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May 2011

Assault On The Pacific - Kamikaze

cast: Keito Kishi, Ry�hei Abe, Toru Emori, Katsutaka Furuhata, and Ichir� Hashimoto

director: Taku Shinjo

130 minutes (15) 2007
widescreen ratio 1.85:1
Metrodome DVD Region 2

RATING: 5/10
review by Jim Steel

Assault On The Pacific - Kamikaze

This examination of the kamikaze programme was originally released in 2007 under the title For Those We Love. If you combine the two titles then you are halfway to understanding the gist of this hagiographic drama. It is, technically, a war film but the action scenes are minimal. There is some authentic American footage of kamikaze attacks that has been colourised and interspersed with shots of the actors in cockpits for attacks on the American navy, and there is one scene where American aircraft attack the airfield, bombing and strafing schoolgirls and women workers but, apart from that, it is mostly a drama about the courage and stoicism of the young pilots who are facing certain death in order to defend their homeland and loved ones. This film has a bias that would make Yukio Mishima blush.

High-ranking officers rationalise the creation of the kamikaze units at the beginning of the film. The initial seed was one officer who volunteered to attack American ships that were launching an island invasion since there was no other way of stopping them. The fact that his attack failed in its objective is glossed over. The officers then justify the continuation of the programme by stating that the suicides themselves are reason enough since they offer proof that it will be prohibitively costly to invade the home islands. The allies will then be forced to accept a negotiated Japanese surrender that will result in more favourable terms. One of the commanders, with one eye to history, states that it is important that people in the future realise that the Japanese were fighting for the freedom of races similar themselves. Given that the war was started by the Japanese invasion of China, this may be stretching things a little too far.

Assault On The Pacific - Kamikaze would make for a brain-twisting double-bill with the recent City Of Life And Death which portrayed the Japanese army as subhuman monsters. The film centres on local restaurant owner Torihama (Keito Kishi) who becomes a surrogate mother to the young men and who tells their stories in flashback from a nursing home after the war. It is heartbreaking for her and the others (including the young schoolgirls who volunteer to cook and clean at the airfield) but they are as brave in their own way as the airmen. Everyone acts with great honour with the exception of the heavy-handed military police and one or two of the officers; they are men who do not fight the enemy, after all, and are therefore cast as weak creatures. The pilots are as mixed a bunch as you would expect; the family man, the newlywed, the veteran, the Korean, the cynic, the country boy, and so on.

Curiously some of them survive for quite a while as their missions have to be abandoned before reaching the targets for whatever reason. Engine failure in particular is a great cause of shame, but it can be hard to build up viewer empathy when there is little doubt of the eventual outcome. Needless to say, there is little sympathy for the Americans, those perennial victims of suicidal airmen, although the horror of the saturation bombing of Japanese cities is touched upon. The film continues after the end of the war in order to tidy up loose ends. There are obviously not a lot of kamikaze veterans around by then but the civilian survivors need closure.

There are no extras on this DVD, but then it is a very long film. It would probably have worked much better if broken down to a mini-series.



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