Near the end of the Second World War Japan realized that it was losing. The Nazis had fallen and the full might of the United States Navy and Air Force were coming to bear on the Pacific. It was a time of great fear and desperation and Admiral Onishi Takijiro had a plan to force the Americans to negotiate for peace: suicide attacks.
The idea was that Japan would make it so that the war became too costly for the Americans to press on. After all in a kamikaze attack one pilot could sacrifice his life and in doing so take out hundreds of the enemy. It was the kind of cold, hard logic of a chess master, and while it made sense in the abstract realm of theory, the psychological cost proved to be devastating.
If this was a different movie with a less serious subject matter, Id be tempted to make a joke at this point, because this is a very difficult movie to watch. For one thing, its extraordinarily long, only two minutes less than the running time of the extended edition of The Return of the King, and while that would be tiring enough, its made worse because the sole audio track is in Japanese, and those unlucky enough not to speak the language are forced to use subtitles, which wouldnt be that bad except that the amount of information on the screen is a flood of dialogue, peoples names, and various cultural information helpful to foreigners. This makes for a fascinating, yet exhausting, movie experience.
The movie is also hurt because it lacks a clear narrative structure. Instead of following Admiral Takijiro from the moment he conceived of the plan to the point where he realizes its implications, the movie jumps around from person to person, chronicling the different reactions people had to the plan. Between those scenes is footage from newsreels complete with narration, and maps detailing the American advancement. Most of the time, this felt like a documentary masquerading as a movie.
As fascinating as the subject matter is, this is not an enjoyable viewing experience. It simply gives far too much information in a far too dry way. This had the potential to be a, engaging dramatic movie, but it seems like the filmmakers became so swept up in conveying every last bit of information that they neglected the plot. I found myself unable to connect to any of the characters or become involved in the movie beyond my general interest in the subject. This was the movie equivalent of reading a history text book, and while I enjoy history, thats not what Im looking for in a film.
The movie was presented in 2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen. No specifications were given for the audio beyond that the only language track was in Japanese with English subtitles. The movie was made in 1974, and it does show its age, but overall the transfer is clean with no problems with either the audio or the video.
Notes Index – The Index covers quite a bit of information: a brief biography of actor Koji Tsuruta; brief biographies of key Japanese military personnel; program notes; a short article entitled “The Legacy of the Kamikaze: Modern Attacks in the New American Century”; slightly longer article, “Profile and Motivation: Pathology, Idealism, and Religion”; and Japanese credits.
Images – There are a few pictures from the movie, divided into three categories: Color, Black and White, and the original 1974 movie poster.
Interactive Map – This was probably my favorite featurette. The map is divided between the Northern and Southern theaters and gave detailed information on key places and battles during the war.
Father of the Kamikaze Trailer One (3:27)
Father of the Kamikaze Trailer Two (4:24)
Japans Longest Day (2:47)
Battle of Okinawa (2:36)
The kamikaze strikes were one of the more amazing and intriguing moments of World War II, and the exploration of suicide attacks is especially relevant today, but there are far too many problems with this movie for me to recommend it to anyone other than hardcore history buffs. Not recommended.
AnimEigo presents Father of the Kamikaze. Directed by Kousaku Yamashita. Starring Koji Tsuruta, Akira Kobayashi, Kinjya Kitaoji, Tsunehiko Watase, and Bunta Sugawara. Written by Taizo Kusayanagi. Running time: 199 minutes. Rated 18+. Released on DVD: January 13, 2009. Available at Amazon.
Tags: World War II