A Korean animated film about Japanese human right abuses during WWII WUKALI
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A Korean animated film about Japanese human right abuses during WWII

by Pierre-Alain Lévy

Here is a Korean film made by students of the Chungkang School of Animation about the conduct of Japanese soldiers in Korea during the Second World War. As a preamble, I would like to point out that this film is by no means for everyone. Indeed, it contains scenes of infinite cruelty, extremely hard to bear.

Recall of an emotion

I remember what my reactions were when, I saw a few years ago « Grave of the Fireflies » by Japanese director Isao Takahata, released in Paris. A true masterpiece. The tragic story of two little Japanese brothers during WWII who in Kobe in 1945, separated from their parents, experienced the drama of fear, hunger, bombing, mourning and death.

Thus, the emotion was there, was within. I wondered then why on such a strong, so poignant, so painful subject too, the decision had not been to choose to make a film with real actors, a kind of blockbuster after all.

Soon and very quickly, however, I found the answer. The “animated film” format makes it possible to contain the feeling and to internalize the floods of emotions which would otherwise captivate the viewer, even if, however, one cannot help feeling tears flow.

It also makes it possible to avoid a certain pathos which would parasitize the message. Chamber music opposed to huge Symphony orchestra. A right signature for beauty and perfection.

Similarly, another argument: the animated film is considered to be suitable for a juvenile audience, manga reader for example, and this is particularly true for Japan and Korea (although, I agree, many animation films today appeal to an audience of adults). Lastly, its educational, demonstrative, political or moral value is most certainly stronger and more effective.

These arguments remain entirely relevant to this Korean film For Her that I have chosen to present to you.

Testimonials

As an example, this is a film of testimonies, those of these soldiers of the Imperial Japanese Army who obeying the orders of the ruling militarist caste, carried out massacres on the unfortunate population of the Korean peninsula during the Second World War, and the invasion of their country by the soldiers of the Rising Sun.

Besides also, to recall the war crimes committed in China, the Nanjing massacres or the evocation of the sinister Unit 731

Singularly, let’s recall it and bear in mind (if ever it were needed), that no government in Tokyo, that no Japanese Prime Minister ever apologized to the Korean people for the barbaric crimes and atrocities perpetrated against the submissive and defeated population.

Korean women who were reduced to virtual sexual slavery to serve in Japanese “comfort stations” (in other words in French : BMC – Campaign military brothel) to the liberation of the bestial impulses of the Japanese soldiers, never (for those who have managed to survive) have been recognized and compensated (if this word makes sense), by the Japanese authorities ! 

To begin with, the voices heard throughout this film are authentic recordings of former Japanese soldiers, now largely grandfathers. The same who were actors and witnesses more than half a century ago of the atrocities which they themselves committed and of which today arriving on the threshold of the great leap, they are repenting. As the French singer and poet Georges Brassens sang: “time doesn’t matter … », (« le temps ne fait rien à l’affaire… ») but that’s another tune !

Image strength

These witnesses, once soldiers and now old retired men, are not seen through the scope of an ordinary film such as a tv documentary for instance, but by the means of an animation movie, and this is the point ! We know them by their image, not their photography, and the impact is very different. They appear smoothly with an equal graphic identity on the same level with all the protagonists of this film, witnesses of this gruesome but unfortunately true history. Under this form, this animation movie appearance, they do not distort the narrative discourse underlying this movie, bringing altogether a feeling of smoothness and perfect unity.

To sumarize, this movie is great, it demonstrates the powerful strength and the capacity of any animated film to deal with ALL subjects, and to meet ALL audiences, whatever hard and cruel it can be. This film attests! Congratulations, ChungKang school of animation !

  • Discover all animation movies presented in WUKALI: Films d’animation (French texts in Wukali previous version, new texts in English are starting now with this juvenile presentation)

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