This film seems to play on the meanings of “agon”: agonistic behaviour for access to the same resources (war and aggression) and ancient athletic competitions, when war had to be stopped and replaced by a symbolic struggle, that weighed on physical and psychical limits not less than armed hostilities. Though tough, sport aimed to transfer fighting impulses from a collective homicidal craze to an individual search for
Amazing how Shimizu makes it all seem so casual and so easy. At first sight it seems to be a militaristic Japanese film made just before WW2, but reveals subversive subtexts throughout. And that march in the second scene of the film which Noël Burch (for whom this film showcases Shimizu's highly non-classical conception of narrative) calls one of Shimizu's "most brilliant achievements" is incredible indeed!
Terrific the ways it constantly undermines what were certainly its propagandist origins by championing idleness while disparaging military discipline, as well as in its sympathetic treatment of weaklings, layabouts, and whores.