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Friday, April 25, 2014

The Eternal Zero

I'm pretty sure that even those who enjoy protecting their country or the world in various forms of the Armed Services would probably agree that war is a bitch.

For many Americans, Vietnam was god-awful with tunnel rats coming out to snipe you, or the adventures of WWII beginning for them with the Japanese attack on the Hawaiian naval base of Pearl Harbor in 1941 that finally dragged them into a war almost all of the world had been involved in a whole two years previous or more.

War... good gawd, ya'll... what is it good for - absolutely nothing... Edwin Starr's immortal War song will you again and again that war is nothing but a heartbreaker.

During WWII, both sides of the conflict took heavy loses... and perhaps because our western sensibilities are offended more by having been the one's attacked, we seem to poo-poo the fact that the Axis took it up the proverbial poop-shoot, too... Boo-hoo, right? Don't want none, don't start none.

I can't argue with that. But, it seems as though everyone lost someone during the war, or knew someone who did.

Japan sure as hell did... what with some 160,000 dying in the two atomic bomb blasts that leveled Hiroshima and decimated Nagasaki. Lost in the many conflicts, was also the fact that Tokyo, over a two-day firebombing period in March of 1945 also lost around 100,000 people... most of whom in these three instances were simply non-military citizens of Japan.

Hey... people die in wars... so careful about poking the great Giant Panda Bear that is China, Japan. Poka-poka-poka. You Simpson's fans will know what I'm talking about.

Anyhow... since the conclusion of WWII, Japan has done a plethora of anti-atomic/nuclear movies (like Godzilla - really), but has probably shied away from glorifying its bad mammajamma actions of WWII and earlier against Asia...

Heck... it still refuses to accept true culpability for its deviant actions during the war. Yes... it has regrettably said sorry regarding comfort women, and mistreatment of POWs (Prisoners of war), but it doesn't mention such things as its hideous experiments on people like through Unit 731 (read my article HERE).

Japan doesn't even like to teach its youth about Japan's warring past... well, actually it does, but it tends not to ever discuss WWII or the decade or so before that when it was very nasty to China... who seem to have the memory of an ancient dragon king.

So perhaps it is refreshing that Japan has created a big movie about WWII... not anything epic... but rather a movie that focuses on one Japanese family and the pain it feels over their relative who goes missing during a Japanese air battle.

It's funny to read the comments of people on the actual YouTube site... as it's obvious people just hate the Japanese simply because they are Japanese... and comment as such... but really, this movie tries to make itself about the pain people feel when they lose a loved one in a war - regardless of who started it and who ended it.

People die and people live in a war.

This movie... The Eternal Zero... is one such story.

You can see the Japanese trailer for it below:

The Eternal Zero (永遠の0 Eien no Zero) is a 2013 Japanese war drama film directed by Yamazaki Takashi (surname first) and is based upon the novel by Hyakuta Naoki (surname first).

As the title suggests, it's the story about a Japanese Mitsubishi Zero fighter pilot... many in fact... the Zero in the title could be applied to the plane, the feeling of nothingness or maybe even symbolic of the red sun in Japan's flag. Take from it what you will...

After being released in late 2013, after a mere seven weeks through into 2014, the movie had grossed ¥6.98 billion in movie theaters, which basically made it one of Japan's highest grossing live action movies since, well... ever.You'll notice I had to say-live action movie... because some of the Japanese anime (animated) movies do even better.

Here's the plot of The Eternal Zero in greater detail that I stole from Wikipedia, but note that I have reversed all names to reflect surname first. As well, I had to do a rewrite it because the English grammar wasn't swell enough for y'all:

Towards the end of the Pacific War, a Zero fighter plane threatens the United States Pacific Fleet by cutting through its volley of fire. Miyabe Kyuzo, the pilot of the plane is highly skilled but regarded by his comrades as a coward for consistently returning alive from missions.
It is a kamikaze outfit, after all.
 Miyabe leaves battles when they become chaotic because of a promise he made to his wife Matsuno and daughter Kiyoko to return from the war alive.
In 2004, 26-year-old Oishi Kentaro has repeatedly failed the National Bar Examination and is uncertain about his future.
After the funeral of his grandmother, Kentaro learns there is no blood tie between his maternal grandfather Kenichiro and himself and sister Keiko.
Keiko and Kentaro start hearing about their real grandfather, Miyabe Kyuzo, and after visiting many of his former war comrades, they learn that they considered him to be a coward.
Kentaro finally learns the reason why Miyabe became a Kamikaze pilot when he talks to a veternan named Izaki, who is in a hospital suffering from terminal lung cancer.
Izaki tells them that after the attack on Pearl Harbor, the Imperial Japanese Navy attempts to advance towards the Southern part of the Pacific Ocean but is defeated in the Battle of Midway and Bombing on Rabaul (a Japanese base on Papau New Guinea) by the United States Navy.
During these battles, some of Miyabe's men said they want to die gloriously in battle but Miyabe convinces them to survive as he does.
This of course puts Miyabe in conflict with senior Japanese officers who believe that he should die in battle...
It's all confusing for both Keiko and Kentaro, who wonder why their real grandfather volunteered for Japan's Kamikaze squadrons.
 More and more stories follow, but at last they learn that Miyabe (real grandfather) made a pact with Kenichiro (the grandfather they knew about who wasn't a blood relative)../i>
The story concludes when during one summer morning in 1945 Miyabe boards a Zero fighter aircraft... who curiously decides to exchange it for another one... he flies it high and targets an Essex-class aircraft carrier and begins to power dive into in a classic kamikaze fashion... with Allied shells from the ship whizzing all around it, but not apparently hitting Miyabe or his Zero.

Wow... I had to do a major re-write, actually... It's like it was written in Japanese and then someone tried their best to translate it to English... but only did a passable job... still, it was better than anything I could have done. 

I have no idea why the exchanging of Zero fighter planes is something that matters... perhaps the first one had a photo in it of his wife, and he couldn't bear to break his promise to her... and so changed airplanes... you know, so she can't stare at him as he goes down in flames towards death, and lying to his wife... dishonor to his family for the lie... or should he have stayed alive and brought dishonor to himself and his squadron by not following the ideals of the kamikaze?

Really... that was the eternal zero... endless failure no matter what Miyabe did. (That's my guess, of course.)

What's interesting to note, however, is that he ultimately chose country over family.

And that, my friends, sums up perfectly why the U.S. was afraid of a ground war with Japan and opted to take the easy way out (for the U.S.) and drop a couple of atomic weapons on a pair of cities, killing common citizens and soldier... because love of country meant being willing to sacrifice oneself even at the cost of family. There was no way the U.S. was going to win that war without the Japanese exterminating themselves as a race.

It's also why the U.S. downgraded the Vietnam War to a mere Vietnam Conflict so that it could state that it hasn't lost a war yet. Because I wasn't there and don't have all the facts, I don't know if the U.S. lost the Vietnam War/Conflict... but it sure as hell didn't win it. There's that same mentality to do whatever it takes to kill the enemy... even if you have to die yourself.

It's so... Japanese.

Also from the Wikipedia entry, is this cast of characters in the movie which are now placed by me surname first), which will mean nothing to you unless you are a major fan of Japanese cinema:

  • Okada Junichi as Miyabe Kyuzo;
  • Miura Harum as Saeki Kentaro;
  • Inoue Mao as Miyabe Matsuno, later Oishi Matsuno;
  • Natsuyagi Isao as Oishi Kenichiro;
  • Fubuki Jun as Saeki Kiyoko;
  • Fukiishi Kazue as Saeki Keiko;
  • Tanaka Min as Kageura;
  • Yamamoto Gaku as Takeda;
  • Hira Mikijiro as Hasegawa;
  • Hashzume Isao as Izaki;
  • Arai Hirofumi as young Kageura;
  • Miura Takahiro as young Takeda;
  • Hamada Gaku as young Izaki;
  • Sometani Shota as young Oishi Kenichiro;
  • Ueda Tatsuya as Koyama.

Is it a good movie? Well... the Japanese think so... Should you see it? Only if you can understand Japanese... Will it eventually be available in English subtitles? Tough to say, but if it's a good movie, yes.

Andrew Joseph


  1. Nice blog! I'll probably be back to read more I found gems in every new post you published.

  2. I recently bought the DVD for the movie and came across your posting while researching the movie.
    Miyabe switched planes with Kenichiro in order to sacrifice himself and save Kenichiro. It was established early in the movie that in addition to preternatural flying skills, Miyabe had a very sensitive touch with the planes and could tell something was wrong even before a mechanic. When they ran up the engines for the final mission, he knew that the engine in the Type 52 was off and would not be able to make it to the target. He ran over to Kenichiro and asked him as a special favor to switch planes on the pretense that Kenichiro had been assigned an old Type 21 and Miyabe wanted to go out in the same type he flew at the beginning of the war. Sure enough Kenichiro’s engine blows shortly after take-off and he is forced to abort and land. Thus saved, he keeps his own promise to take care of the widowed Matsuno and he eventually marries her.