Tuesday, February 27, 2007

On "Rewriting Someone Else's History," and the Japanese Response to "Letters from Iwo Jima"

"Something about the scene with the dog made me first laugh, then shake my head. It wasn’t the Hollywood hokeyness; it was that the dog looked too well-fed." So begins Noriko Manabe's thoughtful essay on History News Network, "Rewriting Someone Else’s History: The Japanese Response to 'Letters from Iwo Jima.'" "World War II remains a subject largely avoided by Japanese films. It has simply cut too close; practically all Japanese alive then lost someone in the battles or the firebombs," she writes. Clint Eastwood's film ranked only 16 in the U.S. as of February 4, but ranked first in Japan for five weeks. Still, the film raises questions, Manabe writes, about "rewriting someone else's history." Among Japanese,

The greatest concern is that the film fails to explain why the Japanese felt the need to defend a seemingly insignificant island so fervently – the fear that the firebombing of Japanese cities, already devastating to civilians, would intensify were the Americans to gain Iwo Jima as a launching pad for air strikes. In not explaining this background, viewers felt that the film catered to the stereotype of the Japanese as lemming-like fanatics.

For the rest, click here.