Grueling workouts, violent balls inflicted by unscrupulous coaches, absurd exercises with chains on the wrists: how to forget the story of Mimi Ayuhara before and Mila Hazuki, then, the protagonists of two successful manga spokons that turned into two unforgettable anime like That magnificent dozen – Mimì and the national volleyball team (Attack No. 1) And Mila and Shiro (Attacker You!)?
Well, albeit slightly exaggerated, these extreme training situations are based on the true story of Witches of the East, the players of the Japanese women’s volleyball team who had won gold at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics and to whom the film is dedicated The witches of the orient from Julien Faraut, French director who made the film presented last June at the Pesaro Film Festival.
The true story of the Witches of the East
Behind the successes of that fantastic team, there is a story that is incredible and that starts from a factory and the workers and employees who work there.
In fact, at the beginning of the 50s of the last century, the Nichibo textile factory attracted the best volleyball players among its employees to its branch in Kaizuka, a town near Osaka, with the declared aim of putting together the best after-work team in all. Japan.
He was chosen as a coach Hirofumi Daimatsu, ex-military with a background in university volleyball who, almost like a sergeant Hartman ante litteram, did not skimp on the use of martial methods in his training characterized by extreme intensity, hardness and cruelty, so much so as to deserve the title of oni-coach (the demon trainer).
The fatigue and “harassment” for sporting purposes to which the players were subjected soon led to the Nichibo Kaizuka at the top of the Japanese rankings, so much so that in just 5 years from its foundation it came to conquer all the most important tournaments at national level. In 1959 the team kicked off an impressive and perhaps unparalleled streak of 258 straight wins that only ended in 1966.
In between the Olympic Gold won at home in 1964, while the whole world witnessed a sporting prodigy imbued with the most classic sense of sacrifice typical of Japanese culture and the opposing teams trembled at the very thought of having to face the Witches of the East.
The witches of the orient trailer and synopsis
Below we can see the trailer for the Faraut movie Les sorcières de l’orient, made by combining period clips, interviews with some of the members of that legendary team still alive and, of course, iconic anime sequences based on this incredible story and reproducing real events.
The athletes of the national volleyball team of Japan were known by the nickname of “Witches of the East” thanks to the alleged supernatural powers they wielded during matches.
Faraut evokes their path and rigid discipline from the formation of the team in the late 1950s in the after-work of the textile factory to the triumph at the Tokyo Olympics in 1964 through recent sequences, archive images and cartoons, in which history and fantasy.
«A 16mm film about volleyball produced by the Japanese Olympic Committee in 1964, I noticed a resemblance to the images of a famous Japanese cartoon cult for an entire generation, the manga Mila and Shiro, two hearts in volleyball. Thus I discovered that behind the manga and the anime there was a genealogy that dates back to the “Witches of the East”, as the Soviet media had called them ».