11 October 2007

Otoko-tachi no Yamato

Otoko-tachi no Yamato was a war drama about a group of Japanese cadets who were sent to crew the Yamato in 1943 and were present in all actions till the Yamato's death voyage in April 1945. The movie was viewed through the eyes of the young 15-year cadets but had a documentary style narrative element which combined real war footage. Pearl Harbour, Midway, Guadalcanal, Leyte Gulf, Saipan were mentioned and period news reels were spliced in between.

I had read that this 2005 production on the Yamato of the Imperial Navy dethroned 'Spirited Away' becoming the most successful Japanese film of all time. It was this patriotic and nationalistic outing that had struck a cord with mass Japanese audiences in terms the Japanese all-time box office takings. Rather intriguing that it had connected with the current Japanese psyche. What could that imply? Well...

I had thought that the movie would be made mostly with the wizardry of Japanese SFX but I learned from Brian that a full scale 1:1 set of the Yamato was built. The filmmakers had built 190 metres of the 264 metre long ship. There weren't much computer-generated graphics in evidence.

The turrets built for the movie were pretty impressive. The Type 96 25mm anti-aircraft guns were realistic for instance.

The movie was pretty much melodrama fare with the production standards of a TV serial. The dialogue were likewise at a melodrama level, uninspired. Acting consisted mostly of sailors shouting, making loud proclamations, screaming loudly in pain, scolding others loudly, and more loud patriotic utterances. Everyone shouted throughout the 144 minutes of the length of the film.

Meanwhile, shots of the ship were always of the front hull and turrets for good reason, the other parts weren't constructed. As such, one could actually feel a sense of restriction throughout. The smaller scale models or possibly computer-generated ones of aerial bombardment were somewhat unclear, small and unsatisfactory.

The American aircraft depicted included the SBC-2 Helldiver, TBF Avenger, PBY Catalina and F-6F Hellcat. However, at various times, a radial-engined American aircraft with rounded wing-tips could be seen diving at the Yamato. What was this mysterious aircraft? It was hard to say as the three abovementioned aircraft had square cut-off wing tips. The F-4U Corsair was not in evidence in this movie either.

Regarding the Imperial Navy culture protrayed, the Japanese navy was into beatings when it came to discipline. The movie had depicted that aspect well, illuminating the brutality of the discipline within the service. The kendo and sum practices, the emphasis on food, the war effort in munitions manufacturing in Hiroshima, the realisation of the futility of the suicide mission and the acceptance that the order was from the emperor made for an interesting cultural exposition. Fatalism? You bet, it was there in the bucketloads.

The movie was, of course, worth watching as it might have reflected the attitude of this filmmaker and possibly that of the current Japanese psyche.


drifand said...

Fatalism on the part of the Japanese may seem to be part and parcel of being a warrior... to accept death without flinching etc etc. Very idealistic, even romantic, but I think Patton got it right: You win a war by making the other SOB die for HIS country.

Chuang Shyue Chou said...

It is. There is a definition in the movie about the difference between Bushido and Chivalry. And it is very telling.

However, the men were aghast that they were sent for a meaningless death ride which would accomplish nothing. When they heard it was the emperor's orders...

I agree with you on Patton. That is the kind of commander I would rather be under. We were men, not officers. And to be sent without any control of our destinies.. Ack.