Isao Takahata Offers His Thoughts on War, Constitution

posted on by Eric Stimson
Says Grave of the Fireflies shouldn't be considered anti-war film

While Isao Takahata's Grave of the Fireflies is commonly viewed as an anti-war film, the director himself offered a contrary view in an interview earlier this year with the newspaper Kanagawa Shimbun.

Grave of the Fireflies is considered an anti-war film, but while anti-war films are meant to prevent wars and stop them, that movie doesn't fulfill that kind of role, even though that might surprise most people. No matter how often you talk about the experience of being in the horrible position of being attacked, it would be hard for that to stop war. Why is that? When statesmen start the next war, they'll say, "We're fighting a war so we won't be in that position." It's a war for self-defense. They'll appeal to your emotions by using the urgent thought, "We don't want that tragedy to be repeated."

Takahata also had some harsh words for Japan's Prime Minister Shinzō Abe, who has reinterpreted Japan's constitution to enable it to have a proper military and come to other countries' aid in war ("collective self-defense"), as well as for his fellow countrymen.

You could also say, "Even if we go to war, we won't fail again. We'll be smarter. The times have changed from 70 years ago." Really? Have we advanced compared to people during the war? I don't believe that looking at the reactions of politicians after [the devastating tsunami and nuclear meltdown in March 2011], when the myth of safety around nuclear energy was shattered. Just by slithering along on our current path, we'll reach a point eventually where we'll give up, saying, "What's the use?" It's the same way we lost that war.

It's precisely because of Article 9 [in the constitution] that Japan doesn't kill anyone even if it's killed in war. It ties down our policies. Abe's policy is to completely overturn that. What's more, he isn't asking the public to amend the constitution, he's altering its interpretation.

We don't need to become a "normal country." We should continue being a unique country. If we become able to make war, we will surely make war. When the Cabinet decided to recognize collective self-defense, Article 9 was suddenly destroyed. Aren't we facing the most shocking crisis ever? I know, because I know war. What's important is the time before war begins — now. If it begins, we'll be swept away by it. So we need to completely slam on the brakes, not just a little. That's what Article 9 did.

[During World War II] there were a lot of people who cooperated reluctantly, but most of us marched down the procession of lanterns, cheering for victory. Ordinary people would call other ordinary people who didn't agree with them "unpatriotic." Young people say to "read the air." When I hear that, I fall into despair. We Japanese haven't changed at all. Cooperating with those around us is fine, but "reading the air" doesn't mean cooperation, it means agreement. Falling into step is becoming an absolute value. [...] Since old times, this attitude has led Japan into the bog of war. I call it a "slithering attitude," but whenever I hear about "reading the air," from now on I can only feel that sense of risk.

[Via Litera; Image from Kanaloco]

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