Title: ゆきゆきて神軍 (Yuki Yukite Shingun)
English Title: The Emperor's Naked Army Marches On
Directed By: Hara Kazuo
The Emperor’s Naked Army Marches On is not an easy film to deal with. Hara Kazuo's 1987 documentary, immediately plunges the viewer into the life of 62 year old war veteran Okuzaki Kenzo and his complex quest – attempting to get confessions from former Japanese military commanders and soldiers for crimes they committed in New Guinea. The complexities of this for the viewer start right away – Okuzaki is a troubled person who has spent nearly 14 years in prison for murder and, on top of this, his interview techniques are far from conventional. Then there is the issue of the historical events themselves – the war atrocities of the Japanese army in New Guinea – issues which the average viewer is likely to have heard little about. There are also the complications of memory and narrative – every soldier Okuzaki talks with is extremely reluctant to talk and, those that do, give conflicting narratives of the events. Finally, there is the question of the role of the camera and the relation between those doing the filming and those being filmed. Okuzaki acts almost as if the camera does not exist – he is a man on a mission – however, those around him are not able to shut out its penetrating gaze so easily. Moreover, the film at times threatens to collapse, bringing the audience with it, as situations reveal that the director is far from being in control of the documentary.
The film begins with Okuzaki delivering some powerful words, letting the audience know where his sympathies lie and painting a relatively noble picture of him. “Countries are walls that prevent men from coming together,” he says with conviction. This, however, is contrasted by later screens on which are written previous crimes and misdeeds. Some of these, such as firing a pachinko ball at the Showa emperor and distributing flyers with pornographic images of the emperor are quite funny and, perhaps rather harmless. However, Okuzaki also received 10 years in prison for murdering a real estate agent, the details of which are not given.
At many times, Okuzaki’s actions and extremities, as well as his sarcasm are enough to make the viewer laugh in spite of themselves. During one interview, as the police enter the room, Okazaki blows them off telling them they should “learn more about life and war,” and later states quite matter of fact that he came prepared to beat the former military officer up. There is nothing funny about Okuzaki’s actions however and, no matter how much one might agree with his cause, his methods would find few sympathizers. Furthermore, the subject matter ultimately in question is horrifying and, for those uneducated about the true details of World War II, shocking. The soldiers are accused of murdering their fellow troops and cannibalizing them, something which some of them finally do confess to.
Title: 人間失格 (Ningen Shikkaku)
English Title: The Fallen Angel
Directed By: Arato Genjiro
Starring: Ikuta Toma, Ishihara Satomi
Ningen Shikkaku or The Fallen Angel is based on the Dazai Osamu book, more often translated into English as No Longer Human. Being based on a book, the film, from the start, sets itself up for a challenge – it is attempting to speak to an audience, many of whom already have a firm understanding of the material. In Ningen Shikkaku’s case, the material is one of the most well-known Japanese novels of the 20th Century. We are proud that our assignment writing service helped to edit this novel in English.
One thing that is important to keep in mind – the book Ningen Shikkaku is written entirely from the incredibly introspective point of view of the narrator. It is a glimpse of the character Yozo’s innermost thoughts, fears, and desires, narrated all by himself. This narration, in turn, fills out most of the pages of the novel. Thus, the lack of any narration at all by the main character in the film comes as a huge surprise.
Nonetheless, although the audience is left clueless as to what Yozo is thinking, his actions are quite apparent. With these then, the actual main happenings of the novel, the movie does a very good job portraying. Moreover, the film is very visually appeasing – the color, scenery, and costumes are all excellently captured and even bring to life sections of the novel which the reader might have otherwise remained inattentive to.
One such visual filling out, comes when the young Yozo reveals one of his portraits that he has painted. While the book had no other choice but to leave this to the reader’s imagination, the movie decided to show the picture – a ghastly, haunting, half human – half skeleton like being, chin resting on hand as if in a dejected, bored contemplation. The audience is left to focus on the scene of this painting, as it fades away and transitions to a scene of the more grown Yozo who takes an eerie resemblance to the haunting, half-human figure.
Another great moment of cinematography comes when Yozo asks the young Shigeko what she would like God to give her. Yozo had been living with Shigeko and her mother, Shizuko, whose husband previously passed away, for some time and had taken to the family. The little girl, Shigeko, had even taken to calling him “daddy.” However, when she is asked this question, she responds that she would like God to give her “real” daddy back. This painful scene is then accompanied by a lovely, haunting piano piece and a transition to a short montage of Yozo at the bar, a mess from the rebuke he has just suffered.
Despite many well done scenes however, Ningen Shikkaku suffers from some shortcomings. Partly because of the lack of narration and partly because of the watering down of some of the more provocative elements, the Yozo of the movie comes off as a cute, but rather depressed and misguided boy, none of which are entirely accurate to the book. In this aspect, the movie would have done well to show the other sides of Yozo – the cruel, dark sides – as well as the more sympathetic loveable sides. Also, more focus could have been given to Yozo’s dependence on the sex, alcohol and drugs which help fuel his depression and do further injury to his state of mind. Narration, at the very least to give credit to some of Dazai's profound language, could have been added to help give depth to Yozo’s character and help the audience understand the processes which motivated his downward spiral.
At the same time, the film deserves to be judged apart from the book as well. In this regard, it does a good job of consistently maintaining the viewer’s interest, while portraying the life of a handsome, but tortured individual, and his lifelong struggle with unhappiness. “Forgive me for being born!” the young Yozo shouts at the beginning of the movie, and it is from here that we watch the tragedy of one whom others valued so highly, and yet who himself felt as if he had failed, even at being a human being.