Geist, Kathe. "Yasujiro Ozu: Notes on a Retrospective." Film Quarterly 37 (1983): 2-9. JSTOR.<http://www.jstor.org/stable/3697303>.
In her analysis of Ozu’s works, Kathy Geist claims that the director had three distinct periods within his career. The first, in the years before 1938, Ozu generally made light comedies and a few gangster films. These films were fairly lighthearted pieces which did not have many themes unifying them as a body of work. Although Ozu only made four films from 1938 to 1948, Geist claims that this second period in his career marks the transition from the earlier period and “anticipates” his post-war style (2). While they still had many similarities with the Ozu’s prewar films, they are considerably more melodramatic than previous works. In his third period, after 1948, Ozu’s films were largely restricted to house set dramas. Not only did Ozu radically shift genres, but he also completely transformed his style between the two ends of his career. The use of lighting and selective focus was common in his early films and would help lead his audience along the narrative. His late period featured a strict, reserved style with flat lighting and simple cinematography.
Ozu’s shift during the war is rather significant in understanding his purpose in Tokyo Story. The fact that his films became much more moralistic and relevant to his time suggests the war and the post-war era to have a significant effect on him. Furthermore, almost of his post-war films deal with the same issue: changing family structure. Either a daughter is getting married and leaving, or a family member dies, or parents visit their children. Therefore, it seems Ozu felt World War II and the massive changes following the end of the war had negative effects on the traditional Japanese family. The idea is underscored by the sadness and resignation which characterized his later period of work.
Mellen, Joan. The Waves at Genji's Door: Japan Through Its Cinema. New York: Pantheon Books, 1976.
Call #: PN1993.5.J3 M4
In her chapter on Ozu, Joan Mellen gives a close analysis of several of the director's films. When speaking about his later works, she writes, "Ozu's implicit hope, in all the films he made after the War, was that traditional Japanese values could be continued within the context of the family, despite the social degradation outside," (321). She develops this idea deeper over the next several paragraphs and goes as far as saying that the preservation of family values, in Ozu's mind, would prevent total "moral anarchy" (321). While it sounds extreme to label the world as being in moral anarchy, Tokyo Story certainly portrays the Ozu's distress of his contemporary world.
This anxiety is nicely shown through the contrast between exterior scenes in Tokyo and interior scenes of the family. Many of the outdoor shots consist of noisy, dirty elements of city life. While the camera generally remains static, there is significant movement through the frame which gives an unstable and unreliable tint to the world. On the other hand, the indoor shots-the shots protected from the outside world-have a calm, soothing feel to it. As Mellen suggests, home and the family can be a valuable shelter.
By the end of the film, however, we see that the family is no stronger than the world on the outside; everyone is separated physically and emotionally. Despite this inverse, Mellen's analysis seems to be correct because the destruction of the cinematic family allows Ozu calls attention the underlying problem. Only by recognizing the decomposition of family can his audience put an end to it.
McDonald, Keiko. "Ozu's Tokyo Story: Simple Means for Complex Ends." The Journal of the Association of Teachers of Japanese 17 (1982): 19-39. JSTOR.<http://www.jstor.org/stable/489426>.
In her analysis of Tokyo Story, Keiko McDonald suggests that Ozu provides three possible reactions to the changing world. The first, shown by Shukichi, Tomi, and Noriko, depicts a saddened acceptance of change. They are clearly disappointed by new values, but manage to continue their lives calmly. The second reaction is shown through the three oldest children, Koichi, Shige, and Keizo. They take the changing world for granted and passively go with the flow. Finally, the youngest child, Kyoko, represents a denial of modern changes.
It does not seem fair to suggest that one of these points-of-view is better than another, and it is easy to see the reasoning behind each opinion. While each philosophy is certainly subjective, McDonald astutely points out that Ozu aligns himself with the first group's view of the world. Throughout the film, he pushes his audience to sympathize with Shukichi and Tomi's loneliness. At the same time, viewers come to love Noriko who gives her full attention to the elderly couple despite not even being blood related. On the other hand, the three oldest children are depicted as cold and selfish. From a completely neutral position, it is not fair to blame them for their inattentiveness towards their parents; the children each have busy lives of their own, complete with children or time consuming professions. Yet, at the end of the film, one cannot help but dislike them.
By aligning himself with the parents, Ozu shows himself to be a reflection of his protagonists. He knows modernity is producing significant changes around him, and just like Shukichi at the end of the film, he is forced to accept the alterations in society.
In her sociological report regarding World War II’s effects on Japanese social structure, Edna Cooper Masuko et al highlights the massive emigration from the rural countryside to urban areas following the war. Although this trend is noticeable as early as the 1880s, the end of the Pacific War marked the beginning of what she calls a “great transformation” (1). With the American occupation of Japan, there was an increase in industry, commerce, and other urban occupations which led to 54 percent of all Japanese living in urban areas in 1950 compared to 32 percent two decades earlier. This movement in demographics was accompanied by new attitudes which directly conflicted with traditional Japanese values.
This statistical information reported by Masuko provides an essential background to understanding Ozu's world during the creation of the film. Made in 1953, Tokyo Story clearly echoes the changes expressed in the paper. While the drama focuses on the damaged relationship between three generations, it is important to remember that the decay of the family is deeply rooted in the children’s exodus to Tokyo. Ozu generally shows this clash between old and new values subtly; however, the scene where Shukichi gets drunk and expresses disappointment in his children’s lack of success and filial piety is allegorical of traditional Japan’s disillusionment with the modern era. In this scene, and throughout the film as shown through the neglect of the parents, Ozu suggests that modernity and the resulting urbanization have divided the family apart. This is shown both literally, through the physical distance between the parents and their children, and emotionally, through the children’s selfish priorities which arise from fast city living. While Masuko’s statistics give insightful facts, Ozu makes the trends she writes about come alive, complete with the negative implications of the emigration.
Nakao, Keiko. "Sociological Work in Japan." Annual Review of Sociology 24 (1998): 499-516. JSTOR.<http://www.jstor.org/stable/223491>.
Keiko Nakao writes about the changing family structure following World War II. The traditional family unit, known as ie, consisted of grandparents, a son and wife, and their children. In 1947, however, Japanese laws were revised and no longer recognized the ie as a legal entity. From here, Americanized nuclear families became more common in Japanese society. While the nuclear family unit may seem typical to most contemporary viewers, the transition from ie to smaller families fragmented and separated traditional social roles.
Tokyo Story is essentially about the disbanding of the ie. While the division of family is catalyzed by urbanization, the end of the ie familial structure is largely responsible for the the unwinding of the film's family. In a symbolic scene, Noriko and the parents stand at the top of a building looking over Tokyo. Noriko points across the city in different directions to show the parents where their children live. Besides demonstrating the physical distance between the members of the family, these scene places Tokyo at the center of the detachment, making the city a central character in the film.
This lack of ie which Nakao refers to is apparent throughout the film. Traditionally, the son's wife would take care of the grandparents as they get old; with everyone separated in Tokyo, however, this is no longer possible. Additionally, the lack of ie is shown when the parents are sent to a seaside spa. The children give up their responsibility of caregivers and pay for someone else to entertain their parents on the vacation. Had film taken place before the war with the ie still existing as the conventional family unit, the parents would not have been neglected.
Richie, Donald. "The Later Films of Yasujiro Ozu." Film Quarterly 1st ser. 13 (1959): 18-25. JSTOR.<http://www.jstor.org/stable/1211232>.
While Donald Richie writes about many aspects of Ozu's later films, he makes an interesting point concerning the directors reserved style. He claims that Ozu "puts the world at a distance and leaves the spectator uninvolved; a mere recorder of impressions which he may register but which do not personally involve him" (19). Additionally, Ozu consistently has his characters, "say what is appropriate to the situation, as if their conversation were stolen directly from life" (20). These two characteristics complement each other and, according to Richie, give a Buddhist aura to his films.
While Richie may certainly be right about the Buddhist style, Ozu's realism also heavily contributes to his opinion that the modern era is destroying the Japanese family. Ozu constantly frames shots with doorways and objects which give the impression, as Richie points out, that we are merely spectators in the film. From this voyeuristic view point, each scene feels true to life, and it is easy for the audience to forget that they are watching a film. As the parents are neglected by their children, it seems as if this truly happens. Through the realism, the audience can develop a stronger emotional connection to the characters. The final scene, for example, shows Shukichi alone after his wife died with no children to comfort him. The scene is terribly heartbreaking and the audience, through the distanced view point, cannot help but see the harm resulting from the disintegration of the family. While this reserved style does not directly connect modernity to changing family structures, it highlights and emphasizes the depressing result.
Complementing other sociological reports for this paper, Helen Macnaughtan's article on women in the workforce provides intriguing insight into Tokyo Story's world. Traditionally, middle class women did not have jobs and instead were expected to take care of the home. Beginning after World War II, however, legislation, such as the 1947 Labour Standards Law, emancipated women in the labor force. Macnaughtan sees a few key trends following the war; first, the number of female workers increased significantly. Second, there was a noticeable increase specifically for middle-aged women. Finally, although women were working more than the past, they remained "supplementary to the core of predominantly male permanent workers," (40).
This trend of women in the workplace is visible in Tokyo Story through the characters Noriko and Shige. Both women, who in the past would not have had a job, are both full time workers. Had they not been working, they would have been responsible for taking take of and spending time with Shukishi and Tomi. For Shige, her job as a hairdresser takes away time that she would otherwise spend with her parents. While Shige can come off as an uncaring person, it is fair to blame her inattentiveness on post-war pressures and expectations of city living. Noriko, although full employed as well, is better able to manage her time. She dedicates tremendous amounts of her days with the parents, even though she is not even a blood relative. Through his writing and direction, Ozu gets his audience to love Noriko which clearly shows Ozu's love of the family. By casting a negative shadow on the less caring character, Ozu tries to promote family life in the face of modernity's new social roles.
This article discusses Ozu’s use of traditional Japanese concepts aesthetically and thematically in his films. Some of these include sabi, hashi, and susabi. Sabi is particularly obvious in Ozu films. Sabi is an awareness of the ephemeral. Sabi can seen in the many scenes in his films that include various actions in his characters’ lives that may or may not serve to progress the plot. Because much of what is ephemeral is also cyclical, Ozu’s tendency to use repetition and cyclical storytelling can also be interpreted as sabi.
“I was born but…” include many sabi moments. During much of the on-screen time, the characters are engaging in seemingly menial behaviors unimportant to a grander plot. Much time is spent watching the boys eat or play. There are also many repetitions of scenes. This is particularly remarkable during the scenes where they cross the railroad tracks or when the neighborhood boys come to yell at the protagonists’ house. The repeated scenes are so similar it gives an odd sense of déjà-vu.
Geist, Kathe. West Looks East: The Influence of Yasujiro Ozu on Wim Wenders and Peter Handke.Art Journal; Sep83, Vol. 43 Issue 3, p234, 6p.
This article gives a good summary and overview of Yasujiro Ozu’s life and Shochiku studios, to which he belonged. After the 1923 earthquake, Tokyo studios had to recreated and westernize themselves. Shochiku in particular actively adopted American techniques and sought modernism. Shiro Kido led Shochiku in becoming a large producer of middle-class drama (shomin-geki). Shomin-geki soon became characterized by “bleak comedies” and “bitter melodramas”. Many of these films in the 1930s challenged traditional Japanese values. Ozu was one of Shochiku’s most prominent directors and made many shomin-geki.
Yasujiro Ozu made most of his films with Shochiku studios and so it comes as no surprise that many of his films fall into the shomin-geki genre. “I was born but..” is an excellent example of one of these films. The film combines comedy with social commentary. There are many funny scenes, especially in watching much of he two boys’ hijinks as well as the many sight gags used by the father in the home movie. However, the social criticism is also poignant. In fact, the comedy done by the father in the home movie ends up serving a greater significance, as it shames his sons.
"The films of Yasujiro Ozu: true to form". ArtForum. . FindArticles.com. 30 Nov. 2008. http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m0268/is_2_42/ai_109023345
"How American Intellectuals Learned to Love Ozu," by Mindy Aloff, April 1994, The New York Times
In this article, Mindy Aloff investigates how American audiences have responded to Ozu since the 1950s, when his works became available in the United States. Aloff asks what attracts Americans to Ozu's body of film, and discovers a number of possible reasons. While Ozu's films are not widespread in the U.S., a few New York City venues continue to present his surviving films at special screenings. These screenings draw a diverse viewership with a variety of reasons for liking Ozu's films. Some identify Ozu with the New York City art scene, especially when he became noticed alongside revolutionary directors like Godard and Antonioni. Others cite the surprisingly powerful emotional impact of his artfully understated films as the main reason for their fascination with his work. Still others are attracted to the Western aspect of his quiet, simple films, which admittedly were influenced greatly by Griffith and Harold Lloyd. The simplicity and familiarity of his films rendered them accessible and engaging to the Western audience. The moralistic themes and subtle humor of Ozu's films are also universally appealing regardless of the era in which they are viewed.
This article is significant to my study of Ozu through his film Passing Fancy primarily because it discusses the western association of his films. It reinforces the idea that Ozu was not a unitary, uninfluenced figure in filmmaking, but a simultaneously impressionable and original director who adapted what he learned from western films to direct and write his own. It also helps us better understand the source of the humor in Passing Fancy. Comedies are said to typically not translate well across cultures--this is not the case with Ozu's comedies (Passing Fancy among them), which do not rely on the audience's prior understanding of Japanese culture of language to make their unsophisticated jokes and visual gags. It is in part the western association that so many have made with Ozu's work that renders it successful among foreign audiences.
Crane, Burton. "Japanese Industries to Be Split In New Move to Aid Democracy." The New York Times 20 Sept. 1947: 6. ProQuest. <http://proquest.umi.com/pqdweb?did=87817597&fmt=10&clientid=3748&rqt=309&vname=hnp>.
This New York Times article clearly describes the aggressive American economic restructuring of Japan following WWII. The author mentions that the American government, represented by General McArthur, was focused on providing "competition which is the life of American capitalistic democracy" in Japan (6). By breaking up large, monopolistic companies, the United States would dismantle the old Japanese feudal system of business and infuse capitalism into the market place. Some of these "progressive reforms" were criticized for being too overbearing and far reaching; however, the occupation authorities saw the need for a complete restructuring of Japan's economic system.
This article is useful in analyzing Tokyo Story because it gives insight into the world surrounding Ozu as he created the film. Before the war, Japan had significant industry; however, as shown through the article, the American occupation following the war forced Japan to undergo an industrial explosion. Thus, Ozu's position on modernity was certainly correlated to this rapid Westernization at the hands of the United States. While Ozu never refers to Americans or has any characters speak directly about the changing economy, its effects are apparent in Tokyo Story. Many times through out the film, Ozu will cut from a calm image of nature to a frenetic image of smokestacks or cityscapes. Essentially, he crafts a dichotomy between nature and industry which reflects the dichotomy between old values and new values. Often, Ozu will give his audience one of these modern still shots immediately following scenes depicting the disintegration of the film's family, subtextually linking the problems within the family to the rising modernity. Without the American intervention following the war, it is likely that Japan would have followed a very different economic and social course, perhaps one which would not weaken the value of the family. That's not to say that Ozu was anti-American, but rather, that he was against industrialization's conflicts with traditional Japan.
tagged japan modernization ozu by bilger ...on 01-DEC-08
This chapter calls Ozu the most Japanese of the directors of his time. While Kurosawa was modern, Ozu was traditional. Cinema itself is a western art, so by trying to preserve traditional Japanese values, Ozu often went against the mainstream of film. While he certainly expresses the strain of relations and interactions between people, he also tackles the strain between westernized Japan and traditional Japan. “I was born but…” is firmly within the shomin-geki genre, which is characterized as “light understated comedies with a tinge of social consciousness”.
The strain between traditional and western Japan is evident in the “I was born but…”. The father in particular is fully a citizen of westernized Japan. He wears a suit everyday as he goes to work at a western-style company. There is a scene in the middle of the film at the father’s office where we see all of the workers in a line, working like drones and visibly bored with their work as they yawn. In addition, the father is forced to humiliate himself to please his boss. This is an evident criticism of the de-humanizing effects of westernization. There scene at the office transitions to a scene at school in which all of the kids sit in order at their desks, drawing an obvious comparison. We also see the children marching in unison at the order of a teacher in the schoolyard. The children in school are simply being prepared to become drones like their fathers. The shame that the two boys see in their father is also Ozu’s shame that men must submit themselves in that way in modern Japan. However, the boys (and Ozu) finally admit that it has become a necessity.
Schrader, Paul. Transcendental Style in Film: Ozu, Bresson, Dreyer. Da Capo Press, 1988.
Transcendental Style in Film, Chapter 2, by Paul Schrader, 1988
In this chapter, Paul Schrader characterizes the films of Yasujiro Ozu as fundamentally transcendental works and attempts to map Zen principles onto Ozu's filmmaking techniques. Schrader begins by qualifying Zen art as a form of transcendentalism for its spiritual focus and merging of sacred and secular spheres. Ozu, whose traditionalistic themes and style have led many regard him as Japan's “most Japanese” director, had an easier time adapting transcendentalist principles to film than many western filmmakers because its ideas were already fixed in oriental culture. To properly convey his themes in film, however, Ozu had to overcome opposing Western cinematic trends. Despite this reactionary aspect of Ozu's work, Schrader describes him as “cinema's consummate formalist,” more of a craftsman than an expressive artist: he consistently focused on the same themes, relied on the same actors and crew, and used the same types of shots and editing patterns throughout his films. Schrader draws parallels between this repetitive approach to filmmaking and the repetitive, ritualistic aspect of Zen art. Similarly, Ozu aims to capture the concept of “emptiness” or “the void” in the many silences, pauses, and slow contemplative scenes of his films, a preoccupation that has long informed Zen artwork. Finally, Ozu's family comedies and melodramas often deal with communication failure between man and his environment. These films consistently advocate oneness and unity in the face of our changing and unbalanced environment. Both of these ideas are central to Zen philosophy.
This article is useful because it highlights the paradoxical nature of Ozu's work: Ozu was reactionary in his techniques, rejecting many western film conventions, but only so that he could express Japanese fundamentalist ideas. Schrader holds that many of these reactionary techniques were in fact based on traditionalist techniques that guided Zen art. This no doubt helped Ozu earn his reputation as Japan's “most Japanese” director, but it also complicates any notion that classifies his work as distinctly conservative or traditionalist. Passing Fancy exhibits this contradiction nicely. Artistically it is very unlike western films, focusing on pauses, repetition of the same motifs and shots, and inviting the audience’s detached contemplation (much like the Zen art that Schrader claims informs it). It uses these new techniques in order to focus on the traditional Japanese home and quietly lament the encroaching modern world.
The Problem of Japaneseness in Ozu, by Daniel Hui, April 22, 2000
In this blog Daniel Hui challenges film critics who have called Ozu Japan's “most Japanese” director. This designation is problematic because it is based on a number of flawed presuppositions that are required to characterize Ozu's work as especially “Japanese.” First, it ascribes a distinct Japanese national identity to film, an originally western phenomenon. Because film form was developed in the west, Hui argues, it cannot be well defined in Japanese terms. Secondly, the classification of Ozu's work as particularly “Japanese” requires that this Japanese cinema be defined by older Japanese artistic forms (kabuki theater, Zen painting, etc.) that are only marginally applicable to film. Here we find another limitation: the “Japanese” qualities of these older arts could only be analyzed and defined in western terms, since it was exposure to the west that forced Japan to define its own culture. Finally, the “Japanese” designation mistakenly assumes that as an auteur, Ozu exercised unchanging control over the artistic expression of each of his films. Hui argues that Ozu was not so unimpressionable—his early films, for example, were strongly influenced by the sweeping changes to reflect Hollywood production that were occurring in Japanese film studios after the Kanto earthquake of 1923. Attempts to unify Ozu's body of films often oversimplify the director's range of work, ignoring the films that are clearly influenced by Hollywood films or inconveniently diverge from his typical style. Moreover, Ozu's tendency to establish norms within his films and then purposely undermine them renders such a “typical style” even harder to define. Ozu may have tried to construct a unified body of work, Hui states, “but this body is fractured, irregular, and impossible to read.” All critics seem to agree, however (Hui included), that Ozu's films attempt to represent “everyday life.” Hui contends that this focus on the everyday, not some abstract artistic construction, is ultimately what accounts for the “Japanese-ness” that so many claim to detect in his films. Because Japanese life changed over the course of Ozu's career, Hui concludes, so then did Ozu's films.
This article not only contradicts notions that Ozu was a fundamentalist/traditionalist director, but undermines my attempts to classify him at all. In suggesting that Ozu created a dynamic body of film with many influences rather than a repetitive, thematically and stylistically static one, Hui rejects the “consummate fundamentalist” description posited by other Ozu scholars. Hui goes to claim that a unifying theme characterizing all of Ozu's work is impossible to locate given Ozu's unclear assessment of his own films and his tendency to break from his own established patterns. Unfortunately, this approach was the aim of my research—I had hoped to use Passing Fancy as an indicator of Ozu's traditionalism or progressivism as a director. There may be hope for my project, however, in the one area that this article is consistent with others: its acknowledgment that all of Ozu's films represent everyday life. Hui notes that Ozu's films change to reflect the changing of everyday Japanese life. This is certainly a key idea in Passing Fancy, where a stubborn, uneducated father struggles to keep up with the changing world. In this sense, Ozu might be best described not simply as focusing on traditional aspects of Japanese life; rather, he focuses on contemporary life, and adapts his style to reflect its changes.
"Silent Ozu" by Catharine Russel, Cineaste Vol. 33 No. 4 (Fall 2008)
In this essay Catherine Russel focuses on Ozu's silent comedies and identifies a number of thematic trends that run throughout them. Ozu continued to work in silent film well after sound film had become prominent in Japan in 1931, so that by the time he adopted sound he had developed many of his own visual conventions, particularly the frequent use of use of low camera angles and detailed inserts. With these uniquely styled early silent films, Ozu helped to establish the Japanese shomin-geki genre, which dealt with ordinary middle class people. Many of these films offer various representations of fatherhood, using the economic background of the Great Depression, the tumultuous political situation of the time, and the encroaching modern world as context for challenging the lost, working class protagonist fathers trying to support their families. Each father must do so while caught up in the various hierarchies and obligations of Japanese society. In I Was Born, But..., for example, a father tries desperately to please his boss but loses the respect of his young sons in doing so. While Ozu's films typically contain well developed male characters (mostly fathers and sons), Russel criticizes the early films for a simultaneous trend of inexpressive female roles. Finally, she notes the repetition of suburban locales in Ozu's silent comedies, largely composed of cramped alleyways and undeveloped, telephone-pole-lined lots. She views these semi-developed areas as a sign of the steadily-approaching modern world about to collide with traditional Japanese sensibilities. Ozu's repeated focus on the everyday aspects of these suburban locations allow his films to affect the feel of familiarity that they are so well known for.
A number of Russel's points distinguish her essay from other commentaries and prove relevant to Ozu's Passing Fancy and through this, assist our understanding of Ozu himself. First, that Ozu was late in adopting sound film—he still used intertitles in Passing Fancy in 1933--certainly suggests his comfortability with the older form of filmmaking, if not his artistic conservatism. Second, Russel situates Passing Fancy in context of Ozu's other silent comedies, and then describes how the narratives and themes of these comedies reflect Japan's historical circumstances. Russel's focus on the various fatherhood-related themes that carry through Ozu's comedies is particularly useful in understanding the tenuous relationship between the main characters of Passing Fancy, a poor laborer and his son. Understanding the film's background in the Great Depression and Japan's modernization, we better recognize that Passing Fancy's sympathetically-portrayed father, who is so ill-equipped to confront the changing times, is intended provoke the audience to lament modernization and with it the end of Japanese simplicity that Ozu embraced in his films. This also suggests an old fashioned sensibility on Ozu's part.
"Ozu, Sound, and Style" by Matt Hauske. date unavailable.
In this article Matt Hauske examines how Ozu's editing patterns changed over his period of directing. Specifically, it discusses the remarkably consistent shot length in his films, and explains that the stylistic choices accompanying this shot consistency remained even after Ozu adopted sound film. The introduction of sound film resulted in an almost universal doubling of average shot length in films. While Ozu's films experienced the same effect, the editing patterns and style of his silent films carried over to his sound ones. Ozu himself admitted that his sound films retained the style of his silent ones. Hauske suggests that Ozu's editing style resisted the changes that new technology seemed to insist upon because Ozu continued to work primarily in family dramas and comedies. To Ozu, who valued narrative clarity and simplicity above all else, these types of films required lengthy shots and heavy use of intertitles. Ozu's characteristic use of long takes and depiction of dialogue suggests that Ozu was in many respects ahead of his time, even though he adopted sound technology much later than other directors. Hauske also notes that Ozu often makes it clear in his silent films that he's aware of the potential for sound technology: scenes where characters react to off-screen sources of sound seem to be playful reminders of this awareness. Hauske concludes by speculating about the reasons for Ozu's remarkable editing consistency in his films. Perhaps Ozu's greatest reason for very consistent shot length and editing patterns, Hauske posits, is the opportunity it affords to play with audience expectations and subvert Hollywood editing norms.
Hauske does not deal with Passing Fancy specifically, but as one of Ozu's later silent comedies this article seems applicable to it. Particularly interesting is Hauske's suggestion that Ozu's silent films were quite advanced for their heavy use of dialogue and lengthy shots. In Passing Fancy Ozu demonstrates a proficient use of both to further the narrative. By Hauske's assessment, then, Ozu proves to be a progressive director for his innovative editing work in his silent comedies. Perhaps even more important, however, is the idea that Ozu used very consisting editing simply in in order to subvert it; in doing so, he would often undermine the audience's expectations and diverge from the classical western editing that he admired so much.
“I was born but…” takes a look at the interactions and relationships in all three of Ozu’s families: home, work, and school. In each, he analyzes how the characters’ determine the social hierarchy and power structure. At work, the father makes a fool of himself and continuously acts submissively towards his boss. At school, the two boys, the protagonists, are ostracized at first for being outsiders to the point that they are afraid to go to school. However, by standing up for themselves, they eventually gain the top position in the gang of boys, and the other boys submit to them. In the home, at first the boys show a great deal of respect for their father. When they see him humiliate himself for his boss, however, they become ashamed of him and refuse to eat in an attempt to separate themselves from his power over them. Eventually it becomes clear that they must respect their father because he provides for them, just as their father must respect his boss for the same reason. These shifts in the nature of the relationships between the characters in the film are the primary focus. The loose plotline is a simple one, and only functions as a pretext for these interactions.
“I was born but…” comments on the changing structure of the Japanese family. Contrary to the ideal patriarchal figure of Japan in the 1930s, the father in “I was born but…” is a weak man. After watching the shameful home movies, his sons even become ashamed of him and tell him so to his face, something that would be unthinkable in the feudal family view. The quarrel between father and sons at this point frames them almost as equals, as the father then has to win back their favor the next morning. This mirrors the slow abandonment in reality of the authoritarian patriarch. Also, the parents wonder aloud if the boys will be forced to live in the same humiliating way as themselves, and the mother encourages the boys to become better than their father. The boys themselves are disgusted with the way their father has to submit to his boss, and want to become generals. Ozu is commenting on the new potential that the new generation of Japanese have of surpassing their parents and the greater amount of freedom they have in choosing their lives. The way that the boys become the leaders of the gang through their own ability begs the question of whether, in that changing society, they could also become the top in adult society through their own ability, unhindered by social convention as their parents were.
Ozu makes an unmistakable statement about Japanese social order in “I was born, but…”, that was extremely relevant to his target audience. The two boys, the protagonists, are appalled by the way their father submits to his boss. In the neighborhood, the two boys work their way up to the top positions in the gang of boys by using their own ability, but it is clear that pre-determined social position prevents their father from doing the same. Regardless of this difference, Ozu criticizes the misuse of power in both circumstances. The father is force to humiliate himself by playing the comedian to please his boss. Meanwhile, in the gang of boys they continuously play a game in which “higher-ranking” boys can force the others to “die” and lie on the ground, a similar type of humiliation. These social issues are those that would have been faced by average Japanese of the time. This is in line with the Kamata style that Ozu used during this time.
This article discusses the visual style of Japanese cinema before 1945. By the mid 1920s, Japanese editing and visual style had mostly adopted the Hollywood style, meaning continuity editing, the 180-degree rule, and so on. However, during the 1920s and 30s, Japanese filmmakers revised many of these rules for their own purposes. For example, the 180-degree rule was sometimes violated. The pictorialist approach contained “longer takes, more distant framings, [and] less cutting in to details”. Piecemeal decoupage was typical of many of the directors from the Shochiku studio (of which Ozu was one). In piecemeal decoupage, every scene is broken up into many different smaller shots. Ozu was one of the most famous users of this style in his early career, though he later gave it up. Piecemeal decoupage was mostly used by Shochiku studios in shomin-geki, dramas and comedies about middle and lower class contemporary families. Shochiku’s studio was in Kamata, so this is called the Kamata style.
This article is useful in putting Ozu’s style in “I was born but…” in context with his peers at the time. Ozu was an avid admirer of Hollywood films, but much like his peers, he broke many of the rules made by Hollywood. He often breaks the 180-degree rule, as well as many other basic rules of continuity editing. “I was born but…” is edited in piecemeal decoupage style, while his later work contains many pictorialist elements. This article shows that while the techniques used by Ozu were certainly unusual, they were not completely revolutionary. Other directors of the time were using piecemeal decoupage and pictorialist techniques as well. In addition, Ozu’s style is very similar to other directors that worked at Shochiku studios (the so-called Kamata style). “I was born but…”, is done in piecemeal decoupage and focuses on the everyday life of a middle-class family.
Bordwell, David. Visual Style in Japanese Cinema, 1925-1945. Film History, Vol. 7, No. 1, Asian Cinema (Spring, 1995), pp. 5-31
This article discusses Yasujiro Ozu’s use of narrative during his silent film period. One characteristic is that he uses shots of objects to portray narrative. This also includes shots of landscapes. This functions to put together pieces of a whole, or piece together contiguous areas. Another common technique is to show an object being manipulated by someone and then show the person manipulating it. This inverts cause and effect, as it shows the effect first, and then the cause. Ozu also will tend to show the after-effects of an event rather than the event itself. For example, instead of showing a father scolding his children, he will show the children upset after being yelled at. Ozu also frequently used empty still-life shots. However, they are scarce in his earlier films. Another technique he uses is suppressed transitions. This is when there is a seemingly continuous shot that is in fact discontinuous. For example, in “I was born but…” there is a transition between two scenes that both contain a close-up of a telephone pole, but the shots are actually discontinuous. Also, Ozu’s camera was not always in focus on the main action, and often used confusing camera angles.
This article is useful as an analysis of the way that Ozu presents his story to the audience, causing the audience to feel as if they are observing everyday events. All of the techniques discussed in the article serve to slow the understanding of the events on-screen by the audience. For example, early on in “I was born but…” there is a scene where the camera focuses on the inside of the family’s new house as we see the cart with the two boys arriving out-of-focus through a window. The audience is interested in the actions of the two boys, the protagonists, but the camera impedes our full sight of them. Also, suppressed transitions allows Ozu to put scenes that are not related by plot next to one another and impede the logical progression of the plot and order of scenes. The effect of this is that the audience becomes very aware of their observer role. The audience is not always in the middle of the action, and is thus often given limited information. In addition, it subverts the plot by impeding the logical order of events. The plot does not proceed in directly logical order and there are many scenes which do not seem to have particular importance. For example, there is the scene in the classroom where one of the boys gets in trouble for eating a swallow egg, as well as the scene in which the protagonist eat their lunches in a field. Neither of these scenes advance the plot but serve as simply events in the characters’ lives. All of this has the effect that we not being drawn into some grand plot manipulated by the director and writers, but rather that we are viewing a series of somewhat insignificant, loosely connected events. This is much closer to everyday life.
Geist, Kathe. Narrative Style in Ozu's Silent Films. Film Quarterly, Vol. 40, No. 2 (Winter, 1986-1987), pp. 28-35
This article is a stylistic analysis of Yasujiro Ozu. It focuses on the techniques of five of his later films (Late Spring, Tokyo Story, Early Spring, Good Morning, and Late Autumn). Specifically, it addresses plot, structure, editing, tempo, and scene. Ozu plots are very straightforward because he saw the story as only a pretext for the film. As such, his movies played like an episode of normal life. The structure of Ozu films emphasize the idea of “return”. His films often end where they began. In his editing, he does not much dialogue or character study to make his point. He places the emphasis on what happens before or after the primary emotional event, rather than the event itself. Regarding tempo, Ozu films take place completely in the present, and take place in “psychological time”, not clock-time. The rate at which time passes is subject to the characters. Finally, Ozu will often create scenes that resemble beautiful still-lives.
This article is useful to use in order to descirbe the style of “I was born, but…”. Although the article discusses his later films, he uses many of the same stylistic techniquies in "I was born but...". Many of the stylistic techniques mentioned in the article also appear in “I was born but…”. The plot is very straightforward and there is no grand plot. It simply details a small period of time in the life of two boys. The major events are small things such as fighting or playing with other boys in the neighborhood, or going over to their father’s boss’ home to watch a movie. The structure also has the idea of “return”. The film ends and begins with an interaction with the neighborhood boys. Often times, the editing sends an implicit message of a character’s emotions rather than focusing overtly on it. For example, after the father has been called a weakling and a nobody by his sons, there is a shot from his back that focuses on the fact that his posture is bent and he is holding a bottle of alcohol. From this, the audience must infer that he is upset by the previous confrontation with his sons. This is also a beautifully composed shot, which could be compared to a still painting as there is no action in it. The tempo of the film is certainly in real time, and there are many shots with very little action. There is a long scene in the middle of the film where the two boys simply eat rice.
Richie, Donald. "Yasujiro Ozu: The Syntax of his Films". Film QuarterlyVol. 17, No. 2 (Winter, 1963-1964), pp. 11-16
Call#: Van Pelt Library E169.12 .K46 2006
As remix culture begins to steadily supplant traditional consumer culture, media companies are recognizing the importance of cultivating participatory communities in order to generate interest and merchandising opportunities for their properties. Indeed, up until now the anime industry has recognized the value of these communities by tacitly approving of their activities despite being aware of their widespread copyright infringement – fansubs, fan fiction, cosplay, and various other forms of creative expression have been openly displayed for some time both on the internet and at fan conventions. In this way, we can recognize that the letter of the law is only one part of what must be a multi-faceted understanding of copyright; many illegal activities may in fact be culturally beneficial and even economically complementary. In many cases the anime industry has succeeded by leveraging the creative social structure of fan communities. For example, series such as Pokemon or Naruto have incorporated merchandising models that capture fans' passion for expression and connection with these fictional worlds.
In this article Salil Mehra discusses the practice of dojinshi, or Japanese fan-made derivative comics, and its implications for copyright law in both Japan and the United States. He investigates the economic and social incentives fueling both sides of the dojinshi movement, making particular effort to understand the Japanese system in context of American copyright concepts of fair use and economic efficiency. He divides his dissertation into four parts, focusing on the ubiquity of comics in Japanese culture; a comparison of Japanese and American copyright law; the Japanese comic industry's tolerance of dojinshi's infringement; and the implications of this tolerance. After briefly discussing the artistic and economic history of manga and anime comics, Mehra compares American and Japanese copyright law and precedent rulings, specifically in regard to cartoon character copyright. He even attempts to evaluate dojinshi by the four factors of fair use analysis and court precedent involving cartoon character infringement, and finds that dojinshi would not pass by American standards. The similarity of the two copyright law systems, he offers, suggests that the grounds for a legal action against dojinshi are certainly evident should the comic industry choose to pursue it. The fact that the industry generally has not taken filed complaint against dojinshi artists, however, indicates that there are rational incentives for tolerating dojinshi. Mehra notes that culturally, Japan is a less litigious nation than the United States, and winning copyright cases are typically not nearly as lucrative as American ones; this is likely a deterrent to lawsuits in the manga industry. Furthermore, mainstream comic artists might tolerate dojinshi in order to appease their fan base--an artist could ruin his reputation among fans by filing a lawsuit against a loyal, albeit infringing, fan. Discussing commercial reasons to not litigate, he posits that dojnishi ultimately promotes the original work and raises new artists that can eventually enter the mainstream system with ideas of their own. He closes by calling for a reevaluation of the American notion that greater protection yields more or better intellectual property, as well as acknowledgment that a system akin to dojinshi may promote innovation and benefit collective industry.
Mehra's article is unique in its attempt to reconcile dojinshi with Japanese Copyright Law. His investigation of court precedent in cartoon infringement suggests that dojinshi is indeed a unique situation. By comparing Japanese and American copyright laws and demonstrating how alike they are, he proves that the creation and sale of dojinshi is not simply allowed in Japan because it has weaker copyright laws than the U.S.--other factors (cultural, economic, etc.) must account for the dojinshi phenomenon. Mehra is also unique among dojinshi scholars for making pains to demonstrate that the industry's tolerance of dojinshi has as much to do with the legal atmosphere of Japan as the commercial benefits of allowing the practice to continue. Furthermore, he emphasizes that with the dojinshi system, individual artist's interests are sacrificed for the collective good of the manga industry. In other words, an individual artist must agree not to protect his work from infringing artists in order to maintain the system that benefits the industry. This is all important for my paper because I investigate whether the fan policies of entertainment industries in Japan are transportable to the United States. The comparison of American and Japanese laws and cultural circumstances is thus critical to determining my argument.
In this article, Daniel Pink presents a number of insights into the world of Japanese manga, focusing specifically on the practice of dojinshi, or the fan-based creation and sale of derivative manga, and its apparently unchallenged transgression of Japan's well articulated copyright laws. Pink investigates why publishers tolerate the sale of dojinshi, work that borrows the characters of official manga, in markets across Japan. He proposes several reasons for the stable relationship between manga copyright holders and the infringing party. First, dojinshi is practiced by many manga readers; allowing it keeps the fan base happy, and even nurtures new artists that eventually enter and sustain the mainstream manga industry. Secondly, dojinshi tends to promote the sale of manga that has inspired it. Finally, by monitoring trends in dojinshi sales, the mainstream industry can conduct a sort of free market research. Publishers' acknowledgment of these benefits of dojinshi results, Pink explains, in an unspoken agreement between publishers and dojinshi artists, whereby artists may sell their derivative work provided they only print limited editions of their work and do not attempt to compete with the manga from which they “borrow.” Pink offers that this approach to dojinshi—a tolerance and unspoken agreement that benefits both parties--is a viable business model for handling intellectual property, one which companies in the United States might do well to adopt.
This article explains the genius of the Japanese manga industry's intellectual property policies by showing how it successfully reconciles clever business with strict copyright law by simply choosing not to litigate. The industry's leaders recognize the benefits of fan infringment. They also understand that fans want the freedom to continue practicing dojinshi too much to risk it by attempting to compete with the mainstream market. They further realize that attempting to amend Japan's Copyright Law would be tremendously difficult and ultimately unnecessary as long as the current system works. The industry's initial response to dojinshi, that of watchfulness instead of hasty litigation, appears to have paid off. This recurring idea in my research has led me to contend that the tacit agreement resulting from the manga industry's watchfulness may ultimately be the most intelligent way to conduct business in a world governed by strict copyright laws that would be difficult to change.
In this article Henry Jenkins discusses the series of events that gradually elevated Japanese animation to prominence in the Western market. He suggests that Japan's allowance of early fan piracy was able to promote international expansion of the cartoon business when its own publicity efforts could not. Early attempts to broadcast Japanese animated cartoons in the US were rebuffed by censor groups who considered them inappropriate, and Japanese cartoons largely disappeared from American television. When videotape recorders became available, however, it became common practice for Japanese and American animation fans to tape their favorite shows and exchange them, circumventing both copyright laws and the limits of television broadcasting. In the US, many of the Japanese tapes were exhibited at science fiction fairs around country, and fan clubs sprang up to collect and translate these foreign cartoons in a practice called “fansubbing.” As Japanese animation gained popularity, some fan groups actually won the rights to distribute Japanese cartoons in the US and began the first legal distribution companies. Eager to see more work imported, fans collectively agreed to stop circulating pirated shows that had been licensed, so as to avoid competing with the official legal cartoons and encourage growth of the foreign market. In addition to fansubbing, fan clubs worked to translate and explain the unfamiliar cultural elements of Japanese cartoons to American viewers. They also worked to identify Japanese cartoons that could be commercially successful in the US. This has resulted in the introduction of new animated genres in the western market, and massive global growth in the industry from 1994 to 2004.
A few ideas here are central to my research. Jenkins remarks that the Japanese industry's tendency to not interfere with fan practices has largely encouraged its own international growth and innovation. The industry has followed a similar policy domestically, too, largely supporting fan-made cartoons (called “dojinshi”) and using them to promote official work. Moreover, this article emphasizes the commercial advantages of thoughtfully monitoring a trend before taking action for or against it, as the Japanese animation industry has done. The industry has pleased its consumer base and ultimately strengthened itself by exploiting a form of piracy that it could not completely control anyway. In Japan, apparently, new technology is not considered inimical to business, a philosophy that western entertainment businesses might do well to embrace.
This article covers the immediate response the YouTube had to the inital takedown request made to them on Oct 20, 2006 by the Japanese Society for Rights of Authors, Composers and Publishers (JASRAC).
In relation to my project, JASRAC requested through DMCA takedown request procedures that YouTube remove nearly 30,000 unauthorized video files that were uploaded by YouTube users. This furthers my project research into the issue of copyright infringement as it pertains to internet video-sharing service.
Tanzil, Sarah. "YouTube Deletes 30,000 Files After a Copyright Complaint." The New York Times 21 Oct. 2006: Technology.
Wetmore Jr., Kevin J. “Modern Japanese Drama in English.” Asian Theatre Journal 23.1 (2006): 179-205.
This article discusses the modernization of Japanese dramatic mediums. In the late 19th century with the advent of the Meiji Restoration, Japan was opened up to the west politically, economically, and culturally. The conceptual challenge to Japanese theatre brought about the opposing strategies to either renovate traditional theatre or to implement entirely western models. Initially an attempt was made to maintain the traditional forms through the former path, including the reinvention of kabuki with shin-kabuki or “new kabuki” and then later with Shimpa or “New School” which incorporated Western storylines and playwrights with the traditional style and acting of kabuki theatre. Eventually, however, these failed attempts transitioned into a full application of Western models in the early 1900s with shingeki or “new theatre.” This new style marks a complete rejection of tradition, both in the realm of theatre but also in the greater context of Japanese cultural heritage. Shingeki placed emphasis on naturalism and realism, indicating its adherence to modernism. The American occupation between 1945 and 1952, however, brought about a new attitude towards Western views, translating as well into the now established new theatre styles. In the 1960s, the U.S.-Japan Mutual Security Treaty crisis of 1960 brought about the formation of a new form developed going by many names, including angora or “underground,” post-shingeki,” and shE gekijE undE or “Little Theatre Movement.” This new form attempted to reconnect with the lost traditions of the pre-modern Japan. The last thirty years show a growth in “modern pluralism,” blending modern and traditional techniques, including the English versions of many works. The author goes on to state that despite such reforms few modern Japanese artists, directors, actors, etc., receive much attention in English.
This article relates to my film because it deals with modernism and the translation of Japanese drama outside of the island. Kurosawa’s film is unique in its modern perspectives and narrative techniques, and its influence across the globe is seen in many contexts. Akutagawa Ryunosuke’s short story is mentioned in the article as an English playwrights using Japanese source material, and the film has influenced many remakes and reinterpretations, such as the films Vantage Point and The Usual Suspects.
McKenzie, Andrew. "True Demon Bound by No Rules: AN INTRODUCTION TO CHARACTER AND VENGEANCE IN THE LONE WOLF AND CUB FILMS." Metro 148 (2006): 112-115. EBSCO. University of Pennsylvania. 10 Apr. 2008.
Andrew McKenzie’s essay, “A True Demon Bound by No Rules: An Introduction to Character and Vengeance in the Lone Wolf and Cub Films,” places the Lone Wolf and Cub series within the larger context of the Tokugawa Era (1600-1865), the Bushido (“the way of the warrior”), and the films’ reception.
Critics condemn the Lone Wolf and Cub series, arguing that the film’s masterless protagonist, Itto Ogami, is a caricature of the Tokugawa samurai. These critics allude to the meager and powerless existence of the historical ronin (masterless samurai). But McKenzie argues that Ogami’s unique freedom emphasizes the presence of feudal Japanese conventions. Without the existence of these customs, Ogami would not have a force against which to rebel. According to McKenzie, the primary targets of Ogami’s rebellion are the Bushido and the Eastern conception of fate. Ogami first violates Bushido code when he refuses an order from his superior to commit seppuku. McKenzie also cites Ogami’s disregard for his sword as a subversion of Bushido. In Bushido the sword is akin to the “soul of the samurai,” and its wielder should guard it at all costs. In his unorthodoxy however, Ogami hurls it like spear. Finally, McKenzie posits that “Belief in predestination or fate in Eastern culture is standard; Ogami however, simply refuses it” (McKenzie, 114).
The essay establishes Shogun Assassin’s (1980) historical relevance through Lone Wolf and Cub. Shogun Assassin, a reedited version of the first two Lone Wolf and Cub films, contains the same tropes of abandonment and rebellion against feudal convention. The films challenge the conventions and the authority of the Tokugawa era with their gruesome fight sequences. Because of the overt violence, McKenzie argues that critics incorrectly ignore the social and cultural implications of the film, and immediately assign it to the exploitation genre.
Call#: Van Pelt Library PN1993.5.J3 R44 1992
Call#: Van Pelt Library PN1993.5.J3 R44 1992
Call#: Van Pelt Library--4 East--Temporary Location Annenberg PN1993.5.J3 R44 1992
Call#: Van Pelt Library--4 East--Temporary Location Annenberg PN1993.5.J3 R44 1992
David Desser's essay, "Towards a Structural Analysis of the Postwar Samurai Film," outlines the sub-genres of samurai film, describes their properties, and examines their cultural implications. The first of Desser's sub-genres is the "nostalgic samurai drama." The chief characteristic of the grouping is what Desser calls "mono no aware." The term refers to a "feeling of sweet sadness, or an almost inexpressible sensation of life's mortality, which is pleasantly painful" (Desser, 148). Characters in these films are generally "powerless yet proud samurai," condemned by the society that created them. However, he does not rebel against the system, instead he "takes the path of righteousness out of a sense of obligation" (Desser, 149). Next, Desser discusses the "anti-feudal drama." The anti-feudal drama, a reaction to America's post-war presence in Japan, tracked its hero from a position of prominence to his ruin. In these films, self-hatred replaces mono no aware. The anti-feudal drama is also more violent than the nostalgic samurai drama, as the protagonist must rage against the flawed conventions of society. Finally, Desser analyzes the "sword film," or chambara. While the author admits that critics generally apply the term chambara as a pejorative, he believes the sword film to be the "most interesting and revealing of all the sub-genres within samurai film" (Desser, 155). The Western viewer's inability to appreciate chambara stems from the movement’s extreme aesthetization of violence, specifically, gores. Sword films use violence as a kind of nihilism. Furthermore, the genre subverts Bushido (“the way of the warrior”) through the meaninglessness of death.
Through Desser’s essay, we can classify Shogun Assassin (1980) within the larger context of the samurai film. The film most fits the conventions of the chambara. Its slow motion decapitations, spurting blood, and high body count all work to undermine the established order. Desser’s assertion that the film’s movement provides both an agenda and an aesthetic, denotes artistry unfound in the exploitation film.
Call#: Van Pelt Library PN1993.5.J3 S72 2005
The chapter, "Speed and Movement in Chambara: Stylistic Conventions," from Isolde Standish's book, A New History of Japanese Cinema, examines the use and function of speed in its application to the human body and filming technique. Standish argues that Japanese film uses speed as a "mimetic response to the mechanical ordering of temporality" (Standish, 97). In contrast to Western directors, who frequently used the convention to reflect mechanized industry's effect on the human timetable, Japanese films glorify the process through "spectacle and display" (Standish, 97). Standish grounds her polemic with examples from Japanese theater and early Japanese cinema.
The section attributes Japanese cinema's emphasis on speed to two sources: reactionary sentiment to a rigidly stratified society and the shinkokugeki theater movement. Standish ascribes chambara's (sword-play film) appeal to its visceral effects. The physical freedom of the chambara's characters "provided subjective moments of corporeal intensity and fantasy" (Standish, 99). Images of movement fascinated young Japanese men, who felt constricted by society. The shinkokugeki theater movement of the early 1920s introduced the display of realistic sword fighting scenes on stage. The new style was much more exciting than the detached, suggestive style of kubuki theater. Japanese filmmakers combined real sword fights with filming techniques like long tracking shots and crosscuts over different parallel lines of action to accentuate on screen movement.
Standish's chapter enumerates the different tropes of the chambara. Using her criteria, one can evaluate the effect of Shogun Assassin's (1980) use of speed, movement, and editing. Ogami Itto's fencing skills seem inhuman: his blade often moves too fast for the eye to see. Furthermore, Shogun Assassin uses crosscuts in every fight scene. The shots, which shift between Ogami and his opponents, maintain focus on all characters involved without sacrificing tension. Finally, Shogun Assassin culminates with a tachimawari, or a "climactic sword-fight scene" (Standish, 98). Standish claims that the tachimawari is the hallmark of the chambara film, as it features the most pace and movement.
Call#: Van Pelt Library PN1995.9.S24 G35 2005
Patrick Galloway’s review of Lone Wolf and Cub: Sword of Vengeance (1972) provides an acclamatory summary and informed analysis. Central to Galloway’s review are Lone Wolf and Cub’s origins in manga and its extreme violence. Galloway explains, “The Lone Wolf and Cub Saga, six films in all (1972-1974), was adapted from the popular manga of the same name” (Galloway, 151). The critic praises the film for its efforts to capture the “spurting gore” of the comics. But the movie’s relationship to its predecessors transcends imagery. Galloway argues that the film emulates the psychotic conceptual framework of the manga. In this way, Lone Wolf and Cub propagates a sense of destruction and rage, unprecedented in samurai film. This ambience allows the viewer to understand Itto Ogami’s “bloodlust [and] twisted Bushido rationalizations” (Galloway, 153).
The review classifies Lone Wolf and Cub as a chambara (swordplay film), which is a form of jidai-geki (period film). While this serves the thesis of the paper, it is more important to note the artistic deference Galloway pays the film. The article takes pains to illustrate director Kenji Misumi’s efforts to replicate the manga’s look and feel. Even in his criticism of the film, Galloway is careful to use the Lone Wolf and Cub manga as his measuring stick. He faults the director for allowing the static quality of the manga’s sequenced picture frames to transfer onto the film. Galloway also castigates Robert Houston and David Weisman, Lone Wolf and Cub’s American adaptors, for their shoddy reedited film Shogun Assassin. The writer and director ignored the nuances of the original story and implanted a ridiculously dubbed script. Though focusing on two different films, the contrast between Galloway’s meticulous study of Shogun Assassin’s progenitor and Vincent Canby’s biting New York Times review emphasizes Shogun Assassin’s marketing and reception as an exploitation film. The public did not recognize Shogun Assassin as a stylized reproduction of manga; rather it was just another poorly dubbed film from Asia.
Vincent Canby’s review of Shogun Assassin (1980) is scathing, but warranted. He begins his diatribe with a critique of the film’s child narrator, Daigoro, the protagonist’s son. Canby finds Daigoro’s commentary on the film’s bloody action “pricelessly funny” because of his matter of fact tone and perpetual understatement. The columnist applies the brunt of criticism to the film’s script, “Shogun Assassin…is as furiously mixed up as What’s Up Tiger Lilly? the classic that Woody Allen made by attaching an English soundtrack to a grade-Z Japanese spy movie.” He sums up the film’s plot quite simply, as the story of a “tubby, outcast samurai wandering the length and breadth of Japan.” Though Canby appreciates some of the film’s photography, the movie’s intense violence and gore disturb him. Ultimately, Canby concludes, “the movie is an unimportant joke.”
The review illustrates Shogun Assassin’s reception in the United States as an exploitation film. The film’s director, Robert Houston, and writers, Houston and David Weisman, spliced together scenes from the first two installments of the Japanese Lone Wolf and Cub series, fabricated a script, and then dubbed the footage. The film enjoyed moderate success as its release coincided with television’s airing of the epic miniseries “Shogun” (based on James Clavell’s novel). But in marketing Shogun Assassin within the context of more traditional samurai films, Houston and Weisman did the movie a tremendous disservice. Viewers like Vincent Canby attended the film with expectations formed from such legendary Japanese directors as Akira Kurosawa, Masaki Kobayashi, and Hiroshi Inagaki. Shogun Assassin however, is an adaptation of the manga series Lone Wolf and Cub. Thus, the film requires a different set of criteria for judgment. The movie’s unrealistic fight sequences and unlikely heroes are firmly rooted in its manga predecessor. Yet Shogun Assassin’s distributors were not interested in its artistic or cultural heritage; they were interested in turning a profit.
Call#: Van Pelt Library PN1995.9.S24 S5 2005
Section 6.3 of Alain Silver’s book, The Samurai Film, entitled “The Red Slayers,” suggests that the gory content and pitiless heroes of the 1970s’ chambara films (Japanese swordplay films) act as a historical corrective of the cynical samurai films of the 1960s. These films, critical of the Romantic conception of the samurai, featured self-sacrificing heroes who championed humanity and subverted violence to question popularized notions of “samurai honor.” While the protagonist of the 1970s chambara film also rejected “samurai honor,” he “manifests his or her rejection of those false standards not merely with words but with actions” (Silver, 221).
Silver also documents the increased self-interest of the 1970’s filmic samurai. His denunciation of the samurai code transcends the typically griped about tenants of fealty until death and honor at all costs. This “new hero” denies humanitarian values in favor of his own advancement or survival (Silver, 221). Samurai betray other samurai to further their careers (Furin kazan) and warriors rob from peasants with a disregard for civic duty. The section culminates with Silver’s ruminations on Itto Ogami, the central character of Shogun Assassin and the Lone Wolf and Cub series. For Silver, Ogami is the paradigm “new hero.” He is a ruthless killer driven by his instinct to survive. He cannot afford to lay down his weapon, “because he is locked into a time where to do so is to perish” (Silver, 223). Silver also provides some examples from the Lone Wolf and Cub saga to illustrate Ogami’s skepticism about the “way of the samurai.”
By including Lone Wolf and Cub (and transitively Shogun Assassin) in his evaluation of 1970s chambara films, Silver grants the film does provide historical insight. The section implies the film’s director, Kenji Misumi, attempted to define the true objectives of the samurai: money, social status, and survival. He accepts Lone Wolf and Cub as a new revision of a historical icon.
Call#: Van Pelt Library GV1100.77.A2 H87 1998
“Martial Arts and Japanese Culture,” the first chapter of Cameron Hurst’s book, Armed Martial Arts of Japan: Swordsmanship and Archery, examines the dichotomy between the function of martial arts in contemporary and medieval Japan. Furthermore, Hurst takes issue with the facile popular conception of the feudal Japanese warrior.
Hurst begins his study with a syntactical analysis of the Japanese terms applied to various schools of martial arts. By identifying the differences between contemporary and ancient Japanese characters for martial arts, Hurst documents the evolution of the sport. In opposition to the vast array of martial arts styles practiced today, the feudal samurai were primarily concerned with budE . But rarely did samurai use budE to refer to specific combat activities. Instead, “it represented a moral ideal for the samurai” (Hurst, 11). Hurst then transitions to an investigation of samurai military practices, citing that contrary to the widely held belief that the samurai was a “solitary wandering warrior” wielding a sword; the samurai were chiefly mounted archers. Hurst does concede however, that the sword did find prevalent usage by the beginning of the Tokugawa Shogunate (1600 AD). Hurst also corrects the widely held notion that the samurai were blood-lusting mongers. On the contrary, the Japanese viewed death and blood as forms of pollution and ritual impurity. He continues, “There were even taboos against causing bloodshed, incurring wounds, and being contaminated with blood” (Hurst, 21).
Hurst’s chapter provides a scholarly evaluation of Shogun Assassin’s (1980) historical inaccuracies. While he recognizes the sword’s popularity among Tokugawa samurai, he would take issue with the Shogun Assassin’s “wandering warrior” protagonist. He emphasizes that the samurai was predominately a mounted archer. Of course, Shogun Assassin is a chambara (swordplay) film, so its rampant swordfights are acceptable cinematically, if not historically. But in direct opposition to Hurst’s chapter, Shogun Assassin’s characters are obsessed with blood. One villain even describes aspirations of cutting a man across the neck so that the squirting blood makes the sound of a “wailing winter wind” (Shogun Assassin). In this way, Shogun Assassin’s producers pander to Western misconceptions about the samurai.
These photos show painted cardboard shelters in the homeless city that took root in the underground sprawl of Shinjuku station’s western wing in the mid-1990s. A deadly fire swept through the community in February 1998, forcing the inhabitants out and conveniently allowing the city to proceed with long-awaited plans to construct the moving walkway that now exists there. The paintings were also lost in the fire.
In this Japanese court decision, Spec Computer is sued (this is the appeal) by game manufacturer Konami for copyright infringement. Spec Computer loses and is forced to pay Konami. Konami had created a game that simulated a love story, where the player/main character would progress over a specific set of days, building personal "stats" and romantic relationships. Spec created a memory unit that could boost a player's stats and start the game at any point in the game's calendar. Konami argued, and the court agreed, that this action changed the essential contents and purpose of how the game was meant to be enjoyed, thus infringing upon the author's "right to preserve the integrity of a work." The case is similar to the Nintendo of America v. Lewis Galoob Toys case in the US, where Nintendo challenged Galoob's right to produce the Game Genie (which did basically the same thing as Spec Computer's product); Nintendo lost. Yet in Japan, the original game creator won out over the party who created the means to modify it. When comparing these two cases, it seems as if Japanese copyright law is enforced more strictly than American.
As other sources indicate, Japanese anime and manga artists happily live with fan-made comics starring copyrighted characters (called dojinshi, or doujinshi). In fact, much of the talent and creativity within the industry can be attributed to artists starting out in the dojinshi field. But in Konami v. Spec Computer it is clear that such infringement is technically against Japanese law as much as it would be against American law (even more so, given this case's similarity to Nintendo v. Galoob). So it is not the law that dictates the products of Japanese fan-culture, but rather common opinion and recognition of the positive effects to come out of certain forms of infringement.
In 2002, American website Anime Tourist conducted a convention interview with two of the founding members of the respected Japanese anime production company Gainax, Hiroyuki Yamaga and Takami Akai. The two discuss their current and upcoming projects at Gainax, provided some details on their past at the company, as well as explaining some of the themes and such of their more famous works. Finally they speak on American localization of their works and American fandom.
An audience member asks the creators for their opinion on the music videos made from their work by American fans. Akai seems not to have been aware of them (the translation perhaps makes it a bit confusing), but Yamaga appreciates the fan-made works. He discusses the often-pointed-to model of manga and anime creators getting their start in the industry by writing and drawing dojinshi, or unlicensed fan comics based on copyrighted properties: "as Gainax, they got their start doing similar stuff so it's very hard for them to say, ‘No, We won't allow that.'" As a company, they have to plead ignorance that such fan material exists or else even Japanese copyright law would dictate that they shut infringers down. He points to the line between fan/hobbyist and professional as the deciding factor in whether or not infringing work is worth going after legally; in the Japanese manga business, the line is extremely blurred as young artists very often earn their stripes and build their skill on dojinshi before tackling original projects of their own. Japanese creators such as these may not be aware of the American arm of fan's use of their characters and work, but they are used to letting such forms of use slide within their Japanese fan culture.
Lessig writes about the recent development of a record company, Wind-Up Records, requesting AnimeMusicVideos.org (perhaps the largest online collection of anime music videos and "AMV" artists) to remove all links to music videos containing music by their artists. These artists included Evanescence and Creed, bands popular among fans and with a large number of music videos on the site, roughly 3,000. He points to the AMV movement as a sign of the growing read-write culture allowed by the internet and computers that new generations are increasingly participating in. Where content owners try to enforce a "Read-Only" environment where viewers/users can look, but not touch, Lessig advocates the development of creativity and benefits thereof for those (often young) fans who take it upon themselves to add to the artistic tableau of a medium. He even relates a personal anecdote about his son, in which the only way he was accepted to a prominent university was by showing them the AMVs he had made as an example of his artistic talent. Lessig sees the struggle between copyright holders and young, artistically motivated fans as the new battle to be fought, and one in which it should be easy to see which side is in the right. Of course, according to current US copyright law (backed by copyright holding corporations) such employment of "Read-Write" culture is illegal. The internet, however, has afforded both an opportunity to put such artistic expression on easy display and an at least temporary hurdle for content owners to leap in order to stomp down on "unfair" uses due to its expanse and level of anonymity.
Hatcher examines the workings of the American anime industry, paying the most attention to the history and physical process of fansubbing. Fansubbing is the process by which fans take Japanese anime (taped from broadcast television or DVD/home video), translate it and edit the video to include their own subtitles. Fansubs used to be distributed on VHS either in stores or among fan clubs, but are now almost exclusively found online. Hatcher suggests that the anime industry, though it has unquestionably benefited from fansubbing and other forms of high-level fan involvement, is now "held hostage by the internet and their otaku-consumers." By now professional licensing and localization companies can do much of their own advertising and market research due to the growth and age of the domestic marketplace; yet such companies know that to crack down on the core loyal fans will almost certainly result in a huge backlash from those on whom they rely most. In contrast to common internet "pirates," fansubbing groups commit infringing acts in the open (as publicized on websites or individual named in credits attached to their work) and are confident in the moral high ground of their actions (if a work is not yet licensed in America, it is seen as "perfectly legal" to make it available in fansubbed form, for example-despite international copyright laws); the common conception of "anime fair use" makes many technically illegal uses practically immune to legal retaliation
The almost forced acceptance of the fan use of anime in America, in order to maintain loyalty and relevancy among fanbase, makes anime music videos relatively easy to allow for domestic copyright holders. A lawsuit that attacks a now established tradition within the community would alienate much of a company's fanbase, driving them to other sources-including illegal ones if nothing else is available. Given the companies' general tolerance of (or lack of legal action against) the availability of full episodes or movies online, music videos are a much easier sell as "advertisements" for their products as opposed to replacements or illegal derivative works. And given the industry's heavy stake in the convention scene, it is clear that the community aspect of anime fandom must be maintained and courted in order to stay viable.
Leonard's paper on American fans' use and distribution of anime goes into great depth on the legal issues raised, and often ignored, in regards to copyrighted works. The original Japanese copyright holders spurred on American fan-imports and fansubs by "abandoning" the market early on; in this way it was law-breaking American fans, clubs and conventions that created almost single-handedly what is now a visible and profitable market for the Japanese owners and the American licensors. Currently, though the Japanese owners do finally play in the American marketplace, they are nearly as willfully ignorant (in practice) of fan infringement than they were when America was still written off as an impossible market. But while first this ignorance was a result of their not thinking any American infringement could possibly hinder them financially, reasons for this now include the historical and continued support and "free publicity" for anime that American fans would not be so willing to embrace legitimately had it not gained buzz from prior illegal distribution among fan networks. Yet Leonard outlines all of the various ways that obtaining, translating, distributing and showing fansubs break any number of American and international copyright laws. Though fans often cite fair use as a defense for their actions (though a case has never been brought to court), Leonard dismisses all of the potential factors that would constitute fair use save for the "purpose and character" in the commerciality of fansubbing; in this case, fans often do their work for no profit and as a courtesy to fellow fans. In every other sense, their use is wholly unfair.
Here we see the rough legal guidelines that both Japanese and American anime copyright holders tend to adhere to when dealing with fans. In general, fan's use of anime is forgiven and often ignored, unless it exists in direct competition with legitimate localized releases. Anime Music Videos (not mentioned by Leonard) are another, altogether less potentially dangerous (than importing and fansubbing) form of "free advertising" for anime and of strengthening the fan networks that built and maintain the American anime audience. Again, Japanese copyright holders are shown to display a willful ignorance of American fans use for the most part.
Mehra explores the disconnect between Japanese (and American) written law and the tolerated success of dojinshi, a growing industry that could even be seen as direct competition for its copyright-holding cousin manga. Part of this issue is explained by the differences in which America and Japanese copyright law (especially that concerning character copyrights), though very similar on paper, are interpreted by courts and the common man. The few key differences include affording authors moral rights (Mehra points to the Konami case mentioned above as an example, given their ability to control how their characters are portrayed) and lacking a "generalized fair use provision." Mehra discusses the various reasons manga artists and copyright holders generally do not prosecute dojinshi artists; such reasons could include the social norms among artists where the good of the industry (in recruiting new talent, filling a niche unfillable by traditional manga, or catering to all its audience's favor) as a whole is placed before individual needs and the lower profitability of Japanese litigation (not to mention the average dojinshi author's common lack of real funds). Taking the dojinshi model, Mehra claims that "in some contexts, a certain level of fair use may help generate an economically efficient level of collective action;" in other words, allowing some level of infringement can foster a stronger and more creative artistic industry.
The reaction of the Japanese manga artist is examined here in relation to artifacts of fan culture. As manga and anime have penetrated foreign markets, it has brought some of that mindset with it, particularly to America. To begin with it sprang from fans' proactivity creating the American market itself, but the Japanese fan mindset has only been strengthened by the original authors' willful ignorance, and in some cases support, of classically infringing fan works. Despite the differences in American and Japanese case law concerning character copyrights, Japanese characters remain for the most part fair game for dojinshi, music videos, and the like on either side of the Pacific.
tagged ASEAN Berkeley_Round_Table_on_the_International_Economy China Cross-National_Production_Networks Electronics High_Tech_Industry High_Technology_Industry International_Production_Networks Japan Southeast_Asia business_area_studies by croninkc ...on 25-APR-06
The only problem with the “pokkuri” understanding of Watanabe’s death is revealed later on by Long, “Dying without the presence of other (kodoku nashi, or “lonely death”) is considered a terrible fate.” This interpretation adds understanding to the “wake scene,” in which the various coworkers of Watanabe try to convince themselves that he did not know about his cancer. The coworkers do not want to believe that Watanabe would willingly experience such a terrible fate, so they try to show that he did not do it willingly. It is very hard to understand the film in terms of both “pokkuri” and “kodoku nashi,” so maybe the best information that can be gleaned from Long’s book is that “preparation for death may mean arranging for property distribution, laying the groundwork for role inheritance, or doing activities the person has always wanted to do.” This offers a completely different take on Watanabe’s actions than Richie, who saw him as initially searching for solace. Through this interpretation, Watanabe’s adventure with the writer could be seen simply as a way of preparing for his death, although the film itself does not seem to suggest this. While none of these terms may have direct application to Ikiru, they do offer an interesting point of view of the culture behind the film and potentially provide some insight into the film that no other book offers.
Discussing the film Drunken Angel, Kurosawa recounts, “As background to the characterizations, we decided to create an unsightly drainage pond where people threw their garbage” (156), which is an image that returns in Ikiru, although it has a different allegorical meaning. Many plot elements and images from Kurosawa’s films were taken straight from his life (a point made by Goodwin in his book ), and Ikiru is no different. Kurosawa says of the studio he began his career at, “Management theory at P.C.L. regarded the assistant directors as cadets who would later become managers and directors” (95). The bureaucratic elements in the management system at P.C.L., that Kurosawa criticizes, has echoes in the stagnant and immutable Japanese civil service in Ikiru.
Events from his life also influenced Kurosawa in the existential themes he deals with in Ikiru. Kurosawa recounts, in the chapter “A Horrifying Event,” an early scene from his childhood, when he and his brother walked around the city looking at the death and destruction caused by the Kato Earthquake. His brother uncomfortably forces him to look at the hundreds of dead bodies, but when Kurosawa goes to sleep, he does not have any nightmares. When the young Kurosawa asks why he didn’t have any nightmares, his brother responds, “If you shut your eyes to a frightening sight, you end up being frightened. If you look at everything straight on, there is nothing to be afraid of.” This message has deep significance to Ikiru, because Watanabe is only able to live when he confronts his cancer head on. When he lies in his bed at home and cries himself to sleep, when he goes with the writer to experience the decadence of modern Tokyo, he is, in effect, trying to ‘shut his eyes’ to the cancer and ignore its existence. Only when he faces it head on, does he realize that he has the power to give his limited life meaning. There are many other events in Kurosawa’s life that have relevance to Ikiru, because it is a film about life itself and the search for meaning in life. Kurosawa’s past offers insight into not only why the author chose to write about this subject, but also why he comes to the conclusions that he does.
While the book doesn’t have as much relevant information to Ikiru as other books I read, it does present some new information concerning the film in its own right, not on its aesthetic principles or themes. The book is able to ground the film in relation to other Japanese films of its time, which no other book does, which is valuable in a complete understanding of the film beyond its importance as an Akira Kurosawa film.
Goodwin also shows how Kurosawa uses editing techniques and objects as narrative devices: “the photograph of [Watanabe’s] wife at the center of the altar is the psychological frame through which Watanabe begins to look into his past in narrative flashback.” In the flashback in which Watanabe and his son are follow his dead wife’s hearse, Goodwin states that, “Metaphorically, the sequence places death as an immediate prospect within life and it suggests the narrative’s own patterns of approach and withdrawal from its protagonist’s death.” Both of these are examples of scenes and objects that offer a self-reflexive view of the film that acknowledges the techniques of filmmaking.
Goodwin’s book is different from the other works in the Bibliography, because it analyzes specific images and scenes in Ikiru, searching for allegorical meaning and self-reflexive commentary. The book definitely takes the position of Kurosawa as an auteur, suggesting that Kurosawa purposefully creates a continuity among the symbols and images in the film, in order give a deeper meaning to the film.
Russell also shows the similarities in setting among various Kurosawa films. She writes, “Ikiru is also an important film in Kurosawa’s cinema because it deals directly with the issue of urban development.” Most of Kurosawa’s non-period films have an urban setting, but the city itself is integral to the plot of Ikiru, because Watanabe’s quest is against Tokyo itself, the stagnant bureaucracy, the icy social interactions, etc. and this is all embodied by the cesspool, which is a product of urban life. Russell also notices that the “extreme weather conditions […] In city films, they soften the urban setting into a site of humanist compassion, exemplified by the final soft snowfall in Ikiru.” The urban setting provides a good backdrop to the actions of Kurosawa’s gangster films (“gendai-geki” ), but it provides the impetus behind the action in Ikiru. Russell’s article separates her discussion of Kurosawa into two parts, his movies about “men with suits” (of which Ikiru is one) and his movies about “men with swords,” which is ironic considering the two-part structure of Ikiru and many other Kurosawa’s other films. Russell makes some interesting points that are not touched on by other authors, because, like Prince’s book, she analyzes the film in comparison to other Kurosawa films.
Yoshimoto follows this with a shot breakdown of the opening scene in Watanabe’s department and surmises from the shots used by Kurosawa that, “Watanabe is consistently denied the subject position of the look; instead he is placed in the position of the other’s look.” This establishes a theme that Yoshimoto then expands on, the theme of Watanabe as a subject, which is a offshoot of the theme of self-reflexivity. Another self-reflexive image Yoshimoto recognizes is in the silent scene in which Watanabe leaves the hospital. “On the wall behind Watanabe are many identical posters, advertisements for “Morinaga Penicillin Ointment.” The medical reference reminds us of the immediately preceding scene at the hospital, and the word “penicillin” also emphasizes the incurability of Watanabe’s disease.” Kurosawa also allows for self-reflexivity in the ‘nightlife scenes,’ “Mirrors are sued to disorient our perception of scenes’ spatial unity.” All of these examples highlight Kurosawa’s use of self-reflexivity in the film, which bring the viewers attention on the process of watching the movie. Yoshimoto argues that Kurosawa is commenting on the film itself and the audience’s perception of events in the film. The audience members thus becomes aware that they are watching a film, which succeeds in distancing them from the protagonist, Watanabe, and calling into question the images on the screen (i.e. the ‘stories’ told by the coworkers at the wake). In relation to this last idea, Yoshimoto writes, “[Ikiru] demonstrates the problematic relation of narration and subjectivity.”
The most interesting self-reflexive element in the film I found was the actual structure of the film. Yoshimoto writes, “when the protagonist of Ikiru abruptly disappears about two-thirds of the way through, his death surprises us as something utterly shocking, even though it is totally expected,” and this is because “We assume that biological death and closure of our lives somehow coincide with each other. What surprises us is that this is hardly the case.” Yoshimoto’s argument concerns self-reflexivity in Ikiru and how this aids the goals of the film. The questions that the two-part structure forces the audience members to ask themselves are just one example of the various techniques Kurosawa employs to force the viewer to change with Watanabe; the movie itself becomes catharsis.