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Oppai Volleyball
Oppai Volleyball

Haruka Ayase (left) and her motivated volleyball team in Oppai Volleyball.
Japanese: おっぱいバレー
Year: 2009  

Eiichiro Hasumi


Yoshikazu Okada, Munenori Mizuno (original novel)


Haruka Ayase, Munetaka Aoki, Haruki Kimura, Kento Takahashi, Yoshihiro Tachibana, Masaki Honjo, Ryuichitaro Megumi, Takuya Yoshihara, Toru Nakamura, Takuya Ishida, Ohgo Suzuka

  The Skinny:

Oppai Volleyball is a tame coming-of-age story about an educator who is inspired to become better…by agreeing to show high schoolers her breasts if they win a volleyball game. The film is amusing and light, but director Eiichiro Hasumi (Season of Snow) doesn't seem to know how to handle character dramas that don't require expensive camerawork.

Kevin Ma:

Japanese director Eiichiro Hasumi certainly has a thing for mischievous youth. After taking on the story of three rowdy skiers in the sports film Season of Snow, he takes on the story of a rowdy group of 70s-era high schoolers in the pseudo-sports film Oppai Volleyball. However, this time out the high school boys are not only rowdy, they're also perverted. In fact, they're so perverted that during the film's silly opening sequence, they ride a cart down a mountain to simulate the sensation of caressing a pair of breasts. By the way, oppai is a Japanese word for breast and has the same connotation as the word that starts with “t” and rhymes with “hit”.

Lucky for these boys, Mikako, the newest teacher at their school, is played by Haruka Ayase, known during her days as a model for her well-developed body parts. Since receiving recognition as an actress, Ayase has made an effort to hide her biological build, but it naturally has an unavoidable presence in a film essentially titled “Breast Volleyball”. Not surprisingly, most men (and maybe even some women) will naturally find their eyes wandering from Ayase's face every time she's onscreen. One point to the producers for perfect casting.

Coincidentally, Mikako is asked to be the coach of the school's male volleyball team, made up entirely of the aforementioned group of boys. Since they're so perverted, you can't really blame the boys - who actually don't really know how to play volleyball - when they offer Mikako an indecent proposal: if the team manages to win a game, she has to show them her breasts. Mikako accidentally obliges, believing that they won't win a game anyway. What she doesn't know is that her breasts are the ultimate motivator for the boys to finally learn volleyball, with the rest of the film riding on the question of whether or not Mikako will end up showing them her breasts. If Helen of Troy had the face that launched a thousand ships, then apparently Ayase has the chest that can propel a few high school boys onto a volleyball court.

Of course, the film possesses the usual "underdogs beat the odds" element that always appears in Japanese sports films, with the boys achieving some kind of glory with their unusual hard work. However, for a film where the motivation is this raunchy, Hazumi and writer Yoshikazu Okada could've learned a lesson or two from their American counterparts. Despite having 70s pubescents as the central characters, Oppai Volleyball is surprisingly tame in its perverseness. With only a few misadventures with peeping and constant repetitions of the word oppai (the producers should think about writing to Guinness for that one), the boys' perverse nature becomes repetitive and even a little grating.

Oppai Volleyball is based on a true story told from the teacher's point of view (novelist Munenori Mizuno reportedly heard the story from the teacher who inspired Mikako), but there's little development of the boys, let alone an actual look into their personalities and their lives. One would expect the film to be a coming-of-age story about the boys, but instead we get a coming-of-age story about Mikako. An extended flashback shows that Mikako was an inspired educator who is still reeling from the guilt of betraying her students at her previous school. Ultimately, Oppai Volleyball is not about exposing body parts to teenage boys, but is instead about how a young educator learns to become a better teacher. Delivered through monologues and lengthy moments of self-realization, the character arc is mildly affecting, but it's understandably not something that the film's eight producers are eager to put in the film's advertising.

The Oppai Volleyball crew did their job well; the film features painfully recreated sets depicting the streets of Kita Kyushu, and the 70s pop soundtrack accurately conveys the era. Still, the crew's efforts would've been better served with a stronger story. Ayase does her best here, convincingly moving between acting lovable and conflicted. The problem is that Okada's TV-standard script doesn't give Hasumi much to work with (the film doesn't even feature much volleyball), and wastes his big budget experience. With so little to work with, the director simply reverts back to his TV directing techniques. Oppai Volleyball could have used a director more familiar with character-based sports comedies (Gachi Boy - Wrestling with a Memory's Norihiro Koizumi comes to mind). With better guidance, perhaps Oppai Volleyball would've been more than the cinematic equivalent of that stereotype about girls with just big breasts. You know which one I mean. (Kevin Ma, 2009)


image credit: Copyright ©2002-2017 Ross Chen