Starring: Haruka Ayase, Toru Nakamura, Munetaka Aoki
Director: Eiichirô Hasumi
Running Time: 102 mins
Oppai Volleyball is a Japanese film about a group of students who finally decide to put some effort in and do their best to win a volleyball match, but only on the condition that their teacher shows them her ‘oppai’.
At first glance, this film sounds like the recipe for irritating, juvenile rubbish in line with the likes of American Pie. And yet, while its premise may seem totally unacceptable early on, Oppai Volleyball is actually a really fun watch, with a much more light-hearted and innocent atmosphere than you’d expect.
I think the most important thing to mention about this film is that it’s not the sexist and juvenile mess that it really sounds like from the plot summary. While it may seem like encouraging these students only on the promise of nudity is pretty awful, the majority of the film spends more time making fun of those students, all the while developing a whole host of likable characters that have nothing to do with anything genuinely serious or sinister.
As a result, once you get into the groove of the movie and see that it’s all just innocent fun, you’ll easily be laughing and smiling your way through right to the end. Thanks in part to the self-aware nature of the comedy, poking more fun at the almost crazed obsession of these boys over the teacher, as well as a light-hearted underdog sports story that has no qualms about being as generic as possible, this is a fantastically enjoyable film from start to finish.
What’s more is that the performances are excellent throughout. Haruka Ayase is very likable in the main role, and balances her character’s inner turmoil about agreeing to this seemingly appalling deal with her enthusiasm for encouraging her students very well throughout, making her far more than just the object of the boys’ affections, something I was very impressed to see.
When it comes to the boys themselves, they’re all great fun as well. While none of their characters are quite as well developed as Ayase’s, they all have great chemistry together, and effectively work as one character together, growing throughout the film from juvenile children to genuinely enthusiastic and as such very likable characters by the end.
The directing here isn’t all that bad either. Eiichirô Hasumi does a great job at giving the film its light-hearted and innocent atmosphere, taking away any reservations you may have about the story, and in doing so, opens up the door for as much crazy comedy as you like throughout. Although there are a few moments where the film goes a little too far into the characters’ personal lives in a slightly misplaced dramatic context, this is generally a very solid and well-directed film throughout.
Overall, I had a lot of fun with Oppai Volleyball. Proving me completely wrong about what to expect from its premise, it’s a light-hearted and innocent hour and a half of fun with some great performances across the board, and even an entertaining, albeit generic, underdog story to boot, and that’s why I’m giving it a 7.6.