Well worth seeing

by Martin Hafer

This film is about a semi-pro baseball team that played in Vancouver from 1914 through 1941 — a team you most likely never heard of, even if you live in Vancouver today. The Asahi was made up of mostly second-generation Japanese-Canadians and they were incredibly successful against their white counterparts.

If you want a history lesson that gives you all these facts, this is not what you’re in for with The Vancouver Asahi. Instead, it looks at this time period through a 21st-century lens and paints it more as a battle against racism and acceptance as opposed to a story just about the team and its accomplishments. To do this, the story is simplified and the events greatly condensed, and thus makes the movie a tad confusing, chronologically speaking. Additionally, several subplots involving Japanese women’s rights and the traditional male roles in Japanese homes are interspersed throughout the movie. As a result, you get the impression that the team was hated because of race prejudice and that just when the Asahi were finally becoming popular and accepted, the team was disbanded due to the outbreak of World War II.

The Vancouver Asahi
Directed by
Yûya Ishii
Cast
Satoshi Tsumabuki, Kazuya Kamenashi, Ryô Katsuji
Release Date
11 July 2015
Martin’s Grade: B


In some ways, this does diminish what the team did. Think about it, the players were generally much smaller than their Canadian counterparts, so instead of trying to keep up by outslugging them, the Asahi soon learned to play smarter — bunting, stealing bases and using finesse to more than make up for brawn. And successful they were, winning 10 championships due to their teamwork and skill. Moreover, they were accepted and loved by many. Overall, The Vancouver Asahi is a technically astute, well acted and directed effort that looked nice yet could have been elevated had the script simply stuck with the actual story of these amazing men. It also would have benefited from creating a greater emotional connection with the audience, as, at times, I felt curiously ambivalent towards the folk in the story.