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.