No Regrets for Our Youth

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Directed by Kurosawa, No Regrets for Our Youth surprised me as it’s the story of a young woman by a director whose prolific body of work otherwise emphasised male characters. The heroine Yukie is carefree and playful at the start of the film. She has no use for anything serious. The film opens with Yukie strolling through the mountains with her father’s university students. When they come to a shallow creek, she halts and waits for someone to rescue her.

Noge, a very political, man of action carries her across the water that seems about three inches deep. On the sidelines looking awkward is his friend Itokawa who has feelings for Yukie, but is too shy and unsure of himself to do anything. Yukie likes teasing men more than anything and  plays Noge and Itokawa off each other.

As political tensions rise in Japan leading up to WWII, Yukie’s father is fired by the government because he’s spoken out against military aggression. Made after the war No Regrets for Our Youth, contains several scenes with characters discussing the importance of academic freedom, free speech and the importance of self sacrifice when working towards a greater good. Both Yukie’s father and Noge, who is arrested and imprisoned pay for their ideals.

After seven years, Yukie leaves her hometown Kyoto, to work in Tokyo. Here she bumps into Itokawa who’s continued to play it safe. He’s a lawyer and is married. He’s kept in touch with Noge, who’s just been released. Now Yukie’s matured somewhat and when she sees Noge again she’s willing to give up a conventional life to risk life with a rebel.

Soon Noge is arrested and she’s imprisoned, questioned and eventually released. We’re not entirely sure of what Noge did with his underground work but he says that in 10 years the Japanese will thank him and Yukie. From then on Yukie’s life is full of hardship, hardship she voluntarily takes on despite protests from her parents and Noge’s parents. It’s amazing to see someone who was such a flibbertigibbet turn into an honest to goodness heroine.

While the film was made early in Kurosawa’s career and lacks the mastery of later films, No Regrets of Our Youth tells a compelling story and enlightened me on anti-war protests in Japan prior to and during WWII.

Obsolete Man

A classmate linked to this on her Library UX blog for a final reflection. It’s fascinating television, well written and acted. Yet, I don’t think you could broadcast this today. There’s no violence, edgy-ness or swearing. 😉

Library Wars

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Is an idea worth fighting for?

Library Wars is a Japanese film based on a manga series by Hiro Arikawa. The film focuses on the conflict between the Japanese Library System’s credo of supporting protecting intellectual freedom and the government’s Media Betterment Act of 1989 that legalizes censorship.

The story opens in 2019 when the Betterment Squad, a band of armed men all dressed in black suits, open fire in a library killing all but one librarian. Next the Betterment Squad descends on a bookstore where they pull all the improper books off the shelves and out of the hands of customers. One high school student, Iku Kasahara, hides an adventure book behind her back and which the Betterment Police soon find. A tug of war between Iku and the book police ensues. When the Library Defense Squad, a department of the library system that’s armed and can shoot to warn, arrive one of its soldiers comes to the girl’s aid. He approves the book for library purchase. Immediately this soldier becomes the girls hero. Iku plans to follow in his footsteps.

Years later Iku joins the Library Defense Force. She’s an energetic, able, idealistic recruit who soon becomes the sole woman to make it into their elite force. Yet she does so despite Dojo, her drill sargent’s harsh treatment of her.

The film’s got an upbeat didactic tone, as many manga do. Itu is a typical genki (i.e. Energetic in a very Japanese way) woman. She’s easy to root for as she has the right mix of skill, idealism and flaws.

Though Dojo’s unfair to Itu, we forgive him because his tough treatment is a result of his idealism and eventual love for this rookie.

Library Wars is a fun film with a message. The message is put out there rather blatantly, but I found I could excuse that as I don’t often see intellectual freedom promoted to the culture at large. Like manga do, it makes an esoteric idea accessible and can promote discussion of big ideas like intellectual freedom amongst us ordinary folk. While the film should fall flat for its message, it doesn’t because you sense the characters do believe that intellectual freedom is worth dying for.

Amazing, huh?