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Shortly after the turn of the century, Toho Music was on and off releasing CD soundtracks. From scores around director Akira Kurosawa to the expansive Godzilla Soundtrack Perfect line, a plethora of titles were issued. That is until 2013, when news and future releases stopped. A two disc set for The Last War (1961) would mark one of their final releases… but the torch would be passed.
In 2014, a label called Cinema-kan burst onto the scene. Their initial offering for Toho was small, with a trilogy of “Science Fiction Movie World” compilations. These were faithful releases to CD of older LP compilations. The company wasn’t done, though, and branched out in 2015 to the more obscure with their next Toho release: one for the Bloodthirsty trilogy. The CD compilation collected music from Toho’s three 1970’s vampire films, but was only a hint of what was to come. In 2016 the company released six full soundtracks for Toho films, moving away from compilations. These ranged from previously released scores like Half Human (1955) to unreleased material like Kill! (1968). As of the start of 2019, the company has issued 19 separate releases related to Toho. As a result, the company has thrust themselves on the radar of Japanese soundtrack collectors, proving to release from a variety of genres along with several titles that have never seen full releases before.
This article is a news roundup tracking these releases as they are announced, or as major details are made available. Much of this is announced over the company’s Twitter handle, which is frequently updated.
Today marks the day Cinema-kan issues their 20th release around Toho. That score is for the The Imperial Navy (1981). Created by composer Katsuhisa Hattori, father of Godzilla vs. SpaceGodzilla (1994) composer Takayuki Hattori, themes from the score were most recently available in Toho Music’s ambitious Toho War Movies Soundtrack Collection. That, however, only included five tracks from the movie, leaving much of the score unreleased.
Cinema-kan, though, is issuing a two disc set for the early 1980’s film. Touting it as including 94 tracks, with everything from unused material to stereo sources, the set appears to include a wealth of material around the production.
The good news for Toho fans, though, is not just what’s coming out today but also what is on the horizon. To that point, Cinema-kan has also announced their next two Toho releases, both of which arrive on April 24th, 2019. One is for Prophecies of Nostradamus (1974), which promises to include not just the original mono score but also stereo material that was created for commercial releases.
The other announced soundtrack is for Gorath (1962). This is of particular note as Toho Music once hinted at releasing this themselves before they stopped doing soundtracks. Cinema-kan is carrying that torch, though. Similar to how Toho Music did earlier releases, this will be a two disc set for the 1962 movie. Included will be both the original stereo and mono scores, along with touted bonus material as well.BY: Anthony RomeroNews // February 20, 2019
A note from staff
A complete translation of Shogo Tomiyama‘s pitch for Godzilla vs. Ghost Godzilla, as seen in the Japanese publication Godzilla vs. Destoroyah Perfection (ISBN: 4798615811). There isn’t as much to see here compared to the draft penned by Kazuki Omori, but I always found the basic idea extremely enticing, and I really wanted to share the text in full even if most of it was already covered in the movie’s cutting room bio. A very special thanks to Noah Oskow for his incredibly proficient translation of this proposal!
~ Joshua S.
“Godzilla vs. Ghost Godzilla” Proposal ― Shogo Tomiyama
※What do we mean by “Ghost,” and just what is “Ghost Godzilla?”
Godzilla, who first made his way into our history in 1954 in Tokyo Bay, was defeated by the underwater-oxygen destroying power of the Oxygen Destroyer. However, the real truth is that as a result of the time powers (powers that can alter the length of time) that came into being at the moment of the destruction of the oxygen, in that single moment 10,000 years passed by, annihilating Godzilla’s body and bones alike. In this way, Godzilla was destroyed physically and corporally, and yet the life-force stored in that gigantic body remained on the seafloor of Tokyo Bay as residual living energy.
40 years onwards, that residual living energy that had been scattered along the seafloor slowly began to bind back together. And at the moment when the energy became one, that aggregation of energy, invisible to the eye, begins to move with the goal of obtaining a body and consciousness.
The mysterious phenomena that have been terrifying the citizens of Tokyo (bridges suddenly collapsing, buildings crumbling, the ground caving in, rivers reversing course, the sky darkening, etc.) are all being brought about by this invisible, wandering aggregate of residual living energy (Ghost) of the original Godzilla.
※Ghost – An ethereal body created by the concentration of the agony and rage of the original Godzilla at the moment of his annihilation. He cannot be seen by the eyes of men, and yet he is an intelligent and demonic being.
This ghost has found its ultimate opponent: Little Godzilla. The ghost, sensing that inside of this young 30-meter tall monster are a body and consciousness that resemble its own, takes ahold of him in an instant, taking over Little as if by possession.
※Ghost Godzilla – The body of Little Godzilla that has been taken over by the specter of the original Godzilla. Its consciousness is that of Ghost, violent and malevolent. A paranormal (viper-real) monster the likes of which we have never yet seen.
※Ghost Godzilla’s special abilities and characteristics
Because Ghost Godzilla is an amalgamation of the life-force energy Ghost and the monster Little, it possesses paranormal powers.
1. Special abilities that go beyond the physical laws of the universe.
c. Phasing through matter.
d. Changing its form.
2. Methods of attack
a. Can spray forth the original Godzilla’s atomic heat beam, melting its target.
b. By spitting ectoplasm from its mouth, it can create duplicates of itself.
c. Based on that life-force energy, it can alter its environment at will (temperature, wind, light, etc.).
d. Penetrate its opponent’s body, taking over their mind.
a. Similar to that of the original Godzilla, but its ferociousness shows in its appearance. Its talons and fangs are long, large, and demonic.
b. Height, 80 meters (original Godzilla + Little).
c. When in danger it takes on Little’s form, weakening Godzilla’s attacks.
a. Hates daylight.
b. Speedy, moving instantaneously.
c. Can only move within the range of the area in which the original Godzilla moved.
a. Strong sense of resentment. The objects of his destructive actions are not limited to buildings, as he persistently targets humans as well.
b. Little’s kind heart may appear momentarily. The demon and the pure heart of this child are in conflict.
※Why do Godzilla and Ghost Godzilla come to fight?
In order to save Little, Godzilla must defeat Ghost Godzilla and expel him from Little’s body. This will be a battle using the magical technique of “exorcism.”
The ghost, having stolen Little’s body and having re-emerged into reality, has developed a taste for this powerful existence, and with that goal fights Godzilla. By defeating Godzilla and stealing his body he can become an invincible god of destruction.General // February 18, 2019
As seen at New York Toy Fair, here are high-quality images for two of NECA’s upcoming figures for their Godzilla: King of the Monsters toy line – Godzilla V2 (2019), and Rodan (2019)! The irradiated blue Godzilla comes with an attachable blast effect piece, while Rodan comes with a support rod and display base. Q3 2019 release for both figures.
Click the thumbnails to see the larger version images. Huge thanks to NECA for sending over these amazing images!
Likewise, NECA’s Godzilla (2019) and Mothra (2019) figures have been consolidated below. Both figures have a Q2 2019 release.
GODZILLA V2 (2019)
MOTHRA (2019)News // February 17, 2019
As shared in an article on Business Wire, the JAKKS Pacific’s Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019) toy line is expected to make its full debut at New York Toy Fair. The event starts today and lasts until February 19th.
While the majority of toys have been previously revealed, price details are now available.
3.5-inch Monster Battlepacks – $9.99
There are three sets available featuring Godzilla and King Ghidorah, Godzilla and Rodan, and Godzilla and Mothra
6-inch Monster Figures – $14.99
Includes the monsters King Ghidorah (with destructible city and Argo Jet accessories) and Rodan (with destructible city and Osprey Helicopter accessories)
12-inch Godzilla Figure – $19.99
This articulated Godzilla figure stands 12 inches tall and is over 20 inches long
Godzilla Electronic Mask – $24.99
A mask that growls when the mouth is partially opened, or roars when fully opened with additional lights
24-inch Godzilla Figure – $59.99
The largest figure this line has to offer, this “giant size” Godzilla has numerous points of articulation and stands 24 inches tall with a length of over 36 inches
The line will be launching worldwide exclusively at Walmart in April 2019.News // February 16, 2019
I recently asked my colleagues at Toho Kingdom for their recommendations for romantic Toho films to watch on or around Valentine’s Day. Now I realize that here at Toho Kingdom we don’t really focus a lot on the Toho romance films, of which there are many—and even when we do review them, sometimes they are pretty awful (I am looking at you, Clover and Blue Spring Ride). Still, for lovey-dovey movie fans, there are many Toho movies worth watching that will tickle the old heart strings—and maybe a few that have monsters in them, too!
Nicholas Driscoll’s Picks
Recommended Animated Romance—Whisper of the Heart (1995)
Okay, the title is majorly cheesy (the English title, anyway—the Japanese title actually translates to something like “If you listen closely”), but this Ghibli movie is one of my favorite Japanese films of all time. Based on a fairly obscure shojo manga and a script by Hayao Miyazaki, Whisper of the Heart tells the story of a junior high girl named Shizuku who loves creative writing and challenges herself to write an original fantasy novel telling the adventures of “the Baron,” a cat statuette at a local antique shop. In the process, she makes a lot of friends and falls in love with a local boy who has big dreams of his own. I don’t want to go into the plot details too much, but suffice to say there is a lot to love as the characters are well-drawn and exceedingly loveable, the romance bits are very sweet, and I just love a good story about creative expression and the sacrifices that have to be made to do it well. Plus it’s a Ghibli movie, so it has beautiful animation! This is also the only Ghibli movie with a movie-length spin-off sequel, The Cat Returns. I can’t recommend the sequel as much, but the original is an excellent movie, whether you like romance or not. (And for those looking for more animated Ghibli romance after finishing Whisper of the Heart, I also can recommend From Up On Poppy Hill
Recommended Dance Romance—Shall We Dance? (1996)
Many romance films also feature dancing in the plot, which is a big plus for me since I love a good turn on the dance floor. This particular dance flick even spawned a Hollywood remake, which is pretty rare for Japanese romance films. The story, about a repressed Japanese family man and office worker Shohei struggling in the doldrums who glimpses a hot babe Mai in a dance studio window and takes up ballroom dancing as a means to chase her and gets more than he bargained for, has many whimsical moments and some big laughs. The romance elements I think are understated and a bit lacking to be honest, though, as our “hero” sort of makes things right with his wife, but their relationship is pretty much sidelined for the Shohei/Mai one. For those looking for a more romantic take, the Hollywood version I think is a decent replacement. However, THIS film inspired a real romance between the director and the Tamiyo Kusakari, the ballet dancer playing Mai, which ended in marriage!
Recommended Supernatural Romance—My Tomorrow, Your Yesterday
I almost gave this spot to The Girl in the Sunny Place, but I already wrote a review of that movie (which I do recommend, as it is a pretty and surprisingly engrossing little film), so I want to give a little attention to another film by the same director, Miki Takahiro: My Tomorrow, Your Yesterday. I will be giving some spoilers to the film here, though those spoilers are kind of given away by the title itself. The movie is about college student Takatoshi, who falls in love with Emi upon noticing her on a train. He works up the guts to tell her his feelings, and soon after they start going out. But Emi has a huge secret, which, when it comes out, hugely complicates their love—she is from the future, in a sense. It’s a bit hard to explain, but basically she lives her life backwards in time and already has memories of their romance together when she first meets Takatoshi. While upon even short reflection the story doesn’t make a lot of sense, it is interesting to see how it all plays out in the highly imaginative universe of the film.
Recommended Live-Action Adaptation of a Manga—Your Lie in April
I have reviewed a number of live-action manga romance films, including the aforementioned howlers Clover (2014) and Blue Spring Ride, but also some pretty good flicks like the two Nana films. I am a sucker for these live-action adaptations, and often watch them even though they are often bad. One of the best I have seen (and which I had intended to review) was Your Lie in April. I had first watched the anime version of this story and enjoyed it very much, so then I became curious about the movie version, not least of all because it featured Suzu Hirose (probably my favorite current young female actress in Japan) in a lead role. I think the movie version works pretty well because the story is not really so complicated, but still deals with some heavy themes and has great music. The story centers on Kosei Arima, a teenager who is a virtuoso on the piano—but who has absolutely sworn off playing because of his awful relationship with his domineering mother. However, Kosei soon meets a free-spirited violinist named Kaori who bullies him into performing with her on stage and facing his demons, and he begins to fall in love with her. Of course things can’t go so simply, and Your Lie in April does suffer from several common romance tropes that occur frequently in Japanese chick flicks, but again the story is well-paced, the actors are good, and the music is beautiful.
Patrick Galvan’s Picks
My recommendation is not likely to surprise anyone even remotely familiar with my tastes in classic Toho movies. I’ve written at length about the great director Mikio Naruse over the last couple of years, devoting reviews and whole articles to his work, so I guess it’s only expected that I would salute one of his movies in today’s Valentine’s Day article. 1967’s Two in the Shadow, better known as Scattered Clouds (the literal translation of its Japanese title), was the last movie Naruse shot before his death in 1969; it was the second or third film of his I saw but the first which really impressed me; and to this day, I tend to pick this film above all others in naming my personal favorite from his oeuvre.
It’s also one of the most beautiful movies about tragic love I’ve ever seen. The premise is one that might sound like setup for forced contrivances (a man falls in love with the woman whose husband he accidentally killed) but Naruse and scenarist Nobuo Yamada treat it in the smartest possible manner, allowing the relationship between the characters to develop slowly, naturally, and believably—and they never allow them, or the audience, to forget the tragedy that binds them together. Yuzo Kayama and Yoko Tsukasa are perfectly cast as the leads, and the location photography of Aomori Prefecture renders this one of the most gorgeous-looking movies in Toho’s catalogue. Naruse was notorious for despising color in film, declaring it a needless distraction (the dream project he never got to realize was a black-and-white movie in which all the drama unfolded before a blank curtain) but he and cinematographer Yuzuru Aizawa use color and their settings to their advantage here.
Seeing Two in the Shadow has been a bit problematic as, like many Naruse films, it’s never been given a bona fide disc release in the Region 1 market. Criterion has a streaming-only print which has switched platforms a couple of times, and access to it disappeared completely with the demise of Filmstruck last November. Thankfully, the film is destined to return on April 8 through Criterion’s new, forthcoming streaming service. And I remain hopeful that, one day, the company will consider giving this quiet little gem a physical release of some capacity. A bonus feature-packed Blu-ray might be hard to justify given Naruse’s obscurity, but Two in the Shadow would make an ideal entry in one of their Eclipse boxsets.
Say, Late Naruse, with titles such as Lonely Lane (1962), A Woman’s Life (1963), Yearning (1964), and The Stranger Within a Woman (1966) serving as companion pieces.
Marcus Gwin’s Picks
I cannot say that I watch a lot of romantic films, as I find many of the films built around such a narrative to be try-hard corporate hack fests that try to manipulate one’s emotions to get positive reception rather than genuinely creating a well crafted tale of two people coming together. Besides, how can one even build an entire film around such a thing? People always have more going on in their lives than just a romantic relationship, so I find it more realistic to include such themes as a sub plot in part of larger narrative. That’s just my opinion though. But from my views, it’s obviously a very hard sell to invest me in any kind of romance. So if I actually recommend something, that means that I hold it to a very high regard. That being said though, I definitely don’t know enough romance films to make any kind of full list, so I’ll be partaking in some genre hoping mischief… even with my free Kaiju pick.
Most Romantic Kaiju Film: This one is a pretty easy pick. Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla (2002), has an excellent unlikely romance between a down on his luck extremely average single dad trying to impress a military pilot in the Kiryu program that is obviously WAY out of his league. I absolutely LOVE the awkward confidence shown by scientist (INSERT NAME) which absolutely comes off as creepy, but through persistence and actually trying to understand Akane, he eventually gets a date. The two have great chemistry, and their interactions serve as a very important way to flesh out the characters throughout the plot. Easily the best use of romance in a Kaiju film in my opinion.
#2 Densha Otoko: Okay, this is pretty much the only actual ROMANCE I’ve seen from Toho… I was forced to watch it in a class I was taking at the time. Apparently, it became something of a cultural icon at the time of its release… I don’t really care about that, and I wouldn’t even say its a particularly great movie. HOWEVER. I don’t think it’s a bad movie either. The plot follows a forever-alone shut-in that winds up protecting a woman on a train from a drunken bum, and ends up getting her number. He then proceeds to get romantic advice from two-chan degenerates. Yeah, this film is rather dated. Anyway, despite the fact that I don’t especially care for the film, I can definitely see why many people do. There definiteky WERE a couple moments I genuinely liked in the film. (None of which were during the climax…). This is the sort of film where I can say, “I didn’t like it, but you might.” That’s how I would recommend it.
#1 Sweet Home: It strikes again! I can use this movie for EVERY article, haha! In all seriousness though, one of the things in this movie that absolutely warms my heart is how it handles romance. I really don’t want to spoil this one, so all I’ll say is that all of the performances are spot-on, and the chemestry between each character enhances the plot, and greatly increases the tension to a boiling point. Past relationships are already a key theme in this film, and as I’ve mentioned many times, the ending is SATISFYING.
With warm regards, have a happy Valentines Day.
Tyler Trieschock’s Recommendations
Recommended Anime Romance – Your Name
For an engaging, comedic, emotional journey to enjoy this Valentine’s Day with your significant other look no further than Japanese classic from Makota Shinkai known as Your Name.
Starting off the film with two characters set in distinctly foreign environments, the film grabs your attention immediately with its introduction of the main leads, Mitsuha and Taki. Each long for more than they find in their rural and urban lives respectively, wanting nothing more than to break free of the challenges their routinely faced with. Fate not only gives them a chance to do just this, but at something I dare not spoil in my recommendation. What I can definitely say is you and your significant other may shed a collective tear at the film’s conclusion, and to cleanse your respective film pallet look no further than my second recommendation.
Recommended Kaiju Romance – Rodan (1956)
Tyler, you speak aloud as you read this article, Rodan (1956) isn’t a romance. How does it relate to Valentines Day? Well to you avid reader, I would say that in all relationships, being able to subvert your significant other’s expectations is a worthwhile aspiration and this movie is the perfect choice to achieve such a goal.
Easily one of Toho’s greatest early Kaiju films, Rodan holds aspects of every genre within its hour and a half run time for you and your significant other to enjoy. Hold your other close as the monstrous insect’s shadow distorts across the eerie, dimly lit mineshaft. Laugh in unison as the Meganulon makes its presence known and runs like a looney toons character onto and then down the nearby mountain. Shake in suspense as Shigeru recalls the horrifying creature he watched come to life within the mountain before the aerial monster, and its mate, embark on a destructive rampage across Japan until their untimely deaths by nature’s fury.
As was mentioned earlier, Rodan isn’t a love story, but its conclusion is one of tragedy formed from the connection of the two aerial terrors. It’s a silent, gripping scene that reinforces how far love in all of our lives can take us and it alone justifies the film’s recommendation this holiday. Just please avoid taking your significant other to any volcanos this Valentine’s Day!General // February 14, 2019
Included below are several preview images of the box art for NECA’s upcoming Godzilla 1962 figure! The incredibly nostalgic front cover utilizes a modified Japanese poster from King Kong vs. Godzilla (1962), while the back and inside covers showcase even more artistic flair.
Godzilla 1962 is expected to be released within the first quarter of 2019. Click the images below to see their full resolution versions. High-resolution images courtesy of NECA.News // January 31, 2019
The opening of Akira Kurosawa’s No Regrets for Our Youth (1946) is set in 1933—two years after the Manchurian Incident, the event which hastened the invasion of northern China by the Imperial Japanese Army—and depicts a love triangle between the daughter of a well-off bourgeois family and a pair of university student suitors. The two men are diametric opposites in terms of their personalities and agendas. One is an outspoken antimilitarist determined to save Japan from its own expansionist policies. The other’s a weak-willed law student perfectly content to live in accordance with the system rather than take a stand or even voice a word against it. Both can see the wrong in their country’s recent actions—especially when one of their professors loses his job for liberalism—but only one sees fit to do anything about it. As for Yukie Yagihara, the young woman caught between them, her choosing between these two embodies a struggle which runs much deeper than the mere selection of a marital partner. Life with one would provide total economic security at the cost of free speech; marriage with the other would “blaze so brightly” with passion reminiscent of that which the man carries in his struggles for academic freedom in Japan and peace for the world.
Based on this inaugurating plot thread, one might assume No Regrets for Our Youth to be a politically charged movie with our heroine’s choice representing a stance favored by the people behind the camera. That was certainly my impression when I reviewed the film in June of 2014: “It’s all the more surprising (and impressive) that here, [director Kurosawa] should have chosen to project some of his country’s postwar feelings through a female protagonist.” I felt pretty confident in this verdict at the time, and I more or less stuck by it when I wrote about the movie again in my career retrospective article on Kurosawa a year later: “By using a love triangle—with a strong female character at the center—Kurosawa could represent Japan’s divided pre-war attitude and ultimately, via the heroine’s decision, stand for the ideology he personally supported.”
I don’t necessarily disagree with either of these statements today. As a matter of fact, the record would support them, as part of the filmmakers’ intent was to demand justice for people who’d lost their jobs—and even their lives—to Japan’s prewar/wartime authoritarian government. On the other hand, it wasn’t until my most recent viewing that I came to discover my earlier interpretations of this picture were, in fact, merely scratching the surface of its true depth and humanity. Seeing the film again—and having done more extensive research into its background and pre-production—I realize now: No Regrets for Our Youth is not a hardcore political movie, nor is it really about any political theory in general. Sure, there are politics in the film, but the film is ultimately not about the politics; the character roster features a few activists, but the story’s not about activism; the plot opens with academic persecution, but the struggle for academic freedom does not become the center of the narrative. The subjects I mentioned are all relevant, of course, but they predominately serve as structural framework before which the real theme of the movie unfolds—a theme Kurosawa had touched on in earlier films and would return to again and again throughout his career.
Before we continue, it is perhaps worth noting that No Regrets for Our Youth was initially going to be a film teeming with much heavier political content. The screenplay was written by Eijiro Hisaita, a man noted for his resentment of Japanese militarism* (an image of the scriptwriter can be seen to the right), and modeled in part after two real-life controversies: the persecution of liberal university professor Yukitoki Takigawa; and the imprisonment/execution of Asahi Shimbun journalist/accused spy Hotsumi Ozaki. These two men were well-known political victims of the 1930s-40s, and their struggles are recreated, albeit in fictionalized form, in the movie. According to the testimonies of both Kurosawa and producer Keiji Matsuzaki, Hisaita’s script (penned over a course of twenty days) was meant to be a through-and-through fictionalized account of Takigawa’s persecution and Ozaki’s murder and was to take a few well-aimed swipes at the people behind the wrongs done to them. But between completion of the script and actual shooting of the film, interferences sprung up, restraining the political content on a number of grounds.
For example, the opening intertitle, as originally written, was to call out by name Ichiro Hatoyama, Japan’s Minister of Education from 1931-1934, the man responsible for the arrests/terminations of many educators deemed leftist or liberal during the pre-war years (Takigawa included). This intertitle was heavily modified for the finished film, pinning blame for the real-life tragedies on a more generalized culprit: “militarists.” Interviewed decades later on the subject, Kurosawa confirmed suspicions that Hatoyama’s name had been removed at the behest of the studio. “I wanted to demand that these people, such as Hatoyama, take responsibility [for the Takigawa and Ozaki incidents.] However, the Toho company told me to delete [Hatoyama’s name] because it would have been upsetting.” While the western powers governing the Land of the Rising Sun from 1945-1952 would’ve likely had no issue with a film directly attacking a former authority figure, the front office at Toho clearly did not want to go along with the idea—perhaps due to the fact that, at the time, Ichiro Hatoyama was president of the Liberal Party, the most popular government body in the first postwar general election. (The executives who made this decision probably congratulated themselves in hindsight when Hatoyama rose through the ranks and became Japan’s 35th prime minister in 1954.)
Continuing on the subject of internal interference. On March 20, 1946, Toho’s labor union—which consisted of 5,600 members—went on a fifteen-day strike, demanding higher pay and more creative power from their superiors. As Kurosawa recalled in his autobiography, “the Toho employees’ union became very powerful [after the studio relented], and the number of Communist Party members among the employees increased. Their voice in matters of film production became more important than before, and a Scenario Review Committee was formed. This committee decided that the script for No Regrets [for Our Youth] required changes, and the film was shot from a rewrite.”
It was not the political nature of Hisaita’s script that was forging objections from the unionists. Rather, it was the simple fact that another script modeled after Ozaki’s arrest and execution was already set to be produced by Toho. Kurosawa argued in favor of his project, insisting that while both screenplays drew inspiration from the same event, they handled their stories in entirely different ways and thus could be filmed simultaneously without adjustments being made to either. Alas, the committee members refused to concede and even questioned Kurosawa whether adherence to his vision was worth upstaging a fellow director. “After my film was completed, it turned out that the other film [Kiyoshi Kusuda’s As Long as I Live (1946)] was totally uninteresting. Therefore, [the unionists] began to say that they should have let me make my film as I had wanted to. I yelled at them, ‘What are you talking about now?’ The unionists and communists were really lording it over us then. A communist screenplay writer was repatriated, and he insisted on incorporating the device of syllogism into screenplay writing. However, I replied that an uninteresting screenplay is uninteresting despite all such devices. I argued often because I was young.” (This last quote comes from a 1985 interview with Kurosawa conducted by Kyoko Hirano, excerpts of which are printed in her book Mr. Smith Goes to Tokyo: Japanese Cinema Under the Occupation.)
The Protagonist and Casting
Despite misgivings between Kurosawa and the studio, the protagonist of No Regrets for Our Youth, Yukie Yagihara, became a textbook example of the sort of role which appealed to (American) film censors in the immediate years of the occupation**. Though not an outwardly political character (as I shall demonstrate shortly), Yukie associates with politically minded people in the first half of the story and is driven by personal needs. She acts according to her own feelings, her own morality, her own impulses, her own agenda. Add to that: depicting an idealistic young woman would’ve been deemed favorable, as movies with strong female leads had been heartily encouraged to Japanese movie studios in the postwar years—deriving from Supreme Commander of the Allied Powers Douglas MacArthur’s mission to “democratize” Japan, which included the political, social, cinematic, etc. emancipation of women***. All of this made Yukie an ideal heroine for an occupation-era movie.
There was also tremendous irony in the casting of Setsuko Hara in the role. Hara had entered the film industry in 1935 and rose to (historically fascinating) prominence two years later when she appeared in the Japan-Nazi Germany co-production The New Earth / The Daughter of the Samurai (1937), a film which championed, among other things, the Japanese invasion of the Fast East. (In the picture’s denouement, a Japanese man who has given up his German love interest marries a “pure” Japanese woman—played by Hara, who, oddly enough, was speculated throughout her life to have been quarter-European—and they begin wedded life farming on occupied Manchurian soil: the titular New Earth.) As the war went on, Hara’s public image intensified and she began taking on roles in movies promoting national policy, such as Kajiro Yamamoto’s The War at Sea from Hawaii to Malaya (1942) and Mikio Naruse’s Until Victory Day (1945). In films such as these, she regularly played ordinary women carrying out their part in boosting national spirit as well as promoting the war effort. To give specifics from another example, her character in Kunio Watanabe’s Toward the Decisive Battle in the Sky (1943) spends the vast majority of her screen time hosting local military trainees, listening to their cheery training stories, and seeing them off at their Pacific-bound departure with an unabashedly happy smile on her face (her pride further enhanced by the fact that her little brother has started basic training). Here was an actress who’d attained stardom in movies that were either tacitly or explicitly nationalistic or jingoistic; and now, all of a sudden, that same talent had been cast in a film defiant of those same policies. Once a cinematic flag-waver, she was now, on screen, the daughter of a liberal teacher (the film’s Takigawa equivalent), the love interest of a radical (modeled specifically after Ozaki), and a victim—like them—of wartime militarism.
For reasons which have never been made clear, Hara did not wish to star in Kurosawa’s film (however, being under contract to Toho at the time, she would’ve had no choice). But regardless of whatever apathy she might’ve felt toward the film’s script or political stance (or something else entirely), the actress turned out one of her most mesmerizing screen performances, one so rich and engrossing that it leaves one genuinely sad to realize she would only work with Kurosawa once more, on his 1951 adaptation of Fyodor Dostoevsky’s The Idiot. And as impressive as their 1946 collaboration turned out, there’ll always be a tantalizing “What If…?” quality imbuing this picture. One cannot help but wonder what sort of performance—and character—Hara might’ve evoked had Kurosawa been allowed to shoot the script he wanted….****
But hypothetical scenarios really don’t amount to much—especially in the face of the exceptionally strong movie that came out of this troubled production. In dialing back on the political content, Akira Kurosawa was able to emphasize an omnipresent and ever-important theme that he’d dealt with before and would continue to dabble in throughout his professional life. The theme of independence and personal growth, which is evoked in No Regrets for Our Youth through its heroine and her unrelenting quest for self-discovery.
An Apolitical Person in an Intensely Political Environment
The movie begins with twenty-year-old Yukie walking amid the gorgeous natural scenery of Arashiyama (one of the major sightseeing destinations just outside of Kyoto). In her company are her parents and seven of her father’s students—two of them being Noge (Susumu Fujita), the freedom fighter, and Itokawa (Akitake Kono), the conformist. The parents stop for a rest on the banks of a river while the young people traverse to Mount Yoshida, where they can see their university. One of the students labels the school the “cradle of freedom.” No sooner has he finished his proclamation when the rattle of machine guns shatters the air. Imperial soldiers are on maneuvers close by, training for action overseas. The politically aware Noge cynically comments, “We can sing about academic freedom all we want, but fascism’s on the rise since the Manchurian Incident.” Yukie glances over her shoulder at him with a look of bemusement. “Back on your favorite subject, I see,” she remarks. After rising to her feet, the young woman starts skipping down the slopes, excited by the sound of distant gunfire, before coming to a halt at the sight of something in the brush. Her companions gather around and Kurosawa’s camera swings downward, revealing the crumpled form of a wounded soldier lying face-down in the dirt.
This opening sequence is a masterclass of great filmmaking on so many levels. In addition to the impeccable camerawork and editing, Kurosawa and screenwriter Hisaita plainly dictate the social environment in which their story takes place (and also show us a sample of the consequences of said social environment; the movie never actually goes overseas to the battlefront, so the filmmakers transpose an image of human carnage home, instead). But more important, they provide us the first glimpses into the intensely political leanings of the character of Noge as well as the genuine lack of political leanings of our heroine. Yukie recognizes and acknowledges Noge’s politicizing in an utterly nonchalant manner, clearly having heard it before; but she neither endorses nor counters it; she merely brushes it off. And her excitement over the sound of machine guns is, as she describes it, due to it being “so clear and rhythmic.” No mention of what it contextually represents in this scene (Japan’s expansionist policies) interesting her in the slightest. The movie’s only a few minutes old and already we have some understanding as to how the characters individually feel about the world around them. And while Yukie, in true Kurosawa fashion, soon undergoes a journey of immense personal change, the path she ends up taking is not what one might expect after this opening. (A quest to prevent war does not become her life mission.)
Like his real-life counterpart, Yukie’s father (Denjiro Okochi) has been expelled from Kyoto Imperial University for holding liberal beliefs, as revealed in a montage of newspaper headlines announcing his termination. Immediately after this, we segue into an argument between the professor’s daughter and Noge. (Itokawa, meantime, sits quietly between them.) Noge goes on about their nation’s recent plundering of Manchuria and how “militarists, backed by industry […] hope to resolve Japan’s internal contradictions through foreign conquest.” Yukie, who’s been staring at her fingers the entire time, scoffs: “All you talk about are Manchuria, militarists, and industrialists. I hate leftists.” (That last sentence clearly intended as an insult to Noge due to his constantly bringing up the subject.) Consistent with behavior seen in Arashiyama, her initial retaliations in this scene stem from disinterest and boredom—boredom of having heard the same thing again and again—with no disagreement with what’s actually being said.
However, as soon as the topic shifts to her father’s expulsion, Yukie begins to exhibit 1) pride-generated obstinacy, and 2) genuine naïveté. She states her father is “a liberal, not a Red,” only to be accurately countered with the fact that the government considers anyone even remotely opposed to overseas aggression a Red. (Unlike Noge, Yukie doesn’t even have basic understanding of the political landscape forming around her.) It’s furthermore not until Noge points out that the plan for mass resignation of university faculty would do nothing to halt the militarists (or restore the professor his job) that Yukie exhibits even an iota of serious concern. (“Then what do you suggest?”) In addition to these revealing bits of dialogue, take note of actress Setsuko Hara’s body language and how it evolves over the course of the scene: distraction-prone in the beginning, fidgety and agitated in the middle, stubborn yet tinged with defeat at the end. Finally, Yukie announces she’s done with the conversation, insisting there’s more to life than “logic,” though she hasn’t a single example to offer in demonstrating her point. And rather than describe what she has in mind, she hurriedly encourages Itokawa to follow her to the piano to listen to some “nice music.” A feeble attempt to scurry away from the argument she has just lost.
As we can see from both the movie’s opening and the subsequent conversation in the Yagihara household, Yukie’s a free spirit more than anything else. Her ideologies, such as they are, consist of extremely basic notions of right and wrong—“My father is in the right, and right will prevail.”—and she’s far more truculent than knowledgeable, not only about politics but about basic human existence. Which is something Noge’s quick to point out. “All you know of life are the pretty scenes outside your window. […] You ridicule logic, but beauty and pleasure not founded on reason are mere bubbles.”
The scene presses on. Yukie, visibly hurt by Noge’s words, starts hammering away on her piano, pretending to play Modest Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition for the amusement of Itokawa—continuing to do so even after Noge picks up his hat and leaves. After abruptly putting a stop to her banging on the keys, she crams a cigarette into her mouth, turning to Itokawa for a light…only to pull away at the last second. Then, the young woman, eyes gleaming, begs her remaining companion to kowtow and apologize (for whatever he wants, so long as he gets down on his knees). When he relents, Yukie becomes distraught at the submissiveness on display and admonishes the law student for not being able to tell her the truth about herself as Noge had just done. What might come across as a confusing burst of erratic behavior is actually, upon further examination, a depiction of a naïve, spoiled individual who thought she could live without a thought or a care in the world briefly attempting to regain some sense of control over her environment before coming around to reluctant acceptance of the facts. All her life, she’s led a mindless existence, soaking up the carefree benefits provided by her parents, blissfully and ignorantly disregarding the world and her place within it. The argument with Noge has brought all of this crashing around her.
Flash forward to 1938. Noge was arrested and sent to prison by the militarists five years ago, following a failed student demonstration, and hasn’t been seen since. But his argument with Yukie has remained on the latter’s heart and mind. Having come to realize the vacuity of her life and saddened to see Noge’s cause simmering—the activist’s colleagues decide not to pursue further action against the government following his arrest—Yukie’s suddenly hurled into her newfound void. No longer does she go frolicking through the wilderness with fawning university students. Instead, she passionlessly studies. In one of the movie’s very best scenes—one exhibiting how brilliantly Kurosawa could use imagery to evoke thoughts from the audience—Yukie dismantles one of her projects in a flower arranging class, responding to glowing compliments from her peers. “Our teacher said that in flower arrangement, you should express yourself freely,” she explains. To prove her point, she plucks the heads of three flowers and places them in a triangular formation in a tray of water, exemplifying her state of mind and her psychological relation to her two suitors. (She momentarily considers marrying Itokawa, now a prosecutor, but ultimately decides against the idea, for life with him would be safe but “boring”; on the other hand, life with Noge would “blaze,” making the prospect “terrifying” but “enticing.”)
Notice how most of these situations have remarkably little to do with Japan’s mounting political scenario. Although she is far more acute to her own existence at this point, Yukie has not taken up any particularly strong activist beliefs; indeed, any newfound political notions on her part are, like her ideologies, extremely basic and marginal. For instance, she now recognizes her country’s expansionist agenda as a bad thing—eyeing troops on the street as they voice anticipation for death on the battlefield—but never takes action against it. At best, she’s more aware that government-led actions affect the world in which she lives.
Even the second “twist” in her life is largely divorced from politics. A half-decade after his arrest, Noge, released from prison, pays a visit to the Yagihara household, seemingly a changed man. Once vibrant and full of revisionist passion, the young activist’s been transformed into a passive, soft-spoken wimp; he renounced his leftist beliefs in exchange for early release and, even in private conversation, is very careful not to say anything even remotely abrasive. In short, he’s become another conformist. Seeing Noge like this leaves Yukie in a state of emotional despair.
And it is immediately after this visit that Yukie decides to leave home. She’s bound for Tokyo (having studied typing and foreign languages in college, she can get a job at a trading company). When confronted about her decision by her father, the young woman breaks down before tearfully professing her reasons. “[R]ight now, I feel as if I’m not even living. I want to at least go out into the world and see for myself what it means to be alive.” Her father then encourages her to go, provided she understands “freedom” (notice he doesn’t say “academic freedom” or “political freedom”) comes with a price, for which she must be prepared.
Yukie’s behavior and decisions make eminent sense upon close examination—and, once again, have remarkably little to do with social beliefs she still has no outward passion for. Seeing her old companion so radically changed was indeed the final turning point for her, but the political nature of Noge’s (seemingly abandoned) cause was incidental: it was his drive and determination that was important to Yukie, because it defined who Noge was; he exemplified living life with reason and purpose (something Yukie’s come to realize she lacks in her own life); and seeing that same man dehumanized, gutted of what he used to be, has left her an emotional wreck. (That she’s fallen in love with him only makes the realization more painful.) And now, the only way she feels she can replenish her belief in the self is to strike out on her own and discover a way to lead life with meaning. She doesn’t know what that might be or what role she should take on, but she believes she’s able—rather, needs—to find it.
All of this is subsequently augmented when Yukie and Noge reunite in Tokyo.
In an intensely claustrophobic scene running seven minutes in length, Yukie and Noge converse in the latter’s deserted office building, drenched in the shadows of night. It is now 1941, three years since their last encounter. Yukie’s lived in Tokyo all that time and has changed jobs three times since moving. “They were never more than a way to put food on the table,” she confesses. “I want something…I can throw myself into…body and soul. That’s the kind of work I want.” Having failed to find a fulfilling occupation on her own and further motivated by her emotional feelings for him, Yukie became determined to find Noge (she’d even considered going to China earlier, having heard he might be there) in hopes that he could set her down the path that was right for her. To emphasize a point I alluded to earlier: in the course of their conversation, the closest Yukie comes to asking about antimilitarism is when she asks Noge if he’s keeping a secret about something “wonderful” (wonderful because it would indicate he’s reverted back to being a radical, back to who he is). Still no enunciated interest in joining the movement herself.
In any event, even though Noge doesn’t have an answer as to what his companion can do on her own, Yukie’s suspicions about him prove correct. Despite prison time and the charade he’d put on at the Yagihara home three years earlier, Noge hasn’t given up his beliefs. He’s merely moonlighting as an office man, continuing his antimilitarist practices behind the scenes. But as the national authorities are steadily pushing themselves into war with the United States (and doubling down on their efforts to silence anyone against it), the police will inevitably catch onto him, and when they do, the consequences will be deadly. Well aware of this and wanting to make the most of their limited time together, the two young people share an apartment in Tokyo. (Yukie professes to have been Noge’s spouse, but all evidence in the film indicates they were simply lovers*****.) Although she studied languages and has skills as a typist (qualities which would surely be helpful in Noge’s professional and personal interests), Yukie merely takes care of him when he comes home, assuming—for all intents and purposes—the role of a housewife. Even when they’re arrested by the police and Noge dies his cell (presumably tortured to death), Yukie never actually follows in his footsteps and becomes an antimilitarist. In fact, the mission she undertakes in the last part of the movie (to be discussed shortly) has virtually nothing to do with her lover’s ambitions and accomplishments.
Based on everything that’s been described thus far, we can plainly see Yukie Yagihara is not an especially political person. In truth, she’s a relatively apolitical person in love with an inspiring man who just happens to be political and living in intensely political times. The fact that she chooses the freedom fighter can be read as a tacit endorsement of his cause—and that is certainly a subtheme in the picture—but the cause itself is not the force motivating her and is ultimately not the core of the movie. Because of this, Yukie’s quite dissimilar from, say, the protagonist of Kenji Mizoguchi’s Flame of My Love (1949), to whom she is often compared. And No Regrets for Our Youth is hardly an ideal companion piece to that particular film. Both movies feature strong female protagonists striving for something in times of great political upheaval, but the way the two films treat their subjects and what their respective heroines actually fight for are drastically different. Kinuyo Tanaka’s lead in the Mizoguchi film was an ardently political person. Her motives, her decisions, even her choice of company were fueled by her activism, her desire to seek emancipation and equality (and respect) for all women in Japan. (At one point, she leaves her insurrectionist boyfriend after discovering he’s been philandering behind her back; they may have enemies in common, but she cannot remain—even associate—with someone who won’t even respect her as a woman.) By contrast, Setsuko Hara in No Regrets for Our Youth is motivated by the need for self-discovery; the person she’s out to save—at least before Noge’s death—is herself. And through her subsequent mission to redeem the man she loved, she ends up redefining herself and finds what she was looking for in the first place.
An interesting footnote before we continue. No Regrets for Our Youth left a very positive impression on contemporary audiences and was even selected by Kinema Jumpo magazine as the second best Japanese movie of the year, but it also drew some considerable ire from critical voices. In a “Short Review” published in Eiga Times, for instance, the complaint was made that: “The film is proud of itself as progressive; however, it is fatal that the film in reality praises the conventional morality.” The jabs made by this reviewer were aimed at some of Yukie’s key decisions: decisions seeming to conform to standard virtues for women in mid-20th century Japan (such as taking on housewife-esque roles and responsibilities). On the one hand, the reviewer’s correct that some of Yukie’s decisions lead to her assuming “standardized” tasks, and it’s certainly possible to contend her not participating in Noge’s cause deprived them of even more time to be in each other’s company. (One could compellingly argue this is a lapse in the film’s screenplay.) But on the other hand, to reiterate something I’ve discussed at length, Yukie’s political outlook is and remains extremely marginal, and certain scenes demonstrate that mere reminders of Noge’s endangerment leave her emotionally frail—such as when she breaks down upon hearing of “good news” in his mission (the fact that Noge’s making progress means the odds of him getting caught are now tenfold). Being around him at work and behind the scenes—receiving much more than hints of his inevitable fate—might’ve exacerbated the emotional ordeal she was going through. Also to reiterate: the reason why Yukie lives with Noge in the first place is due to them acting on their limited time left to be together—as is made clear through dialogue. (It’s not her mission or salvation to become a housewife.) Still, one could quibble a bit with the writing here.
But where the Eiga Times reviewer most egregiously missed the mark was in his criticizing Yukie’s next decision: to move in with Noge’s parents after his death (“The theme that a woman has to stay with her husband’s family even after he dies is very obsolete.”). On the surface, this may seem like a valid observation; but when examined in context, scrutiny does not align with this interpretation. For it is here, in this long, absolutely marvelous final forty minutes of the picture, that Yukie Yagihara’s quest for self-discovery comes to fruition, and in ways that are only superficially “conventional.”
Personal Transformation and Discovery of the Self
Yukie’s motivation for what ultimately brings about the greatest change in her life stems from her final conversation with Noge. Mere hours before his arrest, the seemingly impervious freedom fighter revealed his one true weakness: his estranged relationship with his rice farmer parents, whom he hadn’t seen in ten years (and would never see again). He feared the scolding of his father and the tears of his mother, and despite his belief that fighting for peace in Japan would, in a way, include amending his relationship with them, he still considered them his “weak spot.” In this scene, Yukie realizes Noge, too, had a void in his life, one he was never able to fill.
In the wake of their son’s much-publicized death, Noge’s parents refuse to make the journey to claim his remains—for reasons that are soon made clear and somewhat understandable. In addition to the strained relationship that existed between the deceased and his progenitors, the government-controlled media’s denouncement of Noge as a spy has cast a nationwide bias over his family. The farming community in which the parents reside has completely turned on them, forcing the two elderlies to board up their doors and windows (covered with graffiti spelling out phrases such as “Spies Live Here”) and work their fields only under the cover of night. Indeed, as Yukie learns in delivering Noge’s ashes, the mother (Haruko Sugimura) blames her son for their newfound circumstances, cursing him while she digs his grave. After seeing all of this, Yukie’s determined to remain, at least temporarily, with her in-laws. Not because “conventional morality” insists the daughter-in-law tend to her husband’s family, but because she sees it as her task to mend the “weak spot” Noge could never mend himself. She knows not how she can do it, only that she must. And at no point in this last section do we see her take on especially “conventional” roles: she doesn’t prepare meals, clean the house, etc. (As a matter of fact, she frequently acts against the wishes of her in-laws.) As with the political events in the film, the change of scenery/company merely forms a framework—a situation—through which Yukie undertakes her journey. And in the process, she completely strips herself of her bourgeois background and everything that came with it.
As is demonstrated in what is, unquestionably, the film’s most mesmerizing scene. Having made it clear she will not—cannot—leave, Yukie joins her mother-in-law in the long, taxing process of growing rice. Kurosawa ends the previous scene with a shot of Yukie on her hands and knees and then cross-dissolves to a pair of hoes, the blades of the tools directly matching the position of our protagonist’s hands. The first hoe’s picked up by the mother-in-law, the second by Yukie, who’s already undergoing a change of wardrobe. In the earlier scene, she was clad in a full-fledged middle-class suit; now, she’s without her suit jacket. (The first “layer” of her background, peeled away.) Next, Kurosawa takes us to the fields. The mother-in-law’s hacking apart the hard, grassy terrain with an attitude that can only be described as antagonistic. Yukie stands off to the side in a state of horror. Once again, the mother starts cursing her dead child: “Rotten, ungrateful son!” At the mention of these words—reinforcing why Yukie came here in the first place—the young woman lifts her hoe off the ground and takes a step forward. As she does, one of her shoes comes loose—stripping away yet another layer of her background—and she takes her first strike at the earth, eventually, with some effort, tearing out a large chunk of it. The two women then start working as a team, the mother no longer saying a word, perplexed by her daughter-in-law’s determination. Yukie’s adjustment is not immediate. Her pristine white shirt’s soon caked in mud; she quickly begins to tire; discomforting blisters open on her hands. But she doesn’t stop. To counter the blisters, she forges a couple of makeshift bandages. To prevent her hair from flying around, she pins it back, away from her face. And the harder she works, the more efficient she becomes. She has found it. After much searching, in a way she never imagined—and for a cause she never hoped for—Yukie’s found work into which she can completely throw herself, “body and soul.”
In capping off this remarkable sequence, Kurosawa segues into a series of cross-dissolves, transitioning between four similarly composed wide shots of Yukie hoeing laterally before the camera. With each cross-dissolve, part of the heroine’s former wardrobe disappears, replaced by lower-class work attire. And then, the final dissolve. Our protagonist is completely unrecognizable and in more ways than one. Whereas previously in the scene Yukie would pour herself a cup of water during breaks, she now hefts the entire jug over her head, drinking straight from the spout. Her wardrobe has changed, her etiquette has changed, Yukie herself has changed. (A later image in the film: her hands skillfully whisk over the keys of her piano back home, soon dissolved and replaced by a shot of those same hands—covered with bandages—being rinsed in the countryside river. With that, every iota of who Yukie Yagihara used to be is, figuratively, metaphorically, washed away.)
Through a great deal of physical and mental anguish, Yukie attains the respect of her in-laws and makes strides in improving their way of life. She tears down the boards covering their doors and windows and endures the hostile gazes of the villagers when she strolls through town (Kurosawa does not glamorize lower-class communities—once again, it’s merely a venue). She continues to work right alongside her mother-in-law (in daylight now) until they’ve converted whole acres of grassy fields into rice paddies. And when all of their hard work’s destroyed in a night raid by the villagers—who leave hate-spewing signs in the muddy water—it is Yukie who makes the first move to start planting all over again. The mother-in-law follows suit. And then, at last, the father-in-law (Kokuten Kodo), who has been silent and inactive all this time, takes action, tearing down the signs, shouting defiance of the people (their own neighbors) who’ve done this to them. Noge’s parents finally realize the cruelty inflicted upon them is and always has been the cause of society, not their son. Yukie’s mission is a success.
The story of No Regrets for Our Youth ends twelve years after it began, in 1945. An intertitle proclaims: “The war is lost, but freedom is restored.” Yukie’s father has been restored to his teaching job at Kyoto Imperial University, and Noge’s come to be revered as a martyr. (The late antimilitarist once told Yukie that, in time, the public would appreciate what people like him had done.) Still, there is an air of sadness in the present—reflection over what was lost in the struggle for freedom, academic and otherwise—especially at the reception where Professor Yagihara gives a speech about his former student. All is certainly better, but hardly ideal.
As for Yukie, now thirty-two years old, there’s much left to be done. Her successfully mending Noge’s image in the minds of his parents unintentionally paved her way to a new cause worthy of devotion. Politics is still not her forte; instead, her mission is to ease the hardships inherent in the lives of lower-class people, which she has now experienced first-hand. “Their lives—especially the women’s lives—are brutally hard,” she informs her mother. “If I can improve their lot even a little, my life will be well spent.” Once again: in setting out to redeem the man she loved, Yukie ended up redefining herself and found the very thing she was seeking in the first place.
There is tremendous irony in the last few minutes of No Regrets for Our Youth—both in the writing and in Setsuko Hara’s performance. In playing the scene of Yukie explaining her situation to her mother, Hara beams incessantly, even forcibly, as though putting on a façade of happiness (despite her insistence to the contrary). And if the next scene is any indicator, she just might be. On her way out of town, Yukie stops by beautiful Arashiyama, and this time, she’s all alone (in a place where she used to frolic in naïve innocence). Resting next to a babbling brook, she watches a new generation of students—ones who didn’t have to choose between conformism and individuality—hopping across the stones spanning the stream (just as she and her friends had done; they even sing the same songs). Framed in a long-lasting close-up, Yukie somberly stares after the students, remembering her youth and everything she’s lost. The title of the movie comes from a phrase Noge once said to her and she’s adopted it herself, but it’s only somewhat true. Yukie may have found a meaningful way to lead her life, but it’s come at a terrible price.
For the picture’s ending, Kurosawa added a dialogue-free coda absent in Eijiro Hisaita’s screenplay. Three trucks come barreling past the camera down a gravel road—destination: the farming community—the last one stopping to pick up Yukie, who needs a ride. The farmers in the back of the truck are all smiles as they take her suitcase and help her up. Once aboard, Yukie leans against the chassis, standing before everyone else. An irony-fueled montage ensues with the farmers smiling and bowing (apologetically as well as welcomingly) to the very same woman who, just a few years before, they had all scorned and shunned as the wife of a spy. Perplexed at first, Yukie finally gives a soft smile. Noge’s words have proven true: in time, the Japanese people came to realize the nobility of his cause. Our heroine’s smile is tinged with sadness (she did lose Noge, after all), but at least now she has proof her love’s death wasn’t completely in vain. The final image begins as a group shot of everyone with Yukie framed in the center; the truck then resumes its journey, pulling away from the camera, taking Yukie back to the village where she uncovered not her political beliefs but her independence, her cause, her reason for living, and her sense of self.
In a 1956 issue of Eiga Junkan magazine, Kurosawa was quoted saying: “I believed [at the time of No Regrets for Our Youth] that it was necessary to respect the ‘self’ for Japan to be reborn. I still believe it. I depicted a woman who maintained such a sense of ‘self.’” And following a very careful and thorough analysis of the picture under discussion, I am convinced, now more than ever, that this is the core of his movie. The film’s social backdrop certainly influences key narrative events but only takes center stage on occasion; much more attention is instead zeroed in on Yukie and her journey.
Themes of individual growth had been of interest to Kurosawa ever since his directorial debut in 1943; but his ability to flex this notion had been greatly restricted by the confines of wartime censorship. His earliest movies showed characters growing only within government-approved subjects (such as mastering judo—Japan’s national sport) and women were, for the most part, meek, inspiring only in their spiritual purity. The closest Kurosawa had come to a Yukie Yagihara before was in 1944’s The Most Beautiful, his one wartime film with a determined, self-regulating female lead. Despite the propaganda-infested context of this film, there were some aching bits of humanity evoked through its main character: the heroine relentlessly searching for an unchecked rifle lens through all hours of the night, for fear one of her countrymen would die a needless death due to having a faulty weapon in battle; the same person breaking down in tears upon realizing her ceaseless devotion at work cost her the chance to say goodbye to her terminally ill mother. A discussion on the humanity of The Most Beautiful in and of itself is an interesting topic (perhaps one for another day); but it wasn’t until No Regrets for Our Youth that Kurosawa was able to present individuals and individual achievement in a way that was truly special.
And in Yukie, the director cemented traits destined to filter into other characters of his down the road. Besides what Kyoko Hirano has mentioned in her book (that stubbornness and insistence on pushing through life’s struggles would define later Kurosawa women), I would like to note that bits and pieces of Yukie’s characterization sometimes resurfaced through protagonists in Kurosawa’s predominately male-centric filmography—with Takashi Shimura’s civil servant in Ikiru (1952) immediately coming to mind. Like Yukie, Shimura undertakes his journey in that film primarily to satisfy a personal need, to accomplish something meaningful with his life. And while he’s awakened to this need by a very different set of circumstances, the emotions behind his reasoning are quite similar to those of the woman who gave up her carefree bourgeois existence in favor of something she couldn’t even identify but eventually discovered with redefining passion. As both characters admit in key scenes from their respective movies, all either of them wants is to discover what it truly means to live.
All of this renders Yukie Yagihara into an essential figure in Kurosawa cinema, worthy of careful thought and analysis. Passionate, vigorous, and endlessly fascinating—very much like the movie around her.
* No Regrets for Our Youth screenwriter Eijiro Hisaita had been imprisoned by the government before the war for practicing as a leftist writer. Although he was forced to write national policy films during the war years—such as Kozaburo Yoshimura’s Final Struggle (1943)—he returned to his leftist beliefs immediately after the surrender. Most notably, during the same year as his collaboration with Kurosawa, he wrote Keisuke Kinoshita’s antimilitarist drama Morning for the Osone Family (1946), which was chosen by the prestigious Kinema Jumpo magazine as the best Japanese movie of the year (No Regrets for Our Youth was chosen as the second best).
** When the Allied Powers took over Japan after the surrender, they immediately set out to control all Japanese media, including the content of movies. See my article on another Akira Kurosawa film, Those Who Make Tomorrow, for more information.
*** As early as October 11, 1945—mere months after the surrender—General Douglas MacArthur personally recommended that Prime Minister Kijuro Shidehara make the emancipation of women the highest of his priorities. The occupation government’s demands led to the formation of the Women’s and Minors’ Bureau in the Japanese Ministry of Labor in September 1947 and opened national universities to women. Furthermore, in the first postwar general election (April 10, 1946), thirty-nine women won seats in the Shugiin (the Japanese House of Representatives).
**** Kurosawa was forever insistent the original script that Hisaita wrote for him was much better than the script he ended up shooting. “[Hisaita’s] first script for my film was such a beautiful piece of work that it still pains me to remember that it was shelved at the hands of such thoughtless people.”
***** The film never shows a wedding ceremony, pictures, etc. But the key piece of evidence is when Yukie is interrogated by the police, in which they ask her how long she and Noge had been (their words) “lovers.”BY: Patrick GalvanGeneral // January 17, 2019
The staff of Toho Kingdom sound off on their hopes for Godzilla and Toho related events for 2019, “Tohopes” if you will and don’t mind a large helping of puns. With a new Godzilla film on the near horizon with Godzilla: King of the Monsters, the new year is likely to be big for the franchise star, and we weigh in on what might be in store and what would be great to see in the near future as a result.
2019… the year of Godzilla’s 65th birthday! And for such an auspicious year, we are getting a spectacular showing from him!
We’re finally going to see the long awaited release of the next MonsterVerse film, Godzilla: King of the Monsters, which is where most of my Tohopes for this year are bound. The two trailers which have been released at the time of this writing have been utterly stunning; the fab four Toho kaiju look amazing, the action looks to be stellar, and I am fully planning on enjoying myself on this film. Simply put, I hope it is as at least as much fun as it seems to be!!
In addition to the movie, I’m very excited on the collectibles side of G:KOTM too. The SH-MonsterArts figures all look pretty good, but I’m hoping we’ll get some new X-plus announcements showcasing the MonsterVerse designs as well. Most of all though, I’d like to see another statue come out in the same vein as the Sideshow Collectables 2014 Godzilla. The first statue in particular is spectacular, but as soon as the updated 2019 Godzilla design was revealed I knew I had to have an updated version! I’m excited just imagining the ways I would display the two of them together.
I’m also getting anxious to hear about Toho’s plans for Godzilla post 2020. I love the MonsterVerse and I’d like to see it continue. My hope is some sort of deal can be brokered that allows the continuation of the MonsterVerse alongside some new Toho offerings. Time will tell on that front though; I’m excited to find out what will happen next!
Beyond that, I’d just like to see more Godzilla material in general! I really can’t get enough of the big guy! I’d really love to see him get back into comics this year. IDW’s Godzilla run was great, and every month I looked forward to those titles. It would be wonderful to see something else come out like that. A new Godzilla video game would be cool as well, or maybe even a re-release of the classic Pipeworks Godzilla trilogy? I know I’d be game for either!!
Past Godzilla though, I’d be very happy to expand my exposure to various other Toho movies. I’ve been dying to see Gorath for some time, and I’d like to make this year the one where I see it! Time will tell though; I just hope it’s a great year for Godzilla, and all the rest of us out here enjoying his resurgence!
1. I think everyone has some high hopes for the new Godzilla: King of the Monsters release. Of course, as with many others, I am hoping for awesome monster action, cameos from favorite Toho monsters and new originals (I love original monsters!), and a compelling story. But can I be frank and just say I really hope the human cast is memorable as well? That might be my biggest hope for the film. From what I have seen of the monsters, I think they look great. But if the human scenes (which, let’s face it, will be the majority of the movie) are a slog, then the movie will be a pain in the butt to sit through. Please, please, PLEASE have interesting and relatable human characters!
2. Comics! I am a big fan of comics, and I would love to see more Godzilla comics released both Stateside and in Japan. Come on, original stories! I would love it if, instead of just getting one Godzilla tie-in graphic novel, we could get some ongoing comic adventures!
3. And as long as I am at it, I wish, wish, wish Toho would just release several big volumes collecting all the old Godzilla and Toho kaiju/sci-fi stories together, including the original side stories. Oh, gosh, that would be AMAZING.
4. Here’s a big stretch, but if I could have my druthers and dream big… I wish we could finally see an official DVD release of Half Human (1955) and Prophecies of Nostradamus (1974) in Japan OR in the States, plus official releases of Invisible Man and The Secret of Telegian (1960) in the States. I know it’s shooting for the moon, but I wish we could see that.
5. An announcement of something new with Gamera. A new movie, a new TV show, a video game, something. I just want more Gamera—especially if we could finally get that crossover with Godzilla. Hey, Godzilla is fighting King Kong again. Why can’t he have a crossover event with Gamera, too?
6. We had our Godzilla anime trilogy. Could we have an actual Godzilla anime TV series now? Pretty please?
7. A new, good Godzilla video game. Or even a sequel to City Shrouded in Shadows! That may not have been a great game, but I really enjoyed it!
8. Can I just say, more than any of these other hopes, that 2019 will be a year in which we have a lot of good health? Yes, for the various beloved creators and actors and celebrities, but also for the fans. We lost a lot of people last year. I hope that 2019 can be a year of good health and fun fan friendships all year long as the Toho kaiju world gets bigger than ever. Time is precious!
It’s been five years since a Godzilla movie hit theaters for a wide release in the United States. That event was the second ever American Godzilla film, and while it didn’t cause the same onslaught of merchandise that GODZILLA (1998) did, fans did get a lot of things to look forward to. This included a number of toys and also a lot of Blu-rays, such as Godzilla vs. the Smog Monster! Godzilla vs Hedorah.
So my hope is that we get something similar this year, in particular in the realm of home video releases. If I had to narrow my selection on what I would like to see most, it would probably be Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla (1974) from Kraken Releasing and by some miracle a release of Rodan (1956) from Criterion. I also hope that Sony continues with their releases of some of their catalog on Blu-ray. I was pretty happy with the Blu-ray of Battle in Outer Space (1959) last year, and would love if they followed it up with Mothra (1961) and H-Man (1958) this year.
Regardless of what happens though, we are getting a new Godzilla film, a new appearance by Rodan and a new Godzilla soundtrack from Bear McCreary, who has done decent work on the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. tv series. So even if none of my wishes pan out this year, I know I will have enough to keep me happy as a Godzilla and Toho fan in 2019.
Have a hope of your own for the new year? Sound off in the comments below.General // January 16, 2019
It’s been 16 years since Godzilla: Destroy All Monsters Melee was announced and released. Since then several generations of video game consoles have come, as the industry continues to march on. Despite these advances, though, the original trilogy of games from Atari and Pipeworks are still well remembered today. In fact, one doesn’t have to look further than this petition to re-release them, currently with over 8,000 signatures, to see that.
So, the staff of Toho Kingdom does its retrospect on these titles, diving into what made the Atari and Pipeworks trilogy of Godzilla games particularly memorable. Feeling nostalgic for the titles yourself? Feel free to leave a comment on the article sharing your experience with the titles.
As an avid video game player to this day, I believe that I have never been more excited for any game than I was for Godzilla: Destroy All Monsters Melee! There’s simply nothing else that compares. When I first got wind of it in a quarter page preview in Game Informer, my 11 year old brain went into overdrive. I spent at least 1 hour, every day, looking up screen shots, videos, and articles for the game on my slow dial up internet. It got to the point where I had to limit my searches just to spare myself agonizing over every screenshot. For the first time ever, I had a shot at fulfilling my childhood dream to get to be Godzilla. This game felt like the closest I could get to making that dream come true. So, needless to say, before the game even released I was hooked. I had my Mom take me to KB Toys to pick it up, desperately anxious to play. Waiting for the staff to find it and then bring it to me was agonizing, but at long last it was in my hands! What followed was a blur of elation and pure joy. I unlocked the roster in a matter of two days, played an untold number of hours against AI and friends. And even if it wasn’t perfect, it was an absolute treasure. Godzilla: DAMM was a routine mini-disc in my Game Cube (and later Xbox) tray, and I still keep both versions in my collection today.
Fast forward to the sequel in 2004 and my experience changes only very subtly. I was excited from the first announcement, and the expanded roster of kaiju only further fed my obsession. Thankfully I had learned to dial back my exhaustive researching, so it seemed like no time until the game was released. After that, I started networking my classmates; I hooked everyone I could into playing with me! I brought my PlayStation 2 over to other people’s houses just to get them in on the game, even buying the controller expansion port so I could have 3 other friends play with me. I played the asteroid and submarine levels on my own to get higher scores, staged recreations of Godzilla’s most famous movie bouts, as well as many original set ups as well. Truly, no Godzilla game before this could compare to it. Super Godzilla might be nostalgic, but nothing could come close to this game.
Which leaves Godzilla: Unleashed for our final entry in the trilogy. My relationship with this game is a bit of a rollercoaster. Being on the Wii, I was rather concerned about the controls… but my love of Godzilla overcame me and I bought a Wii just to play it! It just looked so exciting! The roster was even bigger than G:STE, and graphically it was improved (if only slightly). There were rumors and tales of an expanded story mode, which was more than enough to get me to chance it. And then, as I feared, the motion controls nearly killed if for me. It was clunky, not very responsive, and the battlefields just didn’t quite keep my attention. I played through it, unlocked as many kaiju as I could, and put it away… Until I didn’t. Years later, I put my Wii out for a party and Godzilla made it into the lineup! And to my initial surprise, he was a big hit too! Suddenly I was running tournaments with my friends, people were coming over just to play the game! Clearly I had been too harsh on my first play through; like all the games in the Pipeworks/Atari trilogy, this Godzilla game was a ton of fun!
Which is precisely why we need them back now! Godzilla is at the forefront of a kaiju resurgence. With multiple movies out and Godzilla: King of the Monsters on the horizon, now is the best time of all to bring these games back out. Plenty of people have the same dream I did at 12; to be Godzilla. And there are frankly no better nor more fun video games than these three gems to make that dream a reality.
There are three video games that I’ve anticipated more than any others. They are Super Smash Bros. Brawl, to which I would eagerly await the daily updates on Smashbros.com, Pokémon Gold/Silver, to which half the fun was trying to separate fake rumors on the net from actual news, and finally Godzilla: Destroy All Monsters Melee.
I still vividly recall my disbelief that we were getting a Godzilla video game in the United States for the Nintendo Gamecube. Despite its faults, Godzilla: Monster of Monsters remains a very fond memory for me, drenched with Toho lore from every pore. However, it had been a long time since its sequel hit the US and the SNES Super Godzilla just never clicked with me and so felt like a distant memory at the time. Outside of these, it had felt like most Godzilla games were a Japan only affair, and my disappointment about us not getting Godzilla: Destroy All Monsters in the US was still palatable. So to discover we were getting a 3D fighting game based on the King of the Monsters felt like a dream, and I was instantly hooked on gathering as much information as possible.
Some may recall how fixated Toho Kingdom was on covering the game. Any and all news was broadcast on the game, and we had early access to producer Kirby Fong and Pipeworks president Dan Duncalf as well to fuel the excitement. At that time, all eyes were on the roster for the game. Every day felt like a new adventure to see who might be confirmed, looking through new screenshots for any hints. That’s a real testament considering the final roster, for the US Gamecube release, ended up being 11 monsters. Ultimately, the last reveal happened by accident, as the final copyright for the game, due to Toho’s policy, revealed everyone.
Excitement building aside, how did the final game stack up? Well I played the hell out of it, for sure. The title was immensely more engaging than most of the Godzilla games before it, greatly surpassing Godzilla Generations just in being able to feel like you are walking around in a city as the title character. The multiplayer aspect was icing on the cake… and honestly, it’s just a lot of fun to pickup a building and toss it at another monster. In fact, it’s still a Gamecube game I revisit, pretty much the only one at this stage beyond some occasional joy in playing Link in Soul Calibur 2. While I enjoyed the sequels, which I’m not saying aren’t better games, the first Pipeworks title will always hold a special place for me due to the hype leading to its release and the fun I had with it.
Godzilla: Destroy All Monsters Melee (Gamecube, Xbox)
I never had the Gamecube version of this game, but I remember finding a Gamestop that had a demo version of the game running shortly after its release. I was really excited to try it out, and thought the monsters looked great, which was pretty exciting for a Godzilla geek like me. If I remember correctly, only a few monsters were enabled on the demo—I think Megalon, Anguirus, and Godzilla. I remember smashing things up for a bit, but getting my hinder handed to me by the aggressive computer. Later my brother picked up the Xbox version of the game and we played it via the Xbox360 emulator, but by that time I had played Save the Earth, and the older game felt pretty clunky to me, so I personally didn’t get very far.
Godzilla: Save the Earth (PS2, Xbox)
This was probably my favorite game in the series, but for the life of me, I can’t remember it very well. My strongest memory of playing this game was picking up the Japanese version when I lived in southern Honshu many years ago and being blown away by the gorgeous cover art. I am sure I played through the game several times, but in all honesty, while I remember enjoying the game (especially size-shifting Jet Jaguar), the game didn’t have a huge impact on me.
Godzilla: Unleashed (Wii, PS2)
So… the game that had the biggest impact on me personally out of all three of the Pipeworks Godzilla games was Unleashed, specifically the PS2 version. I have had only very limited playtime with the Wii version, but the PS2 version I played to exhaustion because for a while I was thinking to write a review of the thing, and I was frustrated by the lack of detail in the reviews I had seen online. I remember getting incredibly frustrated with this game, and took many notes for a review which I never finished because I just got sick of the game.
These games for me are a big part of my childhood. Nothing was more satisfying than being able to lay the smackdown on an opposing monster with another giant monster, using whatever tools you had or utilizing the environment to your disposal. These were very solid 3D fighters and play very well, with a roster that only expanded with every new entry. So the thought of having high definition remasters is an incredibly exciting prospect!
Each entry holds a special place for me. Although I enjoyed the GameCube version of Godzilla: Destroy All Monsters Melee fine, the Xbox version became my personal go-to game with its revised graphics and additional content. Playing as Kiryu (Mechagodzilla 3) on the Boxing Ring and Vortaak homeworld was one of the most cathartic experiences for younger me. Even if we didn’t have access to it at the time, being able to demolish the elusive Thrashburg stages still gives the game more to discover of what we’ve been missing on.
While I did wind up sinking most of my time playing Godzilla: Unleashed (Wii), I’d say Godzilla: Save the Earth is probably the best in the trilogy, with its refined combat system being several steps up from where G:DAMM started. Before GU hit the scene, it was definitely GSTE I played at every waking moment I could (with Super Smash Bros. Melee being the other major contender). It was always an intense game, and one I still hold good memories of. An overall better fighter than its predecessor. Even the likes of the game’s cut content–notably Biollante–kept me invested in the game after hearing from an old interview with Simon Strange so many years ago (and having had the chance to play as her, she’s a blast!).
Godzilla: Unleashed (Wii) is a title that understandably gets flack for its wonky motion controls, but it’s also the entry with the most in terms of roster size. It’s unfortunate that the game’s controls is the biggest hurdle of them all, because this is a game that has tons to offer and has memorable set pieces (like the Invasion event in the story mode). As stated, I’ve played the game for hours upon hours, playing through the entire game with absolutely everyone. Here’s to the remastered version being able to amend these faults, if that can be at all changed.
It’d be nice to chip in two cents of what we’d want to see, but first we have to wait if such a herculean task will be picked up or what direction it’ll be taken in (and if Toho gives their blessings). So let your voice be known, because I believe they are listening.General // January 14, 2019
Jakks Pacific has revealed their, rather expansive, Godzilla King of the Monsters toy line to coincide with the upcoming movie from Warner Bros. and Legendary Pictures. The toy line hits in April, in advance of the May release date of the movie in the United States. Items range from 6 inch figures, to giant 20 inch or 40 inch figures and even an electronic Godzilla mask. The 6 inch figures also come with a military vehicle, which are an Osprey Helicopter and an Argo Jet. The entire line will be a Walmart exclusive. More info to come.
Check out images of the line below. Click the thumbnails to see the larger version images. Huge thanks goes out to Jakks Pacific for sending over these great images!
The following toys are collection packs. Each contains a backdrop, a Godzilla figure and a figure of one of the other monsters from the film: Rodan, King Ghidorah or Mothra. Please note, though, that one of these sets contains, potentially, a large spoiler for the movie. As a result, please view the remaining toy images at your own risk.
Excited for the Jakks Pacific Godzilla King of the Monsters toy line? Have a favorite figure of them? Feel free to leave your comments below talking about the line. Also, note that due to the spoilerish nature of one of these toys, expect comments might similarly also spoil this and read at your own risk as well.News // January 10, 2019