"Japan lost the war. We don't have a country anymore."
"I can't grow up to be an admiral anymore so I'll have to become a gangster!"
Some of the main characters:
First we open with the Emperor's Radio Address announcing acceptance of the terms of the Potsdam Declaration, August 15, 1945.
This is followed by clips of MacArthur's arrival, the surrender ceremonies aboard the Missouri, other GIs landing, scenes of returning, repatriated soldiers.
Of course, the school is a special "site," a kind of touchstone or "home base" throughout the film--note that recurring shot through the doors out into the schoolyard that is repeated numerous times in the film, including the final scene where the is a moment of silence before "In the Mood," kicks in and the credits begion to roll..
It is the site where we see some of the Occupation reforms are enacted:
Equality between the sexes
The importance of a strong moral base that the Sensei (Teacher) provides
A powerful scene occurs when the Teacher, Komako, is in class, presumably the morning after Tetsuo has forced himseself on her, and she is telling the students how they must face the future with courage and morals, She is clearly very emotional and the children sense something is wrong. She speaks about Occupation Reforms and how they must not take away people's spirit or soul; Japanese must still learn to hold their heads up and be proud. She is talking TO the kids and about Japan's future but also about herself and what Tetsuo (and the prewar family system) DID to her. She, too, wants to be able to hold her head up high and not feel that her life must be defined by what happened to her.
Shrines also recur as an image, espcially the Kompira Shrine on the island of Shikoku. There is a traditional festival at the end, too.
We see the GIs land and do their thing at the battery. In a bit of comic relief, the children speculate openly about what they have overheard the elders say: Americans have large penises. We also see how they interact with Japanese culture a little.
We see old-style theater performances updated to incorporate contemporay events and issues.
We see the modern bar and "panpan" scene (mizu-shobai). We could recall Dower's description in the early chapters of the kasutori culture, etc.
We also have the "good things" and the "bad things" going on in the film:
Komako-sensei, an anchor, a moral compass, embodies what is good and strong;
The spirit, the future
Tetsuo, a young man with no moral compass, no vision for Japan's future; he just wants to have a good time; cannot be serious and take on responsibility of family business
Nature, the environment, the beauty of Awajijima and the Inland Sea
The gangster or hoodlum crowd; the lure of the fast life, the demimonde, with gaudy shirts, the women dressed like "panpan" girls, a life of pure"sleaze."
Quick money, sesnuality, and material gain captures the dreams of people;
also, this is pure hedomism: alcohol, drugs, sex--escaping the disappointment of defeat, and the destruction of the war
Masao, returning soldier, thought dead but here he is, an amputee and he was once a college baseball star from Keio University;
and he is also associated with the Kompira Shrine on Shikoku;
Moreover, Masao will go to work for the Agricultural Cooperative growing flowers
nurturing the Dafffodil fields, and going about it scientifically,
bringing in progress to rebuild Japan; Masao understands that the traditional fishing occupation is not sustainable; he is making a New Plan, an ecologically sound, sustainable plan.
Themes: Hope, Rebirth, Growth
"Kasutori Culture," a cult of "degeneracy and nihilism," the Black Market, Prostitution, Drugs, Alcohol, Gambling;
a response to "liberation from authority and dogma;"
a sense of seize the moment for who knows what tomorrow may bring;
**Kasutori shochu was made by using the left overs from sake brewing, the dregs, and fermenting them again. It's kind of rotgut like moonshine or white lightning.
Youth--this film is seen through the eyes of 5th graders. It's all about their naivete, their "spirit," their fears, their misunderstandings, and their learning experiences;
and of course Baseball, which in Japan captures the spirit of Youth,
it involves a respect for effort even if the result is not wonderful!
people need a spirit and a will to triumph over their circumstances
Unhealthy Relationships, "Mizu-shobai," the night life, prostitution, cheating
Love, both young love and mature love--Masao and Komako must overcome a great deal
Selfishness, greed, materialism, nihilism
Of course, most of all, we see humor and warmth at a time when the world is being turned upside down. We find "traditonal" Japanese things--shrines, festivals, theatre performances, singing dancing...juxtaposed against the more crass versions of the modern, the contemporary, the soulless, materialistic, directionless, hedonistic culture, the sleazy world of bars, drugs, prostitution, the Black Market and the ill-gotten gains it brings.
But starting with MacArthur’s Children, continuing with Childhood Days and Setouchi Moonlight Serenade, and culminating with Spy Sorge, Shinoda has increasingly turned to representing Japan’s wartime and immediate postwar experience. He has stated that Spy Sorge is the culmination of his ideas on this modern history, and that it will be his last film.
In Spy Sorge, director Shinoda Masahiro takes on one of Japan’s most infamous spy incidents. During World War II, a spy ring organized by Richard Sorge, a handsome and debonair employee of the German embassy in Tokyo, passed on crucial Japanese government and military secrets to the Soviets, ones that would have profound impact on the outcome of the war. He was caught and executed in November 1944, but only at a point when he could brazenly declare, “There are no more secrets in Japan left to steal!” His main Japanese collaborator, Ozaki Hotsumi, became material for movies, in particular Kurosawa Akira’s postwar masterpiece No Regrets for Our Youth (Waga seishun ni kui nashi, 1946). Ten years in the planning, Spy Sorge wields a multi-national cast featuring Ian Glen and Motoki Masahiro, locations in Berlin and Shangai, as well as expert computer graphics to recreate the historical context and convey the immense scope of the incident. Spy Sorge is Shinoda Masahiro’s epic interpretation of modern international history.