Four things to look for in the documentary ‘Shohei Ohtani: Beyond the Dream’

Shohei Ohtani
(Ashley Landis / Associated Press)

It’s the Offseason of Ohtani.

There will be plenty to parse while the rest of the baseball world waits for Shohei Ohtani to announce where he’ll sign as a free agent over the coming weeks. Add to the list the first documentary created about the two-way star.

“Shohei Ohtani: Beyond the Dream,” directed by Toru Tokikawa and available starting Friday on Disney+ and ESPN+, tries to shed light on how Ohtani continues to define what it means to be one of the greatest ever in his sport.

While there is plenty of intrigue in the film, here are four things to look for and keep in mind as you watch.


The significance of the release date

Shohei Ohtani pitches during a game against the Dodgers on June 21.
(Sean M. Haffey / Getty Images)

Nov. 17, or 11/17, because 11 was the number Ohtani wore when he played for the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters in Japan. And 17 was the number Ohtani wore in his last six seasons with the Angels. It’s a coincidence that the release date happens to come the day after the American League most valuable player announcement, an award Ohtani won unanimously. And the audio at the end of the film, before the credits roll, is of a crowd chanting “M-V-P” for Ohtani.

“Shohei Ohtani: Beyond the Dream,” which will be available Nov. 17 on ESPN+, attempts to get at how the two-way star has defied expectations throughout his career.

Nov. 12, 2023


Ohtani’s flair for calligraphy

Tokikawa had an idea for Ohtani to write with ink and a brush, on the back of a copy of a dreamboard Ohtani drew up in high school, the words “world champion” in traditional Chinese characters — which are used in the Japanese written language. Ohtani’s writing surprised the director, and he said Ohtani even picked his own brush. “[Nowadays] we type everything on keyboards,” said Tokikawa, who is also Japanese. “Like me, I’ve almost forgotten how to write the Chinese characters. But I was so surprised [by Ohtani] ... He masterfully made his calligraphy and that means he still handwrites, because it’s a practice of everyday, right?”


Capturing authentic reactions

All of the reactions shown by everyone interviewed — Ohtani, Pedro Martínez, Hideki Matsui, Yu Darvish, CC Sabathia, Hideki Kuriyama, Mike Scioscia, Joe Maddon and agent Nez Balelo — are genuine first reactions. Tokikawa took questions and responses from one interview, then presented them to the next person he interviewed and recorded their reactions. It was part of Tokikawa’s process of not just capturing interviews, but attempting to facilitate a dialogue between the voices of the film.


The meaning behind the music featured

Shohei Ohtani walks to the plate during a game against the Phillies on Aug. 30.
(Matt Slocum / Associated Press)


There are four specific songs during the documentary. It is quite fitting that one of them is Queen’s “We Will Rock You,” a popular tune for sports films. But it also includes Tainy and Bad Bunny’s “Mojabi Ghost,” which made its rounds even among non-Tainy and non-Bad Bunny fans in the baseball community for mentioning Ohtani in the lyrics. The third song is one anyone who visited Angel Stadium this year and watched an Ohtani at-bat would recognize as one of his two walk-up songs: “Can’t Get Enough” by Ghost Machines. The final song, which rolls during the credits: “Lost in Paradise” by ALI featuring AKLO, which is the ending theme song of the anime “Jujutsu Kaisen” and one of Ohtani’s favorite songs.