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Masami Nagasawa and twins Shota and Keita Saito in Touch.
Year: 2005  
Director: Isshin Inudo  
  Cast: Masami Nagasawa, Shota Saito, Keita Saito, Nozomi Ando, Jun Fubuki, Hirotaro Honda, Fumiyo Kohinata, Rikiya Kurokawa, Koh Takasugi, Shin Takuma, Yu Tokui, Chinatsu Wakatsuki, Tetsu Watanabe, Hajime Yamazaki
  The Skinny: The popular manga comes to the silver screen in this winning film adaptation by director Isshin Inudo. Touch is both a teen drama and a sports film, but somehow the movie ends up transcending its more formulaic aspects to deliver something that is surprisingly more affecting than one might first expect from such a production. Although twin siblings Shota and Keita Saito turn in fine performances, the film's ultimate appeal lies in the acting chops of its terrific leading lady, Masami Nagasawa.
Review by Calvin McMillin:      Mitsuru Adachi's popular manga Touch finally gets the big screen treatment in Isshin Inudo's arresting live action update. Serialized in the weekly manga magazine Shonen Sunday from 1981 to 1986, the original comic proved so popular that it was later adapted into a 101-episode long anime series, three theatrical anime films, two anime specials for TV, and a live action TV drama special. With all these adaptations, the story clearly must have something going for it. And if the cinematic version of Touch is any indication, there's plenty to enjoy.
     Although it condenses the long-running storyline to a comparatively truncated 116-minute running time, this particular seishun eiga ("youth film") delivers a cohesive storyline with surprisingly well-developed characters, all-in-all making for a thoroughly satisfying trip to the movies. The film centers on Kazuya and Tatsuya Uesugi, twin brothers who've been next door neighbors to Minami Asakura since all of them were little babies. In fact, the three of them are so close that their parents even built a playhouse between the two homes so they could hang out together. Even from an early age, the three pals have loved baseball, a love that impels the boys to promise to one day take Minami to the baseball championships at Koshien Stadium in the Hyogo Prefecture.
     The film then picks up during the trio's high school years, as they have remained as close as ever, although the brothers have gone their separate ways when it comes to the subject of baseball. While the studious Kazuya (Keita Saito) is an all-star baseball pitcher, the equally talented Tatsuya (Shota Saito) has evolved into somewhat of a slacker, choosing to quit the baseball team in order to pursue an interest in amateur boxing. Although Minami (Masami Nagasawa) serves as manager for the baseball team, faithful cheering Kazuya to victory, it's to Tatsuya that her heart truly belongs. However, over the years, Kazuya has developed feelings for Minami as well, a fact which inevitably looks to break up the harmony of their childhood friendship.
     As fate would have it, Minami never gets the chance to choose between the two brothers thanks to an unexpected tragedy that ends Kazuya's life. After much consideration, Tatsuya is compelled to pick up where his brother left off and help lead the team to the National High School Baseball Tournament in Koshien, not only to honor both his brother's dream, but to make good on the promise he made to Minami all those years ago. However, his decision draws the ire of his mother as well as Kazuya's mostly skeptical teammates. It won't be easy to win them over, as Tatsuya's baseball skills are a little rusty and his crucial relationship with Minami is at an emotional standstill. By film's end, it's no longer just a question of whether Tatsuya can win the big game, but whether he still has a shot at winning back Minami's heart.
     What unfolds isn't exactly unexpected for anyone who's ever seen a sports movie in their life, but somehow, the filmmakers are able to make both the film's outcome and the journey that preceded it seem fresh and exciting. Shota Saito makes for a fine everyman hero, and the film surrounds him with likeable supporting characters who help bring the story to life, including a secondary love interest for Tatsuya, a tough-talking boxer buddy from school, Kazuya's loyal but disapproving catcher, and a rival baseball player who approaches pitchers as if he's a master swordsman looking to lock blades with an equally-skilled opponent. Although it's likely that all these characters had more depth in the original manga, their very presence in the narrative is most certainly a welcome one.
    But what really elevates the film beyond the level of mere teen drama or sports flick is its star actress, Masami Nagasawa. Best known for her fantastic performance in the hit film Crying Out Love, In the Center of the World, Nagasawa's acting here proves to be no less revelatory. In even the most simplest of glances or gestures, she brings a youthful energy, endearing sincerity, and naturalistic charm to her character, making even the most clichéd of sequences seem somehow fresh, joyful, and remarkably poignant. Whatever your opinion of baseball, Touch amounts to a fine sports/teen movie hybrid, perhaps most notable as a showcase for the undeniable acting talents of its remarkable leading lady. (Calvin McMillin, 2006)
Availability: DVD (Hong Kong)
Region 3 NTSC
Kam & Ronson Enterprises, Co., Ltd.
16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Japanese and Cantonese Language Tracks
DTS ES / Dolby Digital 5.1 EX / Dolby Digital 2.0
Removable English and Chinese Subtitles
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