As The Wind Rises Comes To The US, So Does The Controversy

MovieBob

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As The Wind Rises Comes To The US, So Does The Controversy

Hayao Miyazaki's The Wind Rises finally gets it's English-language wide release in the U.S. this week, over seven months since bowing in it's native country. MovieBob interviews Inkoo Kang about the controversy surrounding the film.

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Izanagi009_v1legacy

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MovieBob said:
As The Wind Rises Comes To The US, So Does The Controversy

Hayao Miyazaki's The Wind Rises finally gets it's English-language wide release in the U.S. this week, over seven months since bowing in it's native country. MovieBob interviews Inkoo Kang about the controversy surrounding the film.

Read Full Article
After reading the article, I have to say that the point being raised about how the Japanese treat WWII is interesting but it would be nice to read talk pieces from the other side of the ocean.

Japan is a country of pride, they hold themselves up to a standard and work ethic in present life that puts them through hell(their college exams are literally called "juken jigoku" or exam hell. They believe that hardship and struggle build character and that before moving to the next task, the current must be done to perfection. So imagine what a country like this feels when they look back and see the crimes and imperfections they committed. Any country with some sort of guilt will want to hide such errors and the collective shame for a people like this would be immense. As such, we have the divisions that Bob talked about: the Nationalists that believe that they were in the divine right to progress and that they did nothing wrong and Liberals that want the country to finally admit their fault out of shame.

It should be noted however that Miyazaki was born in 1941, the start of the pacific war so that his view on the war would be influenced by the postwar education which tried to erase the past out of shame. This mindset would be hard to change, even with exposure to the many centenarians in Japan who have experienced it.

As for the criticisms against Jiro and the female lead, It could be argued that the sociopathic nature could be linked to how Japanese idolize stoicism and would prefer not to let emotion influence their speech and actions. It's a concept that clashes with America and how we like to be expressive but it's an alternative perspective. As for the female lead, judging by the description of frailty, it could be argued that it's a yamato nadeshiko type character: one who is mature, humble, loyal and wisdom. The issue is that a true yamato nadeshiko does have some sort of power over the family or the male, often through influence, words, and other subtle methods.

In any case, I openly invite any with an understanding of the differences between American and Japanese culture as well as Japanese reactions to WWII to comment and correct. All I can say is that this is an incident when history rears its ugly head and we have to deal with how the culture dealt with it
 

Tireseas_v1legacy

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It's an interesting take she has. I think that movies that focus on the individuals behind the war machines and actually try to discard the actual war elements do a service in trying to humanize people that we would regard as villains of history. I understand the larger cultural problem of whitewashing, particularly regarding WWII Japan, but it's hard to hold someone complicit in war crimes when their involvement consists mainly on the design end and not the execution end, especially actions that they had nothing to do with other than a national allegiance. If your view of the war was mainly constrained to an office or warehouse with the occasional firebombing, your biography is probably not going to cover the atrocities in China or Korea.

Still, I'll put this on my watch list, if only as something to watch on DVD.
 

nightmare_gorilla

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this is by far not in the same wheel house but remember how outraged people were that the ice age movies added dinosaurs when they would have been long dead by the time the movie represented? I remember it because it was soooo mind bogglingly stupid that people cared even a little bit about historical accuracy in a movie about a talking mammoth, sloth, and sabertooth tiger best friends....

but point being if we can get upset over historical inaccuracies in a kids movie, then certainly being mad about how real people are depicted in a movie about something that actually happened. sure it's fictionalized but it's still something. I haven't seen this movie I'm not a big fan of miyazaki's work but it sounds like a valid criticism the simple fact that more Chinese died at the hands of Japanese soldiers than Jews killed by Hitler is a sobering thing. in fact most people don't believe it when they hear it which speaks to the way everyone kid of glosses over that period.
 

Veylon

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The Gentleman said:
It's an interesting take she has. I think that movies that focus on the individuals behind the war machines and actually try to discard the actual war elements do a service in trying to humanize people that we would regard as villains of history. I understand the larger cultural problem of whitewashing, particularly regarding WWII Japan, but it's hard to hold someone complicit in war crimes when their involvement consists mainly on the design end and not the execution end, especially actions that they had nothing to do with other than a national allegiance. If your view of the war was mainly constrained to an office or warehouse with the occasional firebombing, your biography is probably not going to cover the atrocities in China or Korea.

Still, I'll put this on my watch list, if only as something to watch on DVD.
The "office or warehouse" work is exactly how war got so dehumanizing in the twentieth century. People allowed their horizon of moral responsibility to shrink to paperwork and moving boxes. So much of the work of the holocaust was organizational, sorting through census records, routing trains, planning facilities, etc. The actual killing was limited to a small handful. But their evil could not have taken place - or at least not at the same scale - without the bureaucrats and engineers to prepare the way.

And what is one to do after the fact? We could point the finger of blame at those bureaucrats and say, "You should have asked questions; You should have known better." We could point the finger at those above and blame them for subverting the otherwise good work the bureaucrats perform. But the worst thing to do is idealize the work and pretend that the evil is completely detached from it. That positively encourages this sort of thing to happen again.
 

Osaka117

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Also I think it's worth mentioning that Miyazaki is basically a Japanese Walt Disney, and as I'm sure everyone is pretty well aware of, Disney also takes pretty large liberties with the source material for their films in order to make them more generally appealing to mass audiences. If a Japanese film would be made accurately representing it's actions during WWII, I don't think Miyazaki is the best person to make it.
 

WindKnight

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nightmare_gorilla said:
but point being if we can get upset over historical inaccuracies in a kids movie, then certainly being mad about how real people are depicted in a movie about something that actually happened. sure it's fictionalized but it's still something. I haven't seen this movie I'm not a big fan of miyazaki's work but it sounds like a valid criticism the simple fact that more Chinese died at the hands of Japanese soldiers than Jews killed by Hitler is a sobering thing. in fact most people don't believe it when they hear it which speaks to the way everyone kid of glosses over that period.
A lot of right wingers in Japan like to present Japan as quietly minding its own business right until the nukes hit (to paraphrase one commentator, presenting the war as from the perspective of, say Grand Moff Tarkin's wide eyed innocent grandson just pootling around the Death Star as the evil Luke Skywalker blows it to pieces). Manga and textbooks that don't quietly excise Japans atrocities can end up banned (last year Barefoot Gen, an acknowledged classic covering the aftermath of the Hiroshima bombings, was banned in one school prefecture specifically because it contextualized the bombings with the atrocities the japanese had committed) or face heavy criticism for their content.
 

Trishbot

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To be fair, I've always had a problem with movies that create incredibly fictionalized portrayals of its characters and history...


Granted, real movies like Braveheart, A Beautiful Mind, Gladiator, and so many others do it too... Not just cartoons.
 

Colt47

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As someone who studied the History and Culture of Japan I can see the point the critic was trying to make pretty clear from the get go. The bigger question is what the goal is by bringing up the subject to begin with? If Japan did accept it had participated in war crimes actively in WW2 I'm not sure it would change much in the grand scheme of things.
 

TomWest

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I have to say that any Japanese students I've talked to are *hugely* more knowledgeable about WWII history and Japan's role in it than North Americans. One of the students was shocked when she found out that many of her North American peers couldn't even name the combatants (US vs. USSR was a favorite).

If there's a movement to whitewash Japanese involvement in WWII, I'd compare it with the quite widespread tendency to whitewash the Confederate cause, attempting to make it something other than what it was, a war fought exclusively to keep slavery.

Put in that light, it seems fairly natural to try and de-demonize the instigators of war to avoid feeling the need to expatiate the guilt for crimes one wasn't involved in. After all, everybody involved in the Civil War is long dead and gone.

Except, that while it may be natural to want to do so, that makes us the perpetrator of crimes today in order to cover the (much worse) crimes of our ancestors. The avoidance of that miasma of guilt is in no way worth the damage it does to ourselves and to the descendents of the victims of those original crimes.
 

Steve the Pocket

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It sounds to me like Japan's attitude towards the bad things it did over fifty years ago is no different from America's. I mean, in the last five years there have been two separate video games extolling the actions of the US in the Vietnam War while at the same time exploiting the "controversial" nature of anything that so much as brings it up.

I should point out that Germany doesn't have this problem. If anything, they tend to have the exact opposite problem [http://satwcomic.com/not-a-yahtzee].
 

Izanagi009_v1legacy

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TomWest said:
I have to say that any Japanese students I've talked to are *hugely* more knowledgeable about WWII history and Japan's role in it than North Americans. One of the students was shocked when she found out that many of her North American peers couldn't even name the combatants (US vs. USSR was a favorite).

If there's a movement to whitewash Japanese involvement in WWII, I'd compare it with the quite widespread tendency to whitewash the Confederate cause, attempting to make it something other than what it was, a war fought exclusively to keep slavery.

Put in that light, it seems fairly natural to try and de-demonize the instigators of war to avoid feeling the need to expatiate the guilt for crimes one wasn't involved in. After all, everybody involved in the Civil War is long dead and gone.

Except, that while it may be natural to want to do so, that makes us the perpetrator of crimes today in order to cover the (much worse) crimes of our ancestors. The avoidance of that miasma of guilt is in no way worth the damage it does to ourselves and to the descendants of the victims of those original crimes.
That's an interesting observation and one that complicates the matter further. Perhaps Miyazaki wanted to make a personal story about the engineer since the majority of students know about the crimes committed or maybe all the talking heads in Japan are merely the old guard talking for the sake of it.

Like i said, we probably need some native Japanese voices to comment but this is good for a start into understanding this issue
 

Izanagi009_v1legacy

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Windknight said:
nightmare_gorilla said:
but point being if we can get upset over historical inaccuracies in a kids movie, then certainly being mad about how real people are depicted in a movie about something that actually happened. sure it's fictionalized but it's still something. I haven't seen this movie I'm not a big fan of miyazaki's work but it sounds like a valid criticism the simple fact that more Chinese died at the hands of Japanese soldiers than Jews killed by Hitler is a sobering thing. in fact most people don't believe it when they hear it which speaks to the way everyone kid of glosses over that period.
A lot of right wingers in Japan like to present Japan as quietly minding its own business right until the nukes hit (to paraphrase one commentator, presenting the war as from the perspective of, say Grand Moff Tarkin's wide eyed innocent grandson just pootling around the Death Star as the evil Luke Skywalker blows it to pieces). Manga and textbooks that don't quietly excise Japans atrocities can end up banned (last year Barefoot Gen, an acknowledged classic covering the aftermath of the Hiroshima bombings, was banned in one school prefecture specifically because it contextualized the bombings with the atrocities the japanese had committed) or face heavy criticism for their content.
yeah, that is just a whole level of ignorance but the question is what do they have to gain; is it pride, nationalism, guilt or something else that drives these right-wingers to such extremes.

Also, what about the left? What do they believe Japan was like during the war?
 

Darth_Payn

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Historical Revisionism: rewrite the story JUUUUUUUUSSST right, and you can totally reverse the roles of victim and villain in any conflict. It's not just for white people anymore!
Still, Japan is being wussy about owning up to the crap it did in WWII. I am sick of how often America is badly portrayed in anime, as if Japan never, ever, ever did anything wrong ever.
 
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Okay, I get that the Japanese whitewashing the dark blots out of their history is an issue, and that some people are annoyed that the film doesn't go into how the guy's building death machines...but does it need to? I mean, by the sound of it, thats not the point. Its a character piece about one guy's Da Vinci-esque desire to fly. If the film was about the morality of building warplanes but barely touched on it in favour of wacky spirit guide shenanigans or something I could understand, but that doesn't seem to be its goal.
I mean, as a comparison, was anyone outraged because Monuments Men didn't delve into stuff the Allies did that was, shall we say, less than morally heroic?
 

RoonMian

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reiniat said:
"Spanish-language animation-news website dismissed my article as typical American propaganda."
God damnit, someone must shut up, or at least flat out ignore, this particular strain of my countrymen. I apologize for them, they are just close minded weeaboos that have no idea what they are talking about :p
I'm afraid that maybe coming from Spain it might be more than just weeaboos. Spain has similar issues regarding its past, hasn't it?


Pallindromemordnillap said:
I mean, as a comparison, was anyone outraged because Monuments Men didn't delve into stuff the Allies did that was, shall we say, less than morally heroic?

If Monuments Men will be as a self-congratulatory circle-jerk as the book was I will be not exactly outraged (because i'm expecting it) but I will be at least pissed.


What also pisses me off is that whole concept of "art for art's sake". That is not even an argument, it's just bullshit. Seriously, if you can watch this:


...without an ice-cold chill running down your spine then I'm gonna call you a liar, an idiot or both.
 

Callate

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So anyone who disagrees is relegated to the role of "backlash", either a Miyazaki fanboy, apathetic, nationalistic, or apolitical? Any disagreement is crass, shallow, or reflexive?

I would have loved one honest, neutral question about why a director like Miyazaki- even if he is a cultural icon, even if he was touching upon a real historical figure, however fictionalized- is required to bear the burden of righting his country's historical wrongs. Especially when so many other makers of "historical" films get the pass. I'm not saying that isn't a valid point of view to have- just that there might actually be some value to something other than an interviewer taking the interviewee's view as self-evident gospel that requires little to no support.

But I guess wishing someone else's interview to fulfill your expectations is not unlike wishing someone else's movie upheld your agenda.