Simulwatch - The Horrors of World War II: The Pacific Theatre


Damn, yeah... If only that spoiler had spoiled the film's own in-film spoiler, then things would've been so much easier.

Or more confusing. 😅

On a related note unrelated to this simulwatch, I had Spike's death in Cowboy Bebop spoiled by a critical US Amazon review, and Kamina's in Gurren Lagann by an Internet meme. "Thanks", The Internet. 👌
Oh god, how dare they! I think the GL one would have annoyed me more as it's more if a surprise within the story.

A friend of mine once had the big twist of Death Note spoiled when it was the next epsiode he was going to watch. Its the most angry I'd ever seen him and was just glad I hadn't been the one to do it.


Thousand Master
A related watch - Steven Spielberg's oft-overlooked J.G. Ballard adaptation Empire of the Sun, which stars a young Christian Bale. I read Ballard's semi-autobiographical novel many years ago and have little recollection of it, but the images of Spielberg's film, lensed by the late Allen Daviau, have stuck with me.


In the accompanying documentary The China Odyssey, Spielberg states his view that at least half of Ballard's novel is untrue - experiences that most of us would find difficult to live through, filtered through the eyes and mind of a child. In Empire of the Sun, Jim escapes from the reality of his surroundings by superimposing or reinterpreting what he sees as some sort of boy's own adventure novel - with himself as the protagonist. He starts to see the features of his actual father in his adopted father figure. Occasionally, reality tries to break through the fantasy and in the end it fractures.

It is the first serious film that Spielberg made in the war genre (the earlier 1941 being a comedy that was far too long for its own good), before it would bring him success with Schindler's List and Saving Private Ryan and it is by far the most complex and beautiful film that Spielberg had made up to this point in his career, a film that deals less with plot than the ideas of innocence and memory. It's still one of his very best works.


Thought I'd do this separate to the Giovanni's Island post.

Today marks the 75th anniversary of the end of the Second World War (at least for Australia, Canada, Netherlands, New Zealand, North Korea, South Korea, United Kingdom and Japan itself, America uses the 2nd of September when the surrender document was signed) when the Japanese Emperor Hirohito announced the surrender of the country to his subjects.

Events Between the Bombs and the Final Surrender
After the Nagasaki bomb was dropped President Trueman issued a statement suggesting that the US would continue to drop atomic bombs unless Japan surrendered.
New intelligence from a POW suggested that America had 100 bombs ready to go (this was a lie told under threat of being beheaded! In reality only one was ready for another August bombing, possibly over Sapporo, and another one in September) Dispite this the cabinet were split as to whether to continue or surrender.
Just before midnight an Imperial Conference was held (a cabinet meeting in the presence of the Emperor). After 2 hours there was still a stalemate, so Kantarō Suzuki (Prime Minister) addressed Hirohito who preceded to declare that Japan should surrender.
Later that morning (10th August) the Japanese sent telegrams via Switzerland accepting the Potsdam Declaration, but not to any terms that would see the lose of power of the Emperor.

On the 12th the allies responded to the qualified surrender of the Japanese. Part of the statement said that "the ultimate form of government of Japan shall be established by the freely expressed will of the Japanese people". This was approved by the British, Chinese, and Soviet governments, although the Soviets agreed only reluctantly (I'll expand on this in the Giovanni's Island post).
This response was met with a mixed reception by the cabinet with some still not accepting the terms, mainly the lack of clarification of what would happen to Imperial Sovereignty. But others argued that it was the Emperor's will that they had to agree and that they wouldn't get an better terms.
The debate continued for another 2 days and the allies grew doubtful as to whether Japan were going to accept. Meanwhile coded messages from Japan, diplomatic and military traffic increased giving the impression that a possible final "all out banzai attack" was being planned.

After the initial telegram Trueman ordered that no more nuclear bombs would be dropped. He did allow other bombings, but a mix up meant the News Correspondents reported that there was a ceasefire in operation when bad weather halted bombing on the 11th. Trueman had then ordered no more bombing while the allies waited for the final surrender, but on the 14th they resumed with the largest and longest raid so far in the war, which actually continued beyond the final surrender!

The Emperor met with the top brass of the Army and Navy. Some were in favour of continuing, but Field Marshal Shunroku Hata, who was in charge of the Army division headquartered in Hiroshima, did not. The Emperor then asked his military leaders to cooperate with him.
The cabinet met with the Emperor again, where again he stated that Japan would surrender. This was then conveyed to the allies via Switzerland again and reached Washington at 2:49am (3:49pm Japan Time)
The script for the Emperor's speech was finalised by 7pm and around 11pm was recorded on a gramaphone record with the help of NHK. The record was then given to court chamberlain Yoshihiro Tokugawa, who hid it in a locker in the office of Empress Kōjun's secretary.
Members of the Imperial family were dispatched to various places on the main Asian continent to personally inform the Japanese Army and Navy that the fighting was to stop.

Whilst the deliberations were ongoing Major Kenji Hatanaka, along with a handful of others started planning a military coup. On the night of the 14th, he persuaded a commander of the Imperial Guard that some of the high chiefs were on his side. This was not the case as he was turned away when asking for support from the ones he approached, also in the meantime they had signed an agreement that "The Army will act in accordance with the Imperial Decision to the last."
In the early hours of the 15th Hatanaka and the men he had persuaded surrounded the Palace. He then went to try and persuade another commander of the Imperial Guards to join him, when he refused Hatanaka killed him. He then used the commanders seal to falsify orders to increase the number of soldiers around the Palace.
Hatanaka and his men then spent the night searching for various important people so he could find the recording of the surrender and others were sent to assassinate key figures. Both of these failed and by the morning the coup was over and Hatanaka had killed himself.

At 12 noon on the 15th of August the recording of the Emperor was broadcast to the country (as depicted in In This Corner of the World):

After pondering deeply the general trends of the world and the actual conditions obtaining in Our Empire today, We have decided to effect a settlement of the present situation by resorting to an extraordinary measure.

We have ordered Our Government to communicate to the Governments of the United States, Great Britain, China and the Soviet Union that Our Empire accepts the provisions of their Joint Declaration.

To strive for the common prosperity and happiness of all nations as well as the security and well-being of Our subjects is the solemn obligation which has been handed down by Our Imperial Ancestors and which lies close to Our heart.

Indeed, We declared war on America and Britain out of Our sincere desire to ensure Japan's self-preservation and the stabilization of East Asia, it being far from Our thought either to infringe upon the sovereignty of other nations or to embark upon territorial aggrandizement.

But now the war has lasted for nearly four years. Despite the best that has been done by everyone—the gallant fighting of the military and naval forces, the diligence and assiduity of Our servants of the State, and the devoted service of Our one hundred million people—the war situation has developed not necessarily to Japan's advantage, while the general trends of the world have all turned against her interest.

Moreover, the enemy has begun to employ a new and most cruel bomb, the power of which to do damage is, indeed, incalculable, taking the toll of many innocent lives. Should we continue to fight, not only would it result in an ultimate collapse and obliteration of the Japanese nation, but also it would lead to the total extinction of human civilization.

Such being the case, how are We to save the millions of Our subjects, or to atone Ourselves before the hallowed spirits of Our Imperial Ancestors? This is the reason why We have ordered the acceptance of the provisions of the Joint Declaration of the Powers...

The hardships and sufferings to which Our nation is to be subjected hereafter will be certainly great. We are keenly aware of the inmost feelings of all of you, Our subjects. However, it is according to the dictates of time and fate that We have resolved to pave the way for a grand peace for all the generations to come by enduring the unendurable and suffering what is unsufferable.

Fighting continued with the Chinese and Soviets until the ceasefire and surrender could be finally organised. The final air combat between the Japanese and Americans took place on the 18th.
And the Soviet Union continued into September as they took the Kuril Islands (see the Giovanni's Island post).

This took a while, so whilst I will watch Giovanni's Island today my post on it may be tomorrow, depending on how long the history bit takes me.


Again copying my post from before, but this time with added thoughts.
Giovanni's Island (dub, sub)
My reaction to the animation art is mixed. Most is fine, but some of the architecture is a bit wobbly especially the windows which was off putting, reading the book it seems to be a decision made to say that "it's a flashback" so things are a bit hazy. I still think this, fine make things hazy throw on a filter or something, but the wobbly windows were just distracting. I did like the landscapes and sky though. But the fantastical parts were excellent. In the bio section of the book about the person who inspired the film, Hiroshi Tokuno, there was no mention of whether he read Night on the Galactic Railroad or not, but I guess with it's connection to the area and its theme mirroring part of the plot of the film. The author, Kenji Miyazawa, wrote it inspired by the death of his sister and a trip to Karafuta (the book says he went "in sorrow", but the Japanese Wikipedia page says it was half a year later and at the request of one of his students). The book was published posthumously in 1934, Miyazawa dying on the 21st September 1933. So it was plausible that he had read it and certainly makes sense for the characters to have read it. Either way those scenes make for lovely/moving moments.

Story wise... I would have liked a longer section with Junpei and Tanya (I checked this time, it's half the film! So I'm not sure why I felt this) and for it to affect him more after he had to leave, but she only gets mentioned again right at the end when old Junpei goes back to the island. I guess it was a different type of story than I thought it was going to be. I'm not sure what I thought it was going to be, maybe some sort of romantic story where Junpei had to make his way back to Tanya. What I can say is that the part that is the least similar to the real story, visiting the father in the camp, was the bit that made least sense. I understand that the kids want to see their father, but they were both suffering and the Kanta seems to have had TB! So seems unrealistic that they made it as far as they did, and then the uncle and teacher found them somehow in the middle of nowhere. Also the indestructible uncle was a bit OTT, he would probably be dead twice over in real life!
I think it felt to me like 2 different films with something missing from each half to gel them together.

Just a few notes about other differences Tokuno also had an older sister and there's no mention of his younger brother dying. The sister did have a baby that died, so I guess they took her out, but kept the element of a young child dying. According to the bio they hid the fact the baby died because it would be thrown overboard, another element kept. Tokuno's father was sent back to Japan a year later, his fate wasn't really mentioned at the end of the film.

The dub was good and they stuck with the same decision as the Japanese original of using Russian (and Korean) for the non English (Japanese) people. Apart from a song that is sung where they use the Japanese original, maybe trying to fit the English translation to the music sounded weird, but it comes off as strange when everybody has been speaking English just to strike up in Japanese whilst singing. I will definitely have to watch the sub at some point. It was a very good performance, I especially liked the uncle. Like I said the songs were retained in the dub, but when they sang each others songs it felt more impactful in the sub.

The history of the occupation will have to wait till tomorrow now, but if you have the Ultimate Collection there's an extensive history in the book going all the way back to the 1600s!


The Soviet Union declared war on Japan on the 9th of August and although it was on the same day as the dropping of the second nuclear bomb this was a coincidence as it had been agreed previously that the Soviet Union would enter the Pacific War 3 months after the end of the War in Europe (May 9th in Moscow) having previously signed a Neutrality Pact with Japan in April 1941 after a number of boarder incidents on the Asian mainland.

Before these incidents Shakhalin (Karafuto) and Kuril Islands (of which Shikotan is one of a collection closest to Japan) had gone back and forth between the two on occasion in the previous 100 years with the Kurils belonging to Japan and Shakhalin being split in two along the 50th parallel by the start of the war. As part of the agreement to join the Pacific War the allies promised that Shakhalin and the Kurils would be returned.

After the declaration of war the Soviet Union invaded Manchuria (or Manchukuo as was called under the Japanese). They invaded in a pincer movement over the deserts and mountains from Mongolia in the West and from Primorsky Krai (the territory administered from Vladivostok) in the East whilst at the same time airborne units took airports and city centres in advance of the land forces. The fighting continued till the 20th when the ceasefire was finally made clear as the message had not been clear and was either not misunderstood or ignored by the Army.

Meanwhile from the 13th the Soviets started landings in Korea, and on Shakhalin from 16th and the Kurils from the 18th. The naval invasion of Shakhalin came 5 days after a land invasion from the North and continued till the 25th. Again the ceasefire had either been misunderstood or ignored and Japanese casualties were approximated to be 700 to 2,000 soldiers killed and 3,500 to 3,700 civilians killed. The garrison on the Kurils were ordered to surrender on the 23rd, but again some of the forces ignored the order. The last major resistance came on the 1st of September, the same day that Shikotan was invaded along with Kunashir. After this rest of the islands were taken with little to no resistance.

To this day the islands are still in Russian hands and at the centre of a dispute that means technically Russia and Japan are not at peace! This mainly revolves around the Habomai Islands, Shikotan, Kunashiri (Kunashir) and Etorofu (Iturup) and whether they should or should not be considered part of the Kurils.


Giovanni's Island

I definitely agree with @D1tchd1gger comments about it feeling like 2 films. In my memory I only remembered it being about Jota and Tanya so was surprised to find it felt like she was barely in it. The first half of the film about 2 different cultures, with a massive power imbalance, finding a way to coexist was really interesting and I would have gladly watched a film solely focused on that.

The second half feels a bit grave of the fireflies where it didn't really feel like the kid had to die but plot was dictating over story and it had to happen.

Overall I still think it's a good film and I really like the animation, especially in the fantasy sections.


Barefoot Gen 2

Whereas the first film was about struggling on, coming together and fighting in spite of the horrors faced this film almost feels like the reverse. In spite of their struggles and camaraderie and efforts to survive the horrors wont stop and still haunt them 3 years later.

We start with a reminder of the horrors of the last film which are still pretty shocking and let's us know that everyone is still carrying their scars around. We see that in spite of peoples attempts to rebuild and move on it's an incredibly hard life.

When the group of orphans were introduced I thought they were going to be the antagonists for Gen in kind of Fagin from Oliver Twist kind of way. But instead of leading him astray it was really nice to see them all slowly bond and band together. The scenes where they help each other out despite the rest of society looking down on them was great and the way they give the old man a new home and a reason to live was really heartwarming.

However life isnt easy and they are forced to struggle hard, break the law and suffer with reminders that life isnt handed to them. The scenes where misfortune befalls them really hit harder as you grow to like of them and the last few scenes of the skeletons in the river followed by seeing the mass graves being dug are quite shocking. Then the real sucker punch of just when Gen thinks his problems are solved everything comes crashing down.

I'm glad the film didnt end on a completely sombre note though as Gen sees his friends will remain by side no matter what.

Perhaps not quite in the same league as the first film but a worthy sequel and a great film in it's own right.
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Barefoot Gen 2
In spite of their struggles and camaraderie and efforts to survive the horrors wont stop and still haunt them 3 years later.
Yes, there seems to be reminders everywhere. The destroyed buildings still everywhere, Katsuko's scars, the skeletons, and, of course, his mother's illness. It seems to have worn Gen down as he seemed to be a bit less energetic than in the first film.

When the group of orphans were introduced I thought they were going to be the antagonists
Again yes, I thought the older guy was going to turn on them in some way. Every time he turns up to invite them to some scheme I was thinking here we go, but no!

I was surprised to see Hiroshima was still little more than a shanty town amongst the rubble 3 years later. It wasn't till a year later before the Hiroshima Peace Memorial City Construction Law was passed which provided financial aid and land previously used by the military. Of course capitalism was alive and well with the black market up and running. From reading the plot of the manga off Wikipedia it seems that most of the film is actually from another manga by the same author, Keiji Nakazawa, called Struck by Black Rain, although again not a full adaptation, the synopsis sounds darker. Indeed the events of the first film seems harsher, if possible, in the manga.

Other things of note was the teacher teaching the kids the new constitution of Japan. Seemed to be Article 9 which outlaws war as a means of settling disputes.

There wasn't as much of an American presence as I thought there would be. The first American forces landed on August 28th and the occupation lasted till April 28th 1952.
The throwing of the rocks (I guess a stand in for the shooting of an American in the SbBR manga) I guess comes from the understandable anger of author at the destruction of his city and the death of his family (from his bio the deaths seen in the first film were true to life, but his mother died in 1966. According to the translation of the Japanese Wikipedia page the American ABCC (Atomic Bomb Injury Investigation Committee) insisted on performing an autopsy before she was cremated, which probably did nothing to change his opinion) SbBR was written in the same year as his mother's death.


There wasn't as much of an American presence as I thought there would be. The first American forces landed on August 28th and the occupation lasted till April 28th 1952.
The throwing of the rocks (I guess a stand in for the shooting of an American in the SbBR manga) I guess comes from the understandable anger of author at the destruction of his city and the death of his family (from his bio the deaths seen in the first film were true to life, but his mother died in 1966. According to the translation of the Japanese Wikipedia page the American ABCC (Atomic Bomb Injury Investigation Committee) insisted on performing an autopsy before she was cremated, which probably did nothing to change his opinion) SbBR was written in the same year as his mother's death.
That's really interesting. It's hard to really appreciate just how long the effects of the war and the atomic bombs went on for. Multiple generations affected un the most awful ways.

This whole simulwatch has been fascinating so thanks for organising it. It's certainly been interesting to see that the more modern films, whilst still showing the horrors are definitely more romanticized. The Barefoot Gen films are so much more visceral, especially in their visual language, than say The Wind Rises which makes the earthquake seem more like a rollercoaster ride by comparison


Thousand Master
I feared the worst when Barefoot Gen 2 started mid-nightmare, with Gen revisiting the horrors of the first film soundtracked with extremely 80s synth music but we soon get on track. It's worth emphasising that the world was largely ignorant of the true horrors that resulted from the bombing in Hiroshima until John Hersey's 1946 New Yorker article that I linked to earlier: the US Government controlled all access to the site and negative reporting was downplayed as anti-American propaganda. The idea of the nuke as part of a standard armoury of warfare was becoming accepted. Radiation sickness, Congress was told, was "a pleasant way to die."

Barefoot Gen 2 was made decades later, but does an effective job of showing the post-war landscape of a yet-to-be-revived Hiroshima. It's a tale of child gangs, crime necessitated by poverty, and death. It's a bridge between the horrors of the first film and the Hiroshima Strife that was on the horizon - the gang wars that took place between 1950 and 1972, memorably depicted in Kinji Fukasaku's Battles Without Honour and Humanity series that had dominated the Japanese box office the previous decade.


Rail of the Star
Whilst the events were dramatic and interesting it was quite a straightforward film just following events with none of the extra fantastical parts of The Wind Rises and Giovanni's Island, but due to the nature of the events there's no need for extra dramatic bits to be added as with Giovanni's, Barefoot and Fireflies. As far as I can tell it's what actually happened to Chitose (Chiko) Kobayashi during the war and after whose autobiographical book (as stated on the Wiki page, rather than semi-autobiographical in the case of Fireflies and Barefoot) the film is based on.
Art and animation wise it's pretty similar to Barefoot, both made by Madhouse, but I'm guessing this didn't quite get the same budget as it wasn't quite as good (although watching an upload with all the compression from a source that already isn't the best, VHS, wasn't the best way to watch. Some of the darker scenes were a muddy mess).

The film opens in a theatre changing room with a number of women getting ready to go on stage, on a TV there's news programme reporting on the repatriation of Japanese people from China after 40+ years. One of the women stops the TV being turned off and a voice over says "That could have been me"
The first third deals with the war and like In This Corner it doesn't have much effect at first. Chiko, her family (father, mother and little sister) and their Korean servent (who seems to be doing well for herself by working for the family and gets on well with the kids) live in a nice house in Sinuiju close to the Manchuria border, her father runs a factory and they live comfortably. We see them going to a nice restaurant in the first moments. On the way the girls sing a song, the same one as used in Giovanni's Island! On the way home the father teaches Chiko about the North Star.
The first sign things are going down hill is when Chiko gets a packpack from her grandparents for her first year at school, but it isn't the normal red but a dull beige and she gets upset. When things get tighter the father is called up, the factory is closed, and the family have to move to the grandparents house in Heijou (Pyongyang). We see Chiko go to school on a tram and on the way home she sees a Korean boy getting beaten by 3 Japanese boys because he refused to use his Japanese name, after the bullies leave the boy tries to get up, but collapses in the river. Chiko tries to save him but it's a struggle as he's a lot bigger, but he comes round and thanks Chiko, when exchanging names the boy states that everything including their names were taken away by the Japanese and one day he will fight to take it back. Things get worse when an illness costs the life of Chiko's little sister and then another incident almost sees herself dying and the Korean maid is fired for the it, even though it was a complete accident. The father returns after his dismissed due to ill health. Chiko sees her aunt, a high schooler, practicing bayoneting with a gun and then whilst telling this to her mother as they walk down the street, they see the former servant. She's talking/arguing with 2 men or the 2 men are arguing, hard to tell. One is a soldier. Chiko wants to talk to her, but the mother pulls her past the servant. The servant is dolled up and wearing a maid outfit and a sign (that I had to try and translate) says something or other hotel. So I'm not sure if she's working at a legit hotel or a brothel possibly as a "comfort woman"? Then we briefly flash to the present where Chiko is on stage and a woman is shown watching from the crowd holding some flowers and wiping away tears.
After the surrender, where we see the Koreans celebrate whilst the Japanese are bewildered. The events that follow are very similar at first to Giovanni's with the Russians storming in and the family being turfed out of their home. One difference is the father does everything to hide the fact he was a soldier, unlike Junpei's father, including burning all their photos rather than just the ones with him in uniform as to not raise suspicion, these include all the photos of the younger sister!
They move into a room in a house with many other Japanese people. A year after the end of the war they still haven't been repatriated as they thought they would be, whilst in the meantime the Americans in the South had started the process. So Chiko's father and the other men decide to plan an escape to the South.
At first they board a train, but get discovered by the Soviets halfway to the 38th Parallel. They're told that they will have to walk back North, but decide to make a break for it South. They flee at night, but things are tough with the terrain, weather and getting lost. One night after realising that they're going past the same village from the days before the sky clears and Chiko points out to her dad the North Star!
Now going the right way they are discovered by Koreans near the boarder after attempting to rob vegetables from a field. Instead of punishing them or turning them over they are feed and are then warned that Soviet soldiers will never let them through the boarder. One of the villagers says there is a way, but the elder says it's too hard and asks why help them more than what they have after what the Japanese had done during occupation, including taking the man's relative away. The man insists, so they set off again up steep terrain and then across a high narrow railway bridge. Once at the boarder the father tries to give a reward to the man, but he says helping everyone get out safe is enough. Then the Japanese make a final scramble over the boarder as we hear dogs and gun shots.
We then see the family aboard a Japanese ship with flashbacks to all the events in the film.
Cut back to the present and Chiko's performance comes to an end to be greeted with a standing ovation. Back in the dressing room she finds a bunch of flowers with her name written in Korean. Realising who must have left them she rushes out into the foyer and out into the street. After looking about she calls out the Korean servants name.
Roll credits.

A little on the history...
The Koreans were forced to sign their first treaty with Japan under gunboat diplomacy in 1876 which opened Korea to Japanese traders and was very one-sided.
Japan eliminated China's hold on Korea in the First Sino-Japanese War (1894/5) and then beat another rival for influence in the region in the Russo-Japanese War (1904/05). Korea was then forced to become a protectorate under Japan in a treaty (1905) and later annexed in 1910.
The Japanese rapidly modernised the country and introduced free education, but these were introduced to benefit Japan rather than Korea and many Koreans suffered poorly economically. Additionally most Koreans only received a elementary education.
Nearly half a million Korean men were sent to Japan (mentioned in the film) and many women from rural areas all over the Empire were tricked into becoming "comfort women" in military brothels (hinted at in the film? and possibly the Korean woman in Giovanni's Island?).
At the end of the war the Soviets invaded first by sea and then followed by land troops. They had agreed with the Americans to stop at the 38th Parallel and thus the Japanese were left in control of the South until the Americans landed on September the 8th.

The film didn't go as far as the Korean War, either the synopsis I read was wrong or I misinterpreted it. So in terms of the chronology of the films, this probably should have gone between In This Corner of the World and Giovanni's Island.


Just watched the latest STEVEM video on YouTube about another WWII film project by Takahata that would have followed Fireflies, but was scrapped before work could begin.

Original article: The story of Border 1939, the great lost Studio Ghibli film

Sounds interesting, the romance part sounds a bit like the part in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon where the character played by Zhang Ziyi is kidnapped and then falls in love with her captor after travelling the wilds of China.


On a related subject-has anybody visited either of the atomic bomb museums in Japan? I visited the one in Nagasaki and it was a very somber and sobering experience, if I hadn't been anti-nuke before I did I sure as **** would've been after.