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Emperor's Naked Army Marches on

4.6 out of 5 stars 7 customer reviews

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(Feb 27, 2007)
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

This absorbing documentary follows Kenzo Okuzaki--a veteran of Japan's WWII campaign in New Guinea--as he searches out those responsible for the mysterious deaths of several soldiers in his unit. Though he holds Emperor Hirahito accountable for all the suffering caused by WWII, he painstakingly tracks down former military officers and accuses them of specific war crimes, often times abusing them verbally and physically. Director Kazua Hara's subtle cinema verite not only captures the zeal of Okuzaki's lifelong mission, but also exposes the atrocities committed by the Japanese military against its own soldiers. The film created such controversy in Japan upon release that no major distributor would touch it.


Whatever you call it--a righteous and cathartic quest for the truth and the odyssey of a vengeful madman are two possibilities--the saga depicted in The Emperor's Naked Army Marches On is both compellingly strange and strangely compelling. A good five years in the making (it was released in 1987), director-cinematographer Kazua Hara's documentary concerns itself with one Kenzo Okuzaki, a 62-year-old World War II veteran and an anti-establishment character of a kind little known in Japan. Having already served almost fourteen years in prison for various offenses (including killing a real estate broker and shooting a sling at Emperor Hirohito), the unrepentant Okuzaki spends much of the film trying to root out the perpetrators of an atrocity that occurred during his deployment in New Guinea, when two soldiers were executed for desertion--after the war had ended. Sometimes accompanied by the two men's surviving relatives, Okuzaki simply shows up at the alleged perps' homes; in typical Japanese fashion, he apologizes profusely for arriving unannounced (even though that's obviously one of his primary tactics) before challenging them, relentlessly and abrasively ("You can't escape God's judgment!" he shouts at one. "I'm a much better human being than you!" he tells another). For the most part, the accused pass the buck to their commanding officer (who himself claims that he was only following orders). And while some of these confrontations are reasonably civil, others find the outraged Okuzaki physically attacking his prey, culminating in yet another prison sentence. This is genuine cinema verite, presented utterly without artifice; there's no music, the look of the film is plain and washed out, and the lighting is often terrible. Yet the fact that a character like this exists at all in Japan, a country where "the nail that sticks up shall be hammered down," is quite remarkable. Kenzo Okuzaki refused to be hammered--and he's got the scars to prove it. --Sam Graham

Special Features

  • A Facets Cine-Notes booklet about the film

Product Details

  • Directors: Kazuo Hara
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Color, Subtitled, NTSC, Full Screen
  • Language: Japanese (Unknown)
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: All Regions
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: Unrated
  • Studio: Facets
  • DVD Release Date: February 27, 2007
  • Run Time: 122 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000LPS39O
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #120,378 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Emperor's Naked Army Marches on" on IMDb

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: DVD
My review of "The Emperor's Naked Army Marches On" refers to the Region 4 import from Australia. I had this film on VHS; and although the DVD from Australia was an improvement over the horrible transfer and subtitles of the VHS film, the film could still be improved upon. Hopefully this newer release [all region] has better quality subtitles. This documentary film released in 1988, and 4 to 5 years in the making, deals with the quest, or crusade, of a one Kenzo Okuzaki. Say what you will about Kenzo Okuzaki; the former Imperial Japanese soldier; one thing is for sure: his confrontational style leaves the viewer with a unique look at atonement.

The Japanese have a saying "The nail that sticks up shall be hammered down." Yet, Kenzo Okuzaki not only refused to be hammered down, but his very character traits of being in the face of those he accuses of war crimes gives the viewer a strange and perplexing look at a nation who refuses to look at its own past. Yes, WWII was a long time ago. But for many, including Okuzaki, time is irrelevant. The entire premise of the documentary deals with Okuzaki's attempts to confront the horror of his wartime experiences of the New Guinea campaign in WWII. For those who are not familiar with the WWII campaign on New Guinea, the battle was a hellish one. Especially for the Japanese.

Kenzo Okuzaki accuses his former superiors of atrocities in this documentary. Especially one atrocity in particular: The execution of Japanese soldiers on New Guinea. Okuzaki, who is sometimnes accompanized along with the deceased soldiers' relatives, attempts to expose these atrocities by confronting former members of his unit. One in particular is a former Sergeant.
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Format: DVD Verified Purchase
A quote from Michael Moore appears on the cover of the DVD case of "The Emperor's Naked Army Marches On" that says, "The most amazing piece of filmmaking!" One can't be sure exactly what Moore meant by that, but the film certainly qualifies as Michael Moore-esque--and it is quite amazing in its own way. Its documentary form, its in-your-face attitude, and its gotcha "journalism" are all echoed in Moore's work. A reasonable person could see the similar methods of each and surmise that this film was Moore's original inspiration for Fahrenheit 911.

The basic story line is of a Japanese soldier in New Guinea who witnesses an atrocity just days after WWII ended, then, years later, launches a crusade to find and confront the alleged perpetrators of the atrocity. The soldier, Kenzo Okuzaki, now well into middle age, is sometimes accompanied by a couple of family members of the victims as they seek the truth about what happened. An unseen camera crew, directed by filmmaker Kazuo Hara, records the action.

One marvels at Okuzaki's temerity as he enters a small Japanese village and nearly muscles his way into the homes of the alleged guilty parties using an odd blend of extreme politeness, guile, and physical threats. This is most un-Japanese. The startled victims, when confronted, do, however, react in a more characteristic Japanese way by disguising their surprise and alarm with polite smiles and bows as they invite the interloper part way into their homes or businesses.

The ensuing accusatory harangue by Okuzaki and the polite denials by his targets can last only so long before he loses patience and advances toward physical threats and actual violence.
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Format: DVD
This is a raw, searing film. I found this film on TV by chance (I'd never heard of it) and could not stop watching. It shows us a human being whose been stripped down to his core. Mr. Okuzaki is absolutely relentless in his need for the truth and some kind of belated justice. He's also insane. He needs the truth at all costs, even to the point of committing murder to get it. The men he confronts were seared to the bone by what they did to survive a war, and you don't hate them as much as pity them. Even decades later, the grief of the solders for one another and for what they did was palpable. For these men, there was no glory in war, only horror and pain. Watching Mr. Okuzaki untangle the killings he investigates is like watching a gripping who-done-it. This is a powerful film - one of the best I've ever seen.
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