In 1981, mangaka Mitsuru Adachi (Cross Game) started writing and drawing what would soon become one of the most popular Japanese comic books of all time, the award-winning Touch (aka タッチ, pronounced Tatchi). The manga lasted 26 issues, ending in 1986, and was quickly adapted into an animated 101 episode TV show in 1985. In addition, five animated movies were produced, three for cinemas, two for television, as was a live-action TV mini-series . Finally, in 2005, Touch was made into a live-action movie for cinemas, adapted by Yukiko Yamamuro (A Long Walk) and directed by Isshin Inudou (Josee, The Tiger And The Fish). The film stars twin brothers Shota and Keita Saito (Kids War 4) and the charming Masami Nagasawa (Godzilla: Final Wars) among others.
Roughly adapting the manga’s first 8 issues, aka slightly less than 1500 pages of material, Touch loosely retells the source’s first, and best-known story arc. Identical twin brothers Tatsuya and Kazuya, and their next-door neighbor Minami have known each other since birth, sharing joys and pains, likes and dislikes. Now in their mid-to-late teens, they are still as close as ever, but other feelings are thrown into the mix as Minami’s blossomed into quite a lovely young girl. As for the twins, Kazuya is loved by all, studious, and the star pitcher of the high school’s baseball team whereas Tatsuya is more of a slacker and generally regarded as the inferior brother. Whoever eventually wins Minami’s affections, they all dream of seeing Kazuya and his team make it to the Kōshien, the finals of the National High School Baseball Championship. Exclusive subtitled trailer and review after the jump.
As I stated above, the source material was a true phenomenon, a point of reference to an entire generation in Japan, but also in several European countries thanks to the animated series. Indeed, Mitsuru Adachi wrote such a good story, with such relatable characters, realistic emotions and great balance between humor, romance and drama, that it would be nearly impossible to make it look bad. Yes, it’s that good, and thankfully Isshin Inudou is not a horrible butcher, and though his adaptation contains a number of departures from the comic, some may argue it was somewhat necessary in the huge condensation of story that was required and the resulting film is probably as good an adaptation of Touch as one could hope.
The most glaring difference is the role of parents in the film, notably the mother of Tatsuya and Kazuya characters, as in the comic, the parents are mostly a source of comic relief while here the mother has a real dramatic arc. Other differences are the modernization of the story from the eighties to the 21st century and mostly the characterization of the three leads, which is much less developed here, simply because there’s a lot less time to develop it. But once again, the source is so amazing that what definition the characters have in the film is already enough to make them touching to the viewer.
Brothers Shota and Keita do a pretty good job, but it’s mostly the very pretty Masami Nagasawa who owns the film, making her on-screen character as lovable and attractive as her ink-and-paper twin. It’s honestly no wonder that the 21 year old has risen to become the most popular actress in Japan today. In addition, Isshin Inudou thankfully is quite good at recreating Adachi’s visual style, so all-in-all Touch is a very pleasant teen romance/sports drama. I’d recommend watching it if you’re able to secure a copy, but mostly I urge you to seek out the manga, which is a truly marvelous, timeless achievement in the world of comic books. Seriously, you will not regret it. The film was a success in Japan, making enough cash to warrant another Adachi adaptation starring Masami Nagasawa, the significantly less well-received, but still rather good Rough.