Bringing It All Back Home: Uchida Tomu's Conflicted Comeback from Manchuria
by Cragun Watts
Following the surrender of the Japanese in World War II, the colonial tables were turned. The Chinese took control of Manchuria and the Manchurian Film Cooperative (Manei)1 and the Americans took control of Japan and its film industry. In a sense, the Japanese, who had fabricated and controlled Manchuria's film industry from 1937-1945, writing the lines to be spoken by Chinese actors in Manchurian productions, were now forced to appear as the puppet actors in an American production. The overlay of democracy in Japan seemed to have been effortlessly deployed. But in the postwar period, the ideology that drove Japan to reach new heights of modernism and atrocity on the Continent was not so effortlessly put to rest. As the Japanese cinema entered its post-war golden age, a "working out" of modernist and feudalist ideology on the level of mass culture took place in Japan's packed out movie theatres. Celebrated filmmakers such as Uchida Tomu brought their Manchurian experiences on the edge of Japanese ideological extremes back to Japan with them, infusing them into a generation of conflicted samurai films, such as Blood Spear, Mt. Fuji (1955).
Tomu's Early Career
Before establishing himself as a film director, Tomu lived as a romantic, in touch with and sympathetic to the common people, yet enamored with wealth, fashion, and the arts. Born in Okayama in 1898, at age 16 Tomu moved to Yokohama where he found work in a piano factory. After a brief stint in the military where he was assigned to a special unit for the emperor because of his good looks, Tomu returned to work as a piano tuner, a job which enabled him to socialize with those who could afford pianos -- Westerners and wealthy Japanese. Tomu scraped by financially, eating "sauce rice" and living with friends, who despite their poverty were interested in drinking, dressing fashionably, and speaking English. He took the Western name "Tom" which he later changed to the kanji Tomu which means "to spit out dreams." During these early years, Tomu spent a great deal of time at the house of Tanizaki Junichiro.
In 1920, Tanizaki helped Tomu find work as an actor with his Taisho Katsuei Film Company. When the company broke up in 1923, Tomu moved in with Inoue Kintaro, who would later become a well-known actor and screenwriter.2 In the hard times following the Tokyo Earthquake, Tomu joined a travelling acting troupe or Toza of the lowest class. In his biography on Tomu, Suzuki Naoyuki describes the moment when Tomu, struggling with the troupe on the road, hears news that his friend Inoue is directing his second film in Kyoto. Inspired by Inoue's success, Tomu borrowed money from the local stationmaster to immediately return to Tokyo where he eventually found work with Nikkatsu in 1926.3
Transferred to Kyoto, Tomu quickly worked his way up to become one of Japan's premier pre-war film directors. He first achieved critical fame in 1929 with the film Ikeru Ningyo. In 1936 Tomu returned to Nikkatsu's Tokyo Tamagawa studio to make four classic films in four years, including two films Kagirinaki Zenshin (1937 )and Tsuchi (1939)chosen as top film of the year in Kinema Junpo's annual rankings. 4 Tsuchi was especially praised for its realistic depiction of the lives of poor Meiji tenant farmers. Tomu not only attempted to shoot the film in the town where it was actually written, but also searched for earth of just the right shade of brown, despite the fact that the film was shot using black and white film. Prophetically, the final triumphant scene of a farmer tilling his new field was made into a poster and co-opted by propagandists recruiting settlers to Manshu.5
By the early 1940s, Tomu's romanticism found a new object of affection -- military nationalism. Yamguchi Takeshi points out that Tomu, amidst the confusion resulting from increased government intervention and control over the film industry, found himself swept up in nationalism and enthusiasm for the military.6 Tomu's autobiography, published in 1968, is noticeably silent concerning this period of his career. Suzuki suggests that in his later life, Tomu consciously avoided contact with film colleagues he worked with under fascism, particularly directors Ito Daisuke and Tasaka Nobutaka. 7
By 1940 Manchuria had become an inviting place. Manchurian Li Xiang Ran, paired with leading Japanese actors and playing the role of a Chinese enchantress in romantic musicals set in Manchuria, was taking the Japanese film box office by storm. Manchuria drew Tomu's interest as well. Negishi Kanichi, his supportive producer at Nikkatsu, had become head of production at the Manchurian Film Company (Manei), backed by the talented producer Makino Mitsuo. Kiga Seigo, Tomu's close friend from their days at Taisho Katsuei, was there as well. In addition, Manei boasted a large, new studio located in Xinjing (now Changchun) and state-of-the art equipment. In 1943, with filmmaking becoming more and more restricted in Naichi, Tomu, along with director Shindo Kaneto, made an extended visit to Manshu to discuss the making of a film glorifying the Kantogun Tank Division. A scenario writer who made the trip with them remarked on Tomu's apparent sympathy for the militarists. At one point Tomu exclaimed how wonderful it would be to die for one's country.8
Tomu was drawn to Manchuria for practical reasons as well. The situation for Japanese filmmakers in the mid-1940s had deteriorated to unbearable levels. Film studios had been consolidated and were under complete government control. The number of films being made -- particularly entertainment films -- dropped drastically. By the time Tokyo was first bombed in March 1945, the war picture for Japan was looking grim. In Japan, survival itself was becoming an issue. Manei, on the other hand, remained untouched by the war and still had resources available for filmmakers. Practical considerations precipitated Tomu's decision -- already fueled by romanticism -- to go to Manei.
In the Realm of Amakasu's Manei
Because of the worsening war situation, Tomu's glorious military tank film was never made. He notes in his biography that "the reality of 'the great war film' ended at the dream stage."9 However Tomu used this a pretext to return to Manchuria in May 1945 -- ostensibly to apologize for never finishing the film. Critics and friends suggest that Tomu went to Manshu still intent on making the film.
The head of the Manchurian Film Company, militarist Amakasu Masahiko, was Japan's bushido (way of the samurai) exemplar par excellance. If it were not for his interest in cigars and classical music, Amakasu could have walked directly out of a samurai film himself. Working for the secret police in the confusion following the Tokyo Earthquake, Amakasu became notorious for his participation in the murders of anarchist Otsugi Sakai, his female companion Noe, and his 7-year old nephew. A protégé of Tojo Hideki, Amakasu was released from prison after only three years. After some time in Paris, Amakasu crossed over to Manchuria to work as a civilian with militarists and saboteurs to "create" Manchuria. Because of his past, Amakasu necessarily worked behind the scenes and in complete devotion to the Japanese emperor. Amakasu was appointed chairman of the Manchurian Film Company in 1937 and, due to his powerful charisma, quickly earned the respect of both the Chinese and Japanese staff. With the end of the war in sight, Amakasu not only stubbornly refused draft orders for his staff, but also arranged evacuation trains for the families and distributed 5 million yen to the employees. Hirai notes the fact that more than 3,000 people, Chinese and Japanese, attended Amakasu's funeral -- an indication of the devotion he instilled in those around him.10
Tomu's ambivalent respect for Amakasu's charismatic bushido militarism becomes apparent in the dramatic descriptions of their meetings found in Tomu's autobiography, which includes Amakasu's photograph.11 In his autobiography, Tomu dramatically recounts one of his earliest meetings with Amakasu, where Tomu breaks the ice by asking Amakasu for a cigar. Tomu further describes how, as the war situation worsened, Amakasu initially resolved to turn the film company into a fortress and to go down fighting. Rumors circulated that Amakasu had planned a mass suicide in which all those associated with the Manchurian Film Company would go up in an explosion of flames fueled by the existing (highly flammable) stock of film. Tomu marvels in his autobiography at the extremism of Amakasu who provides poison in case of capture for all of the families as they are evacuated. Just before the Russian troops arrive to occupy the Manchurian capital Shinkyo, Tomu describes the early morning scene in which Amakasu dies in Tomu's arms after having taken a lethal dose of poison.12 In his suicide note, Amakasu wrote that as a samurai, he would like to have died as a samurai by seppuku (hara-kiri), but that having failed the emperor, he was not worthy of such an honorable death.13
Amakasu's radical -- almost lunatic -- samurai presence underlies Tomu's entire experience with the Manchurian Film Company. A romantic nationalist and a realistic nation-builder, Amakasu embodied the honor and tragedy inherent in loyalty to the samurai ideal. In his autobiography, Tomu concludes an entire section devoted to Amakasu with two ambivalent lines written in Chinese that perhaps capture the meaning of the whole Manchurian experience for Japan: "Without Amakasu's militaristic ideology, there would have been no Manshu."14
Staying On in Manchuria
Though offered the chance by Amakasu to lead a group of Japanese families back to Japan before the Russian occupation, Tomu refused. Tomu, along with many of the Japanese staff, decided to stay in Manchuria to work to make films and to build the new Chinese nation with the young Chinese filmmakers who had trained at the Manchurian Film Company. Yoshida Sadasugu, who returned earlier to Japan, speculates that Tomu's decision to remain in Manshu was based on his belief (which proved false) that he would have more of a chance to make films in Manshu than in Japan.15 Though Tomu gave sporadic lectures on film, and a few quality Chinese films were eventually made, fighting between Nationalist and Communist forces took center stage and resulted in more hardship than serious filmmaking. The film company was repeatedly relocated and restructured. At one point, the Japanese were forced to draw lots among themselves, and Tomu found himself reassigned to work in a coal mine -- an incident never discussed by Tomu, who avoided any contact with those involved once back in Japan.16
The Japanese met weekly in a study group designed to rid themselves of individualism and to instill Maoist doctrine. Tomu found Mao's dialectic teaching concerning (mujun) contradiction and development to be particularly influential. Mao asserts that small contradictions or irrationalities build gradually upon one another to reveal larger contradictions, which in turn lead to an explosive climax or revolution in which contradictions are resolved. Likewise Tomu came to think of a film's plot in terms of a series of oppositions or conflicts. "Contradictions are part of human society," Tomu would remark. "When these build on one another they lead to a big climax." The climax comes at the moment when the largest contradiction explodes.17 Seen with particular clarity in Blood Spear Mt. Fuji, this philosophy, as Suzuki points out, becomes the central pillar of Tomu's post-war dramatic film art.18
Sporting a long goatee and in ill health, Tomu returned to Japan in October 1953 with the last group of Japanese returnees, and was immediately hospitalized. Relations with his wife, resentful at his long absence, were difficult. Yet friends from the film world were soon knocking on Tomu's door. Tomu joined Daiei, a film company for the popular masses. As Suzuki explains, Daiei was a company that sought to make films that would be hits in Asakusa where the common people enjoyed films -- it was not aiming to please Ginza crowds.19 In his first interview with Makino Mitsuo who was working for Daiei, the company formed by Negishi that took in Tomu and the majority of former Manei staff, Tomu said, understandably, that he wanted to make "a peaceful movie."20 Co-producers for Blood Spear Mt. Fuji, included old filmmaking friends Ozu Yasujiro, Mizoguchi Kenji, and Ito Daisuke.
The Samurai Film in Postwar Japan
The samurai film, although frequently compared with the American Western, is often difficult for Westerners to understand. At first I assumed the problem was linguistic. The characters in samurai films often use old, ritualized forms of speech and speak in terse, gruff bursts. But what makes comprehension difficult is neither the choice of vocabulary nor enunciation, but the cultural mindset of the samurai world. Action in period films, rather than being driven by a dialogue-generated plot, seems to flow according to rules built into the genre, according to an internal logic that makes samurai films very Japanese. Homesick for Japan in Manchuria, Tomu's first film upon his return falls into this most Japanese of genres. Although samurai films are not completely unknown in the West, they are proportionately less represented than modern dramas. In addition, many of the few samurai films known in the West were made by Kurosawa Akira, a director who takes a different slant than directors making samurai films for Japanese mass audiences. Tomu's relative obscurity in the West is due in part to the fact that none of his pre-war masterpieces survive intact, and in part to his penchant for making samurai films in the postwar period.
Though largely confined to NHK's Sunday night samurai drama and to re-runs on late night television, the samurai film still haunts Japan's ultra-modern everyday culture. Japan's most prolific film critic, Sato Tadao, estimates that until the end of the 1950s (with the exception of the period of the US Occupation), half of all Japanese films made belong to the samurai genre.21
In 1953 when Tomu returned to Japan in poor health, the Japanese film industry was in excellent condition. In the wake of the profitable Korean War, the industry found the resources to buy the latest filmmaking equipment, and faced a rapidly expanding market. Between 1951 and 1953 gross receipts doubled, growing from $20 to $40 million in two years. Between 1945 and 1957, the number of theaters grew from 845 to over 6,000. By the end of 1956, over 80% of theaters were regularly showing double features.22 Attendance in 1956 reached 1.27 billion, an average per capita attendance of 12.23 Demand for new films had never been higher as production companies churned out new features weekly. In the mid-1950s, the samurai film genre was just beginning to make its final comeback to its pre-war popularity and form.
Following the war, samurai films were nearly completely suppressed after having been specifically targeted as dangerous by SCAP, the censoring unit for the U.S. Occupation. Anderson and Richie note that in addition to burning more than 200 existing films thought dangerous, SCAP drew up a list of types of films to be made, and prohibited the following:
- Militarism, revenge, nationalism or anti-foreignism; distortion of history, approval of religious or racial discrimination; favoring or approving feudal loyalty or treating human life lightly; direct or indirect approval of suicide; approval of the oppression or degradation of wives; admiration of cruelty or unjust violence; anti-democratic opinion; exploitation of children and opposition to the Potsdam Declaration or any SCAP order.24
Sato notes that the few samurai films made in the early post-war period were so regulated that they were almost unrecognizable as samurai films. While uncontrolled violence is the heart of the samurai film -- without it the film fails -- these early films were often tentative, democratic, anti-violent stories of the samurai choosing romantic love or farmwork over fighting. Although not made until 1955, Sato points to Kurosawa Akira's Seven Samurai in which samurai protect helpless villagers, as one successful example of mostly failed post-war attempts to adapt the genre to a changed world.25
Even after the end of the Occupation, however, samurai films did not return to their pre-war formulaic vigor until the second half of the 1950's when they came to dominate the popular market. The turning point in cinematic interest from romantic love to the samurai came in 1955 when yearly production topped 400 films. Samurai films attracted more viewers than modern dramas in 1955, 56, 58, and 59. Chiba Nobuo refers to this as the "Chushingura Boom."26 Chiba goes on to speculate that the domination of films concerning romantic love during the first half of the decade reflects popular discontent with the lack of freedom to pursue romantic love in culture. Similarly, the rapid rise in popularity of the samurai film during the latter half of the 1950s reflects the rise of a low-level recalcitrant nationalism freed at long last from the U.S. Occupation and its censors. Chiba suggests that while films made in the early 1950s depict realistic humanism in modern post-war life, the return to full-fledged samurai films signals the end of Japan's post-war. The "Chushingura Boom," Chiba claims, provided a needed confirmation of national identity.27
Sato also views the samurai film as a revolt against modernization and Westernization, and sees its rise in popularity as an indication of Japan's tenuous modern identity. Samurai films glorify the past and assert traditional values.28 The mibun shakai (the social world of the samurai) is a world in which position, identity, morality, and action are clearly defined, pre-determined, and in harmony with established codes extending down to even the finest details of everyday life. Despite the permanent, unchanging parameters, however, the samurai world is at heart a world of action. The utter chaos of uncontrolled violence that marks the center of the genre finds its most perfect stage within this most ordered of worlds.
Blood Spear, Mt. Fuji -- Tomu's Conflicted Comeback
Upon his return to Japan, Tomu's ten "blank" years in Manchuria come alive both ideologically and filmically in Blood Spear, Mt. Fuji, his 1955 comeback samurai film. Both progressive and nostalgic, humanistic and nationalistic, peaceful and violent, Blood Spear, like Manchuria, is an aggressive conglomeration of extremes.
In the opening shot of Tokaido, the film establishes itself as atypical for a samurai film.29 Cinematographer Yoshida Sadasugu notes that while typical samurai films open with a conventional shot of the actual Tokaido surrounded by thick pines, Tomu chooses an open space lined here and there with straggled trees.30 Rather than take actual shots of majestic Mt. Fuji (Japan's holy mountain), Tomu uses a poorly made -- almost laughable -- painted backdrop. Rather than booming seriousness, the opening music is light and playful.
Comic elements, present throughout the film, give the film a nostalgic touch. Before the war, Tomu was known for his comedies, and worked making silent films for over 10 years. Tomu uses elements of slapstick that are characteristic of the silent era in the Noten (outdoor tea) scene. In this scene, high-ranking shoguns decide to have tea in the middle of Tokaido to enjoy the view (again, rather than show the real Mt. Fuji, Tomu uses the cheap set prop) of Mt. Fuji. No one can pass along the road while the spontaneous tea party is on. Their servants scurry in both directions to assuage parties of dignitaries and the common crowds who are inconvenienced on either side. When a young orphan with loose bowels that render him unable to wait crouches at the roadside, the wind promptly carries the smell to the dignitaries enjoying tea -- a comical "who farted?" scene ensues. As the shoguns make detailed comments on the weather to show off their education, a heavy rainstorm ensues and exaggerated chaos results.
Nostalgia for the silent era is apparent not only in the moments of slapstick, but also in the film's vast silences. A particularly memorable long silent series consists of a set of long takes, first of a woman about to be sold in to prostitution looking out of the ryokan at the evening rain. Next the samurai protagonist Kojuro happens to open the window of his room located just across from hers. Their eyes meet only in passing and, despite the fact that no words are exchanged, real communication takes place. The series of understated shots moves beyond predictable romantic love formulas, pushing into a deeper humanistic compassion shared between individuals. Sato notes the general lack of camera movement throughout, and suggests that the film's brilliance lies in its steady capture of the rhythmic movement between silence and action, the leisurely pace of travel and the fury of battle.31 In addition to its wide tonal range, another feature that marks Blood Spear as atypical for a samurai film is the degree to which a social cross-section of characters is introduced. Here, too, Tomu breaks with convention by having the samurai sleep in the same room with commoners we come to know over the course of the film. Suzuki reports that Tomu was "more interested in developing characters than in historical accuracy."32
While ostensibly the story of a samurai on his way to Edo to deliver a tea bowl, the film does not confine itself to the samurai's world. The samurai's story is just one of many small interlocking dramas through which the film eddies. Developed characters include servants, women, and children. Mini-dramas include that of orphan child who seeks to become a spearcarrier; an old man forced to sell his daughter into prostitution; a man who has saved money for five years in order to buy back his daughter from prostitution; and a thief impersonating a Shinto priest. Here, Tomu illustrates his lifelong alliance with common people, taken up in the vein of novelist Ishikawa Tatsuo, who contributed the preface to Tomu's autobiography.33 The dramas, set consistently within the realm of realism, unfold without manipulative emotional loading.
Blood Spear is also a travel film. For Tomu, freedom is found on the road. In a 1936 dialogue with Ozu published in Kinema Junpo, Tomu remarks that he doesn't like to be confined by large groups. "Large groups are no good. If you go out on your own, you don't have to determine where you're headed. On a Sunday morning you can put on a backpack and head out with no specific goal in mind."34 During the Edo Period, people of all classes had to travel along the same road (Tokaido) to reach Edo. In the film, travel becomes an opportunity for individual characters to expand their social worlds beyond the confines of their respective gender and social stations (mibun).
Before becoming a director, Tomu mixed freely with people from all social classes, and even worked as a travelling actor. The Japanese film world into which he entered, however, was in many ways an exclusive world, an old boys network, closed off from society at large. Those in the industry had to fit themselves into a rigid system of relations, particularly senpai-kohai/mentor-apprentice relations. During his ten year Manshu hiatus, however, Tomu again experienced travel and wide social interaction with a great variety of people living in a less rigidly defined society. Social classes were necessarily more jumbled in recently settled and multi-ethnic Manchuria. Mibun was less established, less trustworthy, less confining. Upon surrender, the mibun of the Japanese who remained again underwent major revision. The situation for the Japanese left in China continued on in flux as the battle between the Nationalists and the Communists raged on. The arbitrary and tenuous nature of social position would be more apparent to Tomu upon his return from Manshu and become a major theme in his films.
Among the "Shomin" (common people) with whom the young samurai Kojuro and his two servants Gonpachi played by Kataoka Chiezo and Genta travel, "mibun" (social station) is treated as a fluid, playful category. In an early scene, when Kojuro notices that Gonpachi, his spearcarrier, has developed a blister on his left foot, Kojuro offers his own ointment. Gonpachi is shocked at the samurai's generosity toward him as a servant, and hesitates to use ointment meant for a samurai. In the next scene, however, a young orphan boy travelling on his own tells Gonpachi that he dreams to one day become a spearcarrier. Gonpachi in turn breaks the rules of mibun decorum and suggests that they practice. Gonpachi then plays the role of the samurai walking ahead with exaggerated dignity while the boy follows behind carrying the long spear. When Gonpachi notices that the woman shamisen player is watching their antics, Gonpachi is embarrassed and promptly grabs the spear away from the boy and continues on. The scene, infused with a gentle comedy, suggests that "mibun" is arbitrary and performative, a game. This playful attitude toward feudal roles is further expressed in a scene where the young daughter of the shamisen player performs "the spearcarrier's dance" at a local festival. Gonpachi looks on briefly before leaving in embarrassment as the tiny girl, dressed in a kimono, acts out the various duties of the spearcarrier in her dance.
The contradiction between form and content in feudal society is further played up when Kojuro, upon hearing of the plight of the woman who will be sold into prostitution, decides to pawn his spear in order to save her. Kojuro discovers, however, that the spear, a gift to his father from the supreme shogunate, Tokugawa Ieyasu, is a worthless fake. Instead, when the common man who has saved for five years to buy back his daughter hears that his daughter died of illness two years before, he offers the money to save the woman about to be sold. Injustices and ironies slowly stack up: a thief who dresses as a Shinto priest, the fake spear, the common man being able to do more for the woman than the samurai. The plot follows the style Tomu encountered in Mao's teaching while in Manchuria with small contradictions and conflicts revealing larger irrationalities that build toward an explosive conclusion.
Romanticism in Blood Spear is reserved for the film's intense bloody conclusion. While Gonpachi is enjoying a pastoral scene on the riverbank with the shamisen player and the children -- the film's most peaceful moment -- Kojuro sits down to drink with his other servant Genta. A group of rambunctious samurai comes onto the scene, criticizing Kojuro for breach of decorum in allowing his servant to drink in a situation reserved only for samurai. Swords are drawn and first Genta then Kojuro are killed. The contradiction between the two scenes -- the utter stillness of the riverside and the brutal action at the site of the murder -- is apparent. Hearing of the events, Gonpachi takes up his spear and rushes onto the scene. In a spectacular seven-minute scene of mindless rage and feudal devotion, Gonpachi brutally kills the entire group of samurai one by one with his spear in the courtyard, now turned to mud by sake spewing from great barrels punctured by Gonpachi's spear. With the sake, pent up romantic intensity is explosively released. A silence ensues followed by a whimper made by the one surviving samurai, crawling in the mud. His rage unabated, Gonpachi lunges mercilessly to kill him. A longer, terrible silence follows as Gonpachi comes back to his senses, realizes the terror of what he has done, and falls at Kojuro's side, weeping uncontrollably.
Hearing news that a lowly spearcarrier has disposed of the entire group of samurai single-handedly, their master claims the samurai do not belong to him, a final ironic twist in the feudal code which allows Gonpachi to go free. The final scene shows Gonpachi leaving the town alone, an ambiguous hero, the ashes of his master strapped over his chest. Yoshida reports that the original script included a voiceover as Gonpachi walks alone along the road away from the town. Tomu changed this final cut, inserting instead the heavy melody of "Umi Yukaba," a song in which the lyrics, taken from the Japan's Manyoshu, glorify death for the emperor. "Umi Yukaba" is representative of the samurai ethos at the center of Japan's war era.
Yoshida recalls that Amakasu gathered the staff of the Manchurian Film Cooperative -- among whom he was highly respected -- together for Saturday meetings that Amakasu invariably ended by leading the entire group in singing "Umi Yukaba." Yoshida writes, "At the end, "Umi Yukaba" was Amakasu's philosophy of life. . . . Amakasu was a realist, but more than that he believed in the emperor system -- that is why he committed suicide."35 Hirai notes that "Umi Yukaba" was performed at Amakasu's funeral.36 Tomu's choice of the song harks back to his previous enthusiasm for militarism and his respect for Amakasu, a man of action who died in his arms upholding the samurai ethic.37 Respect for men like Amakasu needed to be unpacked, not just by Tomu, but by all Japanese survivors in the postwar period.
The power and beauty of the battle scene convey the seductive romantic potential for instances of power and beauty within the samurai ethic. In seeking to avenge his master's death, Gonpachi acts in perfect accordance with the feudal code that binds him. His path is clear, the action not only sanctioned, but also required. While in action, Gonpachi moves beyond human codes into the realm known in Zen as "Mu" (nothingness, unconsciousness). However, once the intensity and beauty of the revenge scene are complete, the tragic results remain before our eyes like the mud in the courtyard. On thinking through the chain of events, we realize that, even though there were moments of individual unadulterated brilliance, it was the very code itself that set the tragic chain of events in motion to begin with. This realization should function to temper any admiration. Nevertheless, though the feudal frame may be flawed, the film seems to suggest that individual action and chugi (samurai loyalty) could still be objects worthy of respect if considered within the wider frame of sober criticism toward the entire feudal system.
Blood Spear, Mt. Fuji, Tomu's first film after returning to Japan, functions as a realistic field on which to sort out the source of the romanticism that led him to Manchuria and to Amakasu, and that led Japan to Manchuria and into the Second World War.