
This new influx of Japanese shows on Viki has been really fun for me. Let us know in the comments if you are enjoying watching them too!
Dramas With a Side of Kimchi