Films and Dramas

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The two major studios are Toho and Toei. There is also a flourishing independent cinema scene. Most films nowadays have their own promotional webpages. There are some key movie databases that provide full details of the cast and production teams as well as synopses. These include: Movie Walker Press

The main cinema magazine in Japan is Kinema Junpo. It also publishes industry data relating to box office revenues and critical acclaim.

Three Types of War Film/Drama

War films divide into three broad categories: with military heroes, victim heroes, and “good Japanese” heroes (see Japan’s Contested War Memories Chapter 7).

Military hero films are often in the action-adventure genre. For an example of discussion of this kind of film see Aaron Gerow, “War and Nationalism in Yamato: Trauma and Forgetting the Postwar”. An important sub-genre is the kamikaze film. Such films often do well at the cinema box office.

Trailer for the film The Eternal Zero

Victim hero films focus on the sufferings during war of usually civilian central characters. Classic examples include Grave of the Fireflies (see Chapter 17 by Takayoshi Yamamura of War as Entertainment and Contents Tourism in Japan) and A-bomb films. Military central characters may also be presented as victim heroes, especially through the plot device of the soldier-scholar, soldier-athlete and soldier-lover as I discuss in my forthcoming article, “The Pathos of the Soldier-Athlete in Japanese Memories of the Asia-Pacific War”. Such films can do well in cinema box office and also gain critical acclaim. Victim hero narratives are ubiquitous in television dramas.

Trailer for the film Grave of the Fireflies

“Good Japanese” films have a central character who resists aggressive Japanese militarism or whose moral dilemmas lead to a critique of war actions. A good example is the 1986 film The Sea and Poison about the vivisections on American pilots at Kyushu Imperial University. Such films are less likely to be commercially successful, but may gain significant critical acclaim (The Sea and Poison won the grand jury prize at the Berlin Film Festival and the Mainichi Film Award).

Trailer for the film The Sea and Poison.

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