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Last night I was browsing Netflix for a movie to watch and I came across this movie called Emperor. Immediately the cover spoke to me as something relating to WWII. I am a sucker for anything WWII and have seen almost all the movies and various TV series available, several times. I have also read several books set during that time, both historical novels and non-fiction, so I had to take a look. Once I read the synopsis I was hooked, and ditched the other movie I had planned to watch.
The story takes place in the few weeks right after the Japanese surrender at the end of WWII, and follows intelligence officer General Bonner Fellers as he is tasked with investigating Emperor Hirohito’s role in the war and decide whether or not he is to be punished as a war criminal. A more personal story runs parallel to the main one as Gen. Fellers searches for Aya, a Japanese exchange student (very rare in those times) he had met years earlier while she was attending college in the U.S.
Matthew Fox plays Gen. Fellers, while Tommy Lee Jones plays General Douglas MacArthur. Among the Japanese cast are Eriko Hatsune, playing Aya Shimada, Toshiyuki Nishida as General Kajima, Masayoshi Haneda as Takahashi and Takatarô Kataoka as Emperor Hirohito. The movie is based on the book “His Majesty’s Salvation” by Shiro Okamoto, and inspired by true events. It premiered at the 2012 Toronto International Film Festival, and only had a limited release in the United States, which explains why I had never heard of it.
It was fascinating for me to get a closer look at an aspect of WWII I had not been shown before, not in such close up. I have seen a lot of movies covering the before, during and after of Hitler and the Holocaust, but the Japanese side has not been shown very much, other than in Clint Eastwood’s brilliant, powerful and intense Letters from Iwo Jima.
I have not read the book, indeed I have not been able to find it through the usual channels. Barnes & Noble carries two of Okamoto’s books, but not this one, so I cannot know if the movie was true to the book and to what degree.
For all the mixed reviews it received, which I only read post viewing, I have enjoyed the movie, specifically because of the window it opened on that moment in time in that part of the world, and definitely recommend it. I do wish it would have gone into deeper details about the investigation, as it left me wanting to know more. Hopefully I will eventually find the book translated into English. If you know of the book’s availability, please let me know in the comments.
If you have seen, or are going to see the movie Emperor, I would love to know your thoughts, so feel free to come back here and share them.
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