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Japan's Longest Day

4.3 out of 5 stars 25 customer reviews

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(Sep 05, 2006)
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Editorial Reviews

On August 15th, 1945, the Japanese people faced utter destruction. Millions of soldiers and civilians were dead, the rest were starving, and their cities had been reduced to piles of rubble — two of them vaporized by atomic bombs. The government was deadlocked; some ministers called for surrender, and others argued that honor demanded a final battle on home soil. To break the impasse, the cabinet took the unprecedented step of asking the Emperor to decide the fate of the nation.

Unable to bear the suffering of his people any longer, and finally given the power to do something about it, the Emperor decreed that Japan would surrender.

Much work remained to be done: the Imperial Rescript had to be composed, the Emperor had to record it, and it had to be broadcast to the nation. And there were many soldiers and civilians who could not accept surrender, and would do anything — even commit treason — to avoid it.

In a single 24-hour period, the fate of 100 million people would be decided.

This is the true story of August 15th, 1945... Japan's Longest Day.

DVD Features:
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
Presented in Anamorphic Widescreen
Japanese with English Subtitles

Bonus Material Includes:
Image Gallery
Interactive Program Notes

Special Features

  • Interactive program notes
  • Image gallery
  • Trailers

Product Details

  • Actors: Seiji Miyaguchi, Rokkô Toura, Chishû Ryû, Sô Yamamura, Toshirô Mifune
  • Directors: Kihachi Okamoto
  • Writers: Shinobu Hashimoto, Soichi Oya
  • Producers: Sanezumi Fujimoto, Tomoyuki Tanaka
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Black & White, Color, Subtitled, Widescreen, NTSC
  • Language: Japanese (Unknown)
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: Unrated
  • Studio: Animeigo
  • DVD Release Date: September 5, 2006
  • Run Time: 157 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #56,496 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Japan's Longest Day" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: DVD
At Noon on August 14, 1945, Emperor Hirohito took the unprecedented step of ordering his government to accept the Potsdam Declaration and surrender unconditionally to the Allies. (Although regarded as divine, the emperor was little more than a figurehead, being too exalted to bother with politics. Though recent historians have shown that Hirohito often worked behind the scenes to influence policy.) Fearing that the populace might fight on anyway, the government took another unprecedented step and made a recording of Hirohito's voice that would be broadcast to the nation, confirming the surrender. That broadcast was scheduled for 24 hours later -- hence the title of the movie. In the meantime, a group of over-zealous officers attempted to stage a coup, capture the emperor and the recording, oust or kill any politicians or generals who stood in their way, and continue the war. The subsequent events make for a story as tense and surprising as any fictional film. As far as I can tell, the movie sticks pretty close to the facts. The only major omission I noticed was that the film leaves out a U.S. air raid that caused a black-out, which in turn helped the emperor's staff hide the recording from the coup's leaders.

"Japan's Longest Day" is a cross between political thrillers like "Seven Days in May" and "Thirteen Days" and spot-the-stars WWII epics like "The Longest Day" and "Tora Tora Tora." It was designed to celebrate Toho Studio's 35th anniversary, and just about every major male star who worked at Toho in the 1960s makes an appearance. Most notable are Kurosawa-regulars Toshiro Mifune as war minister, Takashi Shimura as information minister, and Tatsuya Nakadai as narrator, as well as Ozu-favorite Chishu Ryu as prime minister.
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Woefully unheralded war classic came five years after our own "Longest Day", and matches that film in conveying all the complexities of turning the tide of war; indeed, in this case, bringing it to a deeply humiliating, almost unthinkable conclusion. Japanese soldiers had been indoctrinated to fight to the last man for the glory of the Empire, so surrender is unthinkable to many. The film's power emanates from the slow-burning agony of impending defeat. Mifune is very much front and center as the War Minister who must shoulder the burden of making his troops submit to the Emperor's edict. A fascinating, minutely-detailed film of Mount Fuji-esque proportions.
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Format: DVD
Like many Americans, I always had the idea that Japan's surrender was pretty immediate following the dropping of the second atomic bomb on Nagasaki. However, Fat Man was dropped on August 9, and the country did not officially surrender until August 15. That is six days of doubt, debate, folly and insurrection.

"Japan's Longest Day" (a direct translation of "Nihon no ichiban nagai hi") is not actually the story of a single day. It begins shortly before the first bombing of Hiroshima on August 6, and finishes at the Emperor's surrender speech on August 15. The bulk of the story, however, takes place during the long dark night of August 14, when the fate of the entire nation truly hung in the balance. If things had gone only slightly differently, there might be no Japan today, at least not as we know it.

It is a testament to the skill of director Okamoto Kihachi (Battle of Okinawa) that even when the story is a matter of historical record, "Japan's Longest Day" is still full of tension and drama. Okamoto even manages to stick pretty closely to history. In this case, the real thing was enough.

The story has been done before, most recently seen in Russian director Aleksandr Sokurov's The Sun, but never with such scope and drama. Each of the major players is given a full story arc, including the leaders of the failed insurrection that attempted a military coup de tat in order to prevent Japan's surrender.
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As far as I can tell, the drama seems to generally fit the history, as well as i know it; of the final days before surrender by government of the Empire of Japan to the Allies of World War 2. As in any movie, I think some events and the contents of the Emperor's address to the nation are somewhat condensed. However I believe that the spirit of the movie mostly reflects the truths of the time.

The movie is in Japanese with English subtitles. This is a modern historical drama, not a typical war movie. I was impressed at how the movie moved me in better understanding not just the events, but the feelings and values of the people of the time. I particularly enjoyed the acting of Toshirô Mifune. He made a very convincing Japanese military chief.

I felt the only weakness of the movie was that the young Army officers who attempted a coup to prevent the surrender seemed somewhat over-played as wild-eyed hot heads. But for all I know that might, or might not be accurate. In any case I believe the director intentionally set out to portray the the leaders of the attempted coup that way.

From a modern American perspective, I found the movie to be moving and enlightening about the time. I also have some suspicion that the drama intentionally try's to show a slightly sanitized version of history that might try to take away some residual self-guilt about the war and how it ended in Japan.

Any movie that is exciting and makes me think like this is a good movie in my book!
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