Bizarre Baseball Culture is perhaps my most popular segment on the Baseball Continuum. In it, I, as I say: “…take a look at some of the more unusual places where baseball has reared it’s head in pop culture and fiction.” It’s seen comic books, video games, novels, TV episodes, animated shorts, a radio drama, and even a full-length movie. They’ve ranged from the well-known to the hyper-obscure, leading Michael Claire to dub me the “Indiana Jones of baseball comics“, which I guess isn’t the worst thing to be put on a tombstone.
Anyway, in search of good material, I have recently began to look overseas. Some of my favorite Bizarre Baseball Culture posts have been from elsewhere in the world. The Pokémon episode, for example, was pretty popular. Mr. Go might have been the most fun I’ve ever had doing Bizarre Baseball Culture (well, until you see what the 50th installment is). My most recent installment was, of all things, an episode of an Ultraman TV series.
However, here’s the thing: it is stupid to assume that everything foreign is bizarre. Oh, to be sure, plenty of it is, just like how the American-made works of fiction I’ve covered here on the Continuum have been bizarre (intentionally or not). I mean, no matter what country it was made in, a movie about a gorilla playing baseball would have been bizarre.
But to say it is all bizarre, simply because it is foreign, would be highly ignorant and also disrespectful. These are places with their own traditions, not only in baseball but in their popular culture. To immediately dub a fairly mundane (i.e. no baseball-playing gorillas or evil glove monsters) baseball comic from Japan or a baseball film from Korea “bizarre” would be like being the baseball entertainment equivalent of the crotchety old columnist who claims that Latin American players aren’t playing the game the “right way” despite the fact that that’s the way they’ve played all their lives. And, guess what, I am not a crotchety old columnist, although I wish I was being paid like one.
So, with that out of the way, I am proud to announce that, starting with a piece in this year’s blogathon, there will be a new recurring feature on the Baseball Continuum: International Baseball Culture. It will cover baseball entertainment from outside the United States and sometimes Canada* that isn’t “bizarre”. Now, there will continue to be foreign-sourced baseball works in Bizarre Baseball Culture, but they will only be those that would qualify for the series due to their content. If it turns out that there’s a Mexican movie in which luchadores play baseball against mermen from Atlantis, that’s still going into Bizarre Baseball Culture. But if it’s a serious drama about a baseball team called the “Luchadores” who are playing a team called the “Mermen”, that would be International Baseball Culture.
So, please join me during the Blogathon when I begin my International Baseball Culture travels with the beginning of a series of articles on Mitsuru Adachi’s Touch, a baseball dramedy/romance manga and anime that won awards, set viewership records in the 1980s, and was in 2005 named one of the ten greatest anime ever… and yet has never seen an official release in North America.
*I’ll be taking Canada on a case-by-case basis. For example, you could argue that the works of W.P. Kinsella are Canadian because Kinsella is from Canada, but you’d be ignoring the fact that most of his baseball stories are set in America and deal pretty specifically with American baseball. But if somebody were to make a French-language drama about a man and a woman who fall in love over their shared longing for the return of the Montreal Expos, that would probably fall under International Baseball Culture.