Postwar Kurosawa: Seven Samurai

Seven Samurai (七人の侍)

1954, Toho

Prod. Soujiro Motoki

Dir. Akira Kurosawa 

Writer Shinobu Hashimoto, Akira Kurosawa, Hideo Ogunii, Cinematography  Asakazu Nakai, Music Fumio Hayasaka

Takashi Shimura, Toshiro Mifune
 

Many consider “Seven Samurai” a landmark in filmmaking. The film coined the term “samurai” in many languages. Gradual plot element buildup, main characters as a team, realistic battle scenes, slow-motion as a punctuation in violence, multiple telephoto lens cameras to capture action simultaneously, montage to introduce main characters, etc. such many innovative elements are condensed in one, big narrative. Many call this masterpiece, others simply hate it. Some says you don’t feel the length of the film, others say this is criminally long. I would like to point out that this film very much falls into the traditional realm of Jidaigeki (Period Films)  as a tale of class conflict and disillusioned elites. And the Kurosawa’s innovation lies in the re-reading of this Jidaigeki in the context of postwar Japan. 

Elites

Kanbei’s last line, “The farmers have won. Not us.” is one of the most often quoted among Kurosawa’s films. Or maybe one of the most memorable lines in Japanese cinema along with Ozu’s “Life is disappointing” in “Tokyo Story”. While Ozu’s line contemplates on condition of our lives in general, Kanbei’s line redefined the life’s achievement, or art of winning and losing. 

From the very beginning of the film, we are with the farmers. They are meek, helpless and poor. As the characters we are going to ride along, they are the least interesting and anti-heroic. For we are conditioned to anticipate some heroic figure to spice up the glamour of the story, it is natural for us to find these farmers somewhat trivial. That’s where Kanbei comes in.

The episode of Kanbei’s rescue of a mother and a baby is a miniature of what follows in the film. Begged to save a mother and a baby in danger, Kanbei uses wisdom and his swordsmanship to solve the crime. This episode is so impressive that we know we have our hero in this very humble man. But are we to call this episode, Kanbei’s victory? Who won in this battle?

In another episode, Kyuzo, the unparalleled swordsman, was forced to fight with an adamant challenger using real swords, only to finish him off in one stroke. In this episode, we have a winner and a loser. But this win is bitter and not even sought after. It’s only a win over idiocy.

In samurai’s battle, the winning is the ultimate goal. Loss means death. Even when you are using wooden or bamboo swords, it is assumed you are fighting a real kill or to-be-killed battle. Since samurais serving a master have more grandeur vision, such as to build a nation, their motivation to win can be justified in that context. Martial institution of the medieval society in “Seven Samurais” is based on this premise. A samurai needs a master to serve, and his skills of killing are required to fulfill his duty. But how about wandering samurais with no master? To them, loss still means death, but how about winning? As Kanbei’s and Kyuzo’s episodes suggest, winning does not seem to amount to anything but aimlessness of their presence. In fact, to them, winning is still somber reminder that they could have been elites in the society, but nothing but failures.

Band of Outsiders
To understand the premise of this film, you need to know there are three different classes of Samurai depicted in this film.

Ronin

A ronin is a samurai with no master. During this era, because many warlords were constantly in conflict, many warriors easily lost his masters. All six samurais (except Kikuchiyo) are ronins.

Nobushi (Bandit)

A group of nobushi, bandits, is the enemy in the story. They were also masterless, but formed a group to terrorize the neighboring area.

Ochimusha

They were the soldiers of the defeated, and on the run. They were targets of manhunt by locals. In this film, no Ochimusha is shown but the villagers had the stash of weapons they had ripped off from them. This suggests the villagers brutally killed Ochimushas in many occasions.

All three groups of samurais have one thing in common; they are without masters. Of course the six samurais had not been masterless always and Kanbei suggests he had fought for masters of losing side. This indicates that he might have been an “Ochimusha” chased by a band of angry villagers.

This is why six samurais are upset when Kikuchiyo uncovers the stash of weapons the villagers had hidden. They have more common with those who had left the weapons (and had been killed) than with the villagers. Also, these six samurais have more common with Nobushi, their enemy as well. Otherwise, they would not be able to predict the strategy of the bandits. They know where, when and how the bandits would strike, precisely because they would do the same, if they were bandits. It’s knowledge the villagers do not have.

I have been using six instead of seven as a number of samurais. This is because Kikuchiyo is not exactly a samurai, but a lone wolf who actually ran away from a farming village. Due to this background, he is the only person who could bridge the two different worlds of samurais and farmers. Many of the Kikuchiyo episodes tell us how rigid samurai-farmer relationships were. His revelation that farmer’s were actually insidious and scheming is not only shocking but creepy to the other six. But this revelation was essential for them to understand farmer’s underlying strong will to avenge the intruders.

This is the fundamental of this film. Six samurais share little with the people they protect, while they have much more common with the enemy. The tension created by this contradiction hangs on balance throughout until the final battle scene. Kikuchiyo is central to balancing this tension.

Realistic Battles

One of the innovations found in this film is the realistic depiction of the battle scene. Up until this film, Japanese cinema had been heavily influenced by the theatrical presentation of Samurai epics, in which the sword plays had been choreographed into a series of efficient, suave movements. Especially many earlier Jidaigeki stars, such as Chiezo Kataoka, Denjiro Okochi, Tsumasaburo Bando and Kanjuro Arashi, were noted for swift movements and dramatic actions during battle scenes. In addition, large part of B-action Jidaigeki films being the weekly entertainment for kids, the story tends to be outrageous, in which the hero defeats tens of enemies in a single action. They were simply complete fantasies.  

This film liberated the Jidaigeki from this traditional mold. Notable attempt to make Jidaigeki something appreciable to mature public tended to be more “artistic” with less actions; “Chushingura” by Kenji Mizoguchi was filled with perfectly coordinated camera movements and gorgeous sets; something film affectionados could drool over but general public expecting the simple revenge story would find boring. In this regard, “Seven Samurai” is a pure action film.

How do you make an action film realistic? Many has pointed out that the battles in heavy rain and mud made this sequence realistic, while others attributed the details of props, war gears, weapons and tactics to the factors. However, the most crucial factor is the reality of the warriors. They run and run and run. Their swords cut empty air most of the time. They stumble, and fear the enemy’s blades and bullets. They are not superheroes.

This treatment of Jidaigeki is also coincide with maturity of audience. At the time of the film’s release, Japanese cinema had essentially 40 years of commercial history. Many mature audience at the time had experienced the golden age of Jidaigeki actions during their childhood. Because of their appreciation of films directed by Hiroshi Inagaki, Daisuke Ito, Masahiro Makino and others in prewar period, another “fairly good” Jidaigeki film would not please them. Kurosawa had been a part of that history. He knew all the tricks of the trade and he wanted to top it.

At the same time, this film was one of the first major Jidaigekis in many years. During the Occupation (1945 – 1952), Jidaigeki was practically prohibited, because U.S. feared it might glorify feudal ideas of sacrifice and royalty. As a result, this 1954 film became the first Samurai film to feature extensive battle scenes in many years. As the audience had experienced the reality of the war, choreographed fighting scene might look too fantastic and fake. Then, Kurosawa must have felt challenged to reproduce the feel of danger and exhaustion of soldiers on celluloid as “real” as possible.

The Art of Losing

After the battle, we see the farmers rejoicing their victory and regained peace, while the surviving samurais contemplate on the battle. The quotation above is the only lines spoken during this last chapter, while we read the story of souls separating from each other mostly by a series of exchange of gazes. Kanbei observes at festive rice planting by the villagers and then, the shadows of graves. Shichijiroji and Katsusiro follow Kanbei’s line of thoughts as they share the sense of irrevocable loss. Economical, efficient and effective way of storytelling as it is, it is also the most eloquent.     

This is the reminiscent of the earlier scene, in which Kyuzo is challenged by another Ronin in duel. Here, Kanbei observes two samurais intensely and the series of his gazes form the story parallel to the actual action in the film. He utters, “What a waste (無益だ/Mueki-da)”. “Mueki” means wasteful or meaningless, frequently coupled with the word Sessho (殺生), the killing. Indeed, this duel ends with a wasteful killing. 

Kanbei confesses, he had a dream of being a warlord, but now he got gray hair and his parents and friends were all dead. This observation resonated with the other samurais. And in this sense, they are all losers. They had done numerous wasteful killings in losing battles, only to end up as masterless wanderers. This somber defeatism is again amplified in the end.

Historically, Jidaigekis heavily rely on this multiple layers of ethics and heroism. Many ends with the defeat of the hero as he realizes the killings do not solve any problem. It is not that he is fighting against the evil, but against the dislocation in the society or human nature. In prewar period, being defeated but with clear conscience had been the trademark of a hero. In Chushingura, one of the most typical Jidaigekis, 47 ronins are defeated in the end (all ordered to do harakiri by the authority), but this is after they achieved the revenge nonetheless. In Kurosawa’s film, this authority is absent. But still, they feel defeated after they achieved what they were set out to achieve. You are still a loser, not because somebody tells you are, but because you are not building your future on it.

Some say this film refer to the nature of controversial Self Defence Force of Japan instituted in the previous year. Maybe. But I believe this film is as relevant now as ever. Terror is rampant everywhere in many different forms, while most of us fail to envision the resolution. Some of us may anticipate heroes to protect us, yes, innocent but insidious ‘us’. Heroes with superior discipline and skills, but do they exist? Or are we just imagining them?   

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Postwar Kurosawa: Ikiru

Ikiru (生きる)

1952, Toho

Prod. Soujiro Motoki

Dir. Akira Kurosawa 

Writer Osamu Hashimoto, Akira Kurosawa, Hideo Kokuni, Cinematography  Asakazu Nakai, Music Fumio Hayasaka

Takashi Shimura, Nobuo Kaneko, Miki Odagiri
 

According to the article by a palliative nurse Bronnie Ware, the most common regret people have in the last weeks of their lives is about living lives of their own.

I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.

This seems to be a universal issue. And, in many ways, the issue of “a life true to yourself” is independent of society and culture. Where the role of family, community and society is more domineering, “a life true to yourself” sometimes means violation of that code. So it must be hard to search for the meaning of life outside of that context. However, even in many “modern” or “developed” countries, it is not that easy. In such societies, “free will” of individual is considered the most respected and sacredly guarded. But still, we are not fully living lives of our own. Many of us will regret for sure. “Ikiru” is about this regret. About this regret not being regretted until the time of death.

Storytelling

“Ikiru” is a film strangely uneven and scattered in its styles.

Though the film begins with voice-over narration, this devise, which would provide the external static point of view to the story, is soon dropped. Then we follow Kanji Watanabe through the lens fixed on him from all the directions. Up to the scene of funeral, Watanabe’s drooping figure is the most dominant on the screen. This insistent trajectory of the lens is cruel, sometimes mean or at least relentless. Then, suddenly, we lose him. The funeral scene is Rashomon-like pasticcio of the tales about the person. Each storyteller relates the episode of Watanabe, to solve the mystery of his last days. Though the audience already know Watanabe’s motivation, the storytellers are not sure and try to understand why he did what he did. These stages of perspective shifting are quite effective in exploring the various phases of regret.

Voiceover Beginning
The first image, the X-ray photograph, is a death sentence. Then, we meet him in person, as a drab city servant who had lost enthusiasm in his work a long time ago. Voice-over narration and three-minute sketch of the office give us whole picture of the man. The X-ray image sentences him to biological death; the following sequence declares him dead already. It is one of the most efficient, brilliant and economical sequence of film openings.
There are many films which open with hero(ine)’s death at the beginning. It is, in essence, quite effective to draw the audience attention to the world of the film. Forties and fifties are full of such films, “Citizen Kane”, “Sunset Boulevard”, “The Killers”, to name the few. “Ikiru” is essentially using this same device, but with a little twist. He is “dead” already and he is going to die.
Whose is that voice? God? Imaginary third person? The indifferent voice over the still image of X-ray photograph creates the effect as if we are watching the documentary film. We are conditioned to observe Watanabe as an object under microscope from critical perspective. Especially, a city servant buried under the heap of red tape is a familiar target of condescension and disgust in our daily life. The posture, delivery of speech, gaze, all of his appearance provide us with common ground for casual condemnation. And the narration itself openly insults his state of life. “He is nothing interesting.”, it says. This firmly sets the distance and relationship between us and him. 
Relentless Camera
Once established, we see Watanabe’s struggle for regaining the life lost. His paths are familiar one: he tries to reinvigorate himself through the others. First, through the strangers (bohemian writer and night town dwellers), then his son and finally, a young woman. The trip through the night life of Tokyo is attempt to recuperate from still unseen shadow of death. The writer is Mephisto, trying to save the soul by injection of youth. But in the end, he realizes and we realize, it was no use. Watanabe’s singing of “The Gondola Song (1915)” symbolizes the failed attempt to rejuvenate himself. The camera focuses on Watanabe as if to X-ray his memory. The voyage into night life ends with the scene of dark alley, where Watanabe realizes you cannot cheat death.
Of all, his son and wife are the least sympathetic to Watanabe. Watanabe reminiscences the path of father-son relationship through the turbulent times. His wife’s death, raising him alone, sending him to war… these memories seem to guarantee him a caring son. But the son and his wife are rather wary of Watanabe’s presence, with little concern for his aging. Since we are only presented with Watanabe’s vision, we tend to sympathize with him. But how about his son’s view on the matter? Considering his bitter statements and insolent attitude toward his father, the whole relationship might not have been the way his father likes to remember. In one scene, Watanabe fancies that his son wants to talk to him, so he stumbles to staircase to see him. The son simply wanted to say good-night, and Watanabe’s fanciful hope is crushed. The camera ruthlessly captures him frozen in the middle of dark staircase. The family is not the last resort of your life.
Kurosawa carefully but cynically describes the relationship between Watabane and the young woman, Odagiri. It is warm but grotesque at the same time. Watanabe is a meek and a vampire simultaneously We know he wants what Odagiri has, a young blood. Not necessarily in sexual sense, but as a vampire crave for maiden’s blood, he wants it for sustaining his life. We want him to be revived, but are somewhat disgusted with his insistent approach to her. The reason is simple. We want him to live, but not through the others. From the beginning, Kurosawa builds up this idea frame by frame, through his insistent camera relentlessly capturing the expression of Watanabe’s face. Storytelling leading up to the last meeting with Odagiri in the restaurant is a brilliant example of catharsis in the making.
Puzzles
When you know the whole picture of a jigsaw puzzle, you should be able to place, or at least guess where each piece of the puzzle would go. But if you have only a piece and nothing else, you have very little information about the whole picture. The second half of the film, the scene of wake procession, is about these separate puzzle pieces brought together to present them (us) with the whole picture.
But these tales are like kaleidoscope of the original puzzle pieces, since they are subject to various filters and amplifiers of storytellers themselves. Kurosawa’s previous film, “Rashomon”, is a meticulous study on the subjective transmutation of the truth. The “truth” is inconclusive throughout, and we are more confronted with tragedy of irreversible nature of the transmutation. In “Ikiru”, the premise is slightly different; each storyteller tells separate event from others and emphasis is on the identical axis found in every episode, rather than difference among the stories. This approach is quite evident from the first story; Deputy Mayor’s intent is to belittle Watanabe’s effort in the children’s playground, but the flashback tells otherwise. Here, the storyteller’s subjective view fails to alter the actual event to his own liking.
In fact, this storytelling sequence is very ambiguous as to the owner of the story. To whom this flashback belongs? Is this a third-person/God’s view? Or is it possible that it is a visual image in storyteller’s mind while he tells a bit different story? In another words, is there a difference between what is told and what is remembered? In this sense, Nakamura’s rendering of the Deputy Mayor is so brilliant that it is clear he knows the gap between what he tells everybody and what he actually remembers. His facial expression, posture, and body language is laced with dim light of guilt. 
The progression from Deputy Mayor’s story to others’ and the policeman’s in the end is process of narrowing this gap. From doubt through realization to affirmation of Watanabe’s intent, each character’s sympathy synchronizes with diminishing level of self-serving rhetoric. The policeman’s tale in the end is final blow. He is completely devoid of need to preserve his own face, so his story seems authentic as ever. Policeman’s image exactly matches what he tells, and what he observes. And this is the point where audience re-connects the dots all the way back to the beginning. “Gondola’s Song” brings us back to the beginning of the sojourn. It was a brooding, but rewarding soul-searching, to find how to live.
The role of family 
In Japan, and probably in most of the Eastern hemisphere, it has been a very binding convention that children should look after aging parents. But postwar Japan saw the emotional fracture in this convention. Socio-economical background, such as industrialization, longevity, family clusterization contributed this fracture, but literature and arts tend to focus on shifting morale of the contemporary world.
The theme of aging and family resonates with that of “Tokyo Story”, directed by Yasujiro Ozu in the following year. You expect your kids to be more sympathetic, only to find they have outgrown you and are busy pursuing their own lives. Noriko, the widow, is the only part of the clan who cares about aging parents.
In addition, the father-son relationship in “Ikiru” has another dimension, “Après-Guerre/Avant-Guerre” contrasts. In many postwar films, Kurosawa had dealt with gap between prewar and postwar generations. First après-guerre we meet is Yuzo in “One Wonderful Sunday”. The contrast starts to appear in “Drunken Angel”, between Matsunaga (Mifune)/Sanada (Shimura), followed by Dr. Fujizaki (Mifune) and his father (Shimura) in “Quiet Duel”. This culminated in “Stray Dog”, in which we have Yusa (Kimura) – Murakami (Mifune) – Sato (Shimura) relationship. In Kurosawa’s terms, après-guerres endured tough, raw human condition, which the previous generation was not aware of. This dimension is completely non-exsistant, or at least hidden, in Ozu’s works.
In reality, Kurosawa was not a part of après-guerre generation, being 35 years old at the time of the fall of Japanese Empire. Yasujiro Ozu was 42. Then, who are après-guerre film directors, for example? Seijun Suzuki was an officer in South Pacific, and 22 years old at the end of the war. Yasuzo Masumura was age 21, Shohei Imamura 19, but neither went to war. Nagisa Oshima was 13 years old, Yoshishige Yoshida 12 years old.
Oshima and Yoshida belong to the generation of Odagiri, a young woman in “Ikiru”, while Suzuki, Masumura, and Imamura are in the same age group with Watanabe’s son. While Odagiri (Oshima-Yoshida generation) is full of energy and essentially optimistic, Watanabe’s son (Suzuki-Masumura-Imamura generation) is cynical and somewhat nihilistic, or quite pragmatic. Of course, this kind of generalization is too simplistic, but it may be helpful in understanding the roles of these characters.
Comparison with another Ozu film may be more revealing. “There Was A Father” essentially deals with the similar father-son relationship with the similar generation groups. But how they differ each other. Though Watanabe’s generation expected the intimate, caring devotion from their children as in “There Was A Father” (and probably it was natural for them), the end of the war and of the Imperial Japan slowly suffocated their expectations. As “Ikiru” suggests, the abandoning such expectation is essential in building his own life. It’s simple and obvious, but hard thing to do in reality.
Now, in many advanced nations, people live longer thanks to modern medicine. Issue of aging is more prevalent and life after the “prime” is concern for many. We all die sometime. Fear of dying is more horrifying than death itself. Why do you fear? We all wish our last moment to be like Watanabe’s.

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Postwar Kurosawa: The Idiot

The Idiot (白痴)

1951, Shochiku

Prod. Takashi Koide

Dir. Akira Kurosawa 

Writer Eijiro Hisasaka, Akira Kurosawa, Cinematography  Toshio Ikukata, Music Fumio Hayasaka

Masayuki Mori, Toshiro Mifune, Setsuko Hara, Takashi Shimura

This film leaves me the strange aftertaste.

Its heavy-handed acting, brooding plot elements, very ideological characterization, and misery of massive edit, all contributed to the unfortunate “almost-there-but-not-quite” quality of this film. I guess this film is filled with everything Kurosawa detractors deplore about his works. Too ideological to be visual arts, “humanity” spelled out every places, Japanese don’t act like that, etc. Especially considering the fact that Setsuko Hara and Chieko Higashiyama would make such impressive performances in “Tokyo Story” two years later, many seem to feel great Ozu actors were wasted in this work.

However, my “strange aftertaste” may have something to do with something else also. It may have to do with the location of this film, Hokkaido.

Hokkaido and Cold War

In 1976, a Soviet fighter jet, MiG-25, landed on Hakodate airport, located in the southern peninsula of Hokkaido. Lieutenant Victor Belenko defected to Japan, seeking asylum in U.S., riding on Soviet’s state-of-art, top secret airplane. This created shock waves to whole Western world (and, of course, Soviet Union), and the plane was studied thoroughly both by Japan and U.S. The most serious concern for Japan was the fact that a Soviet jet fighter could penetrate into the Japanese territory with ease, though Japanese Air Defence did dispatch the several jets to counteract the intrusion. I was still a little kid back then, but still realized there was an immediate danger of being invaded by the Soviets. And the first place they would land would be Hokkaido.

Since the end of  WWII, Hokkaido had been one of the invisible battle fronts of the Cold War. Even now, Japanese government and Russian Government have on-and-off territorial disputes over four islands north of Hokkaido. At the time of very end of WWII, Hokkaido could have been easily “fifth” island of that dispute.

Therefore, in 1951, the year of this film production, the place was becoming the center of national defence. In the previous year, SCAP/GHQ, with Japanese government, created National Police Reserve, the precursor of Japan Self-Defence Force. The creation of militarized police in Japan was the result of emerging Cold War.

Hokkaido had been considered as a sort of colony since 19th century. Japanese Government had many relocation programs, land development plans, railway system constructions, agricultural research, natural resource development and creation of Native (Ainu) Reserves. All of those activities were done under the name of modernization, industrialization and colonization. Due to its vastness and abundant land, everything in Hokkaido is much larger and full of space compared to those in rest of Japan, From Hokkaido, the Honshu (the largest island in Japan) is “In-Land (内地)”, meaning the land that is inside of the periphery, contrasting Hokkaido being periphery. It had been a separated island with different habitat and geopolitical entity.

Then, refurbishing the Russian novel into tormented story in Cold War front Hokkaido is juxtaposition of multiple layers of uneasiness. Characterization and acting is so foreign that we wonder if Mifune, Hara and others were at loss during the production. Location shooting and art do not belong to typical 50’s Japan. Many say this film has a look of an European film of the era. And moreover, the story of innocence and ego is rarely treated in this direct manner during postwar years. It seems this Hokkaido was under occupation of some foreign country.

Stylization

It is obvious that Kurosawa aimed at recreating the great Russian writer’s world in snow-bound Hokkaido. The problem starts with this “recreation”. His other films were also based on Shakespeare, Gorky and  other literary works, but for these works, Kurosawa stripped the story to the bare essence before adapting into Japanese scenery. Apparently, he hesitated doing so with this film. He wanted to do Dostoevsky. And it betrays the whole point of making a film.

The most apparent breakdown is Kameda/Myshkin character. Myshkin is an ideological entity in the novel, quite successfully so, since the world of literature can handle metaphysical theme through textual molding. However, the such an ideology-centric approach is not readily available in narrative films. The reason is simple; texts command the discrete, selective approach while  visualization of the character in a story demands total interpretation. What happened here appears to be representation through stylization. You see that Kameda’s posture is stylized throughout the film to represent his position in the film; clutching his coat’s lapels whenever he needs to defend his perimeter. We, the viewers, tend to be confused by such representation, because we see somebody manufactured on a story board.

But we do have Kabuki, visual/performance arts stylized to the point of perfection. Why is this not working?

Problem with Innocence

I believe that the what Kameda/Myshkin represents, the notion of “innocence”, is hard to sell in this context. No matter how it is explained, the character of Kameda is far from the spectrum of postwar Japan. Indeed, it might have been quite a fascinating experiment; an innocent spirit at the focal point of Cold War front immediately after the World War. But an spirit in Dostevsky’s story is not directly transferable to the world of 1950 Japan. You need to disassemble/reassemble the character to fit to the world of such a abnormal intensity.

In Minoru Shibuya’s “Honjitsu Kyuusin (本日休診, 1952)”, an innocent soul aggravated by war experience is depicted to much more satisfying results. The PTSD soldier do cause a havoc in the neighborhood, but it is about how neighbors live with his scar, not with him. In the end, we see the neighbors share the scar, which leads to acceptance of the past tragedy. That is so rewarding since we have less concerned about innocence itself, but about the loss of it, specifically our loss of it.  

St.Petersburg in the original novel was the center of culture in Russia at the time, with decadent upper class and polarized working class. Hokkaido in 1950s was the frontier of not only Japan itself, but the Western world. The place might have been under multiple layers of contradiction, but it was definitely not the place of climax phase of human greed as in the original novel. Then, only the imagery St.Petersburg being transferred to Hokkaido remains, creating the illusion that the place was foreign to “In-Land” Japanese.

The strange aftertaste is that of vodka mixed with Japanese seafood platter. And it always gives me a splitting headache in the next morning.   

Copyrighted materials, if any, on this web page are included as “fair use”. These are used for the purpose of research, review or critical analysis, and will be removed at the request of copyright owner(s).