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New ESPN Film Highlights Japan's Star Equine Loser

Animated Rendering of Haru UraraThere really is nobility in failure.The Japanese have a thing for losers. As chronicled by the famed scholar Ivan Morris, Japan’s greatest historical heroes are notable for their utter lack of success, immortalized only after their goals have been thwarted, their dreams crushed. This is because, in the Japanese ethos, there is far more dignity in remaining true to a lost cause than in sacrificing one’s principles for worldly gain. The Japanese hero fights without hope, and dies without regret. He is a legend precisely because he is doomed.

There is a strain of the Japanese fetish for failure in “The Shining Star of Losers Everywhere,” a new 30-for-30 documentary from ESPN directed by Mickey Duzyj. It is about Haru Urara (which translates as Glorious Spring), a racehorse that became famous throughout the country in the early 2000s for his inability to win a single race. Haru Urara manages to inspire thousands—and to save his struggling hometown racetrack in Kochi—by always giving his all, despite the literal odds against him. And whereas the fate of the archetypal Japanese hero usually ends up being pretty grim (ritual suicide, etc.), Haru Urara lives to helm what turns out to be an inspiring, charming tale.

At one point, a PR flak for the racetrack says, “I don’t know if a story about losing is so good.” But in Japan, sometimes there’s no better kind.

Mickey Duzyj most recently directed “The Shining Star of Losers Everywhere,” an ESPN 30 For 30 short on Haru Urara and how he managed to save his hometown race course.

Duzyj is an artist and filmmaker whose credits include animation for the ESPN 30 for 30 feature “You Don’t Know Bo” and the animation for Nike and Wieden+Kennedy’s Make a Statement Olympics campaign for the U.S. Men’s Basketball team. His directorial debut was the Emmy-nominated ESPN animated short “The Perfect 18” (2014) about an IT manager’s perfect game of Putt-Putt golf. 

Click here to see his director’s statement on

Click here for his full Q & A with America’s Best Racing.

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