After the Rain made quite an impression on me. After I watched some other Japanese movies, I didn’t get the same feeling so I did some research to find out why.
The war now ended, Kurosawa, absorbing the democratic ideals of the Occupation, sought to make films that would establish a new respect towards the individual and the self. The first such film, No Regrets for Our Youth (1946), inspired by both the 1933 Takigawa incident and the Hotsumi Ozaki wartime spy case, criticized Japan’s prewar regime for its political oppression.
Kurosawa’s is a heroic cinema, a series of dramas (mostly) concerned with the deeds and fates of larger-than-life heroes. Stephen Prince has identified the emergence of the unique Kurosawa protagonist with the immediate post-World War II period. The goal of the American Occupation to replace Japanese feudalism with individualism coincided with the director’s artistic and social agenda: “Kurosawa welcomed the changed political climate and sought to fashion his own mature cinematic voice.” The Japanese critic Tadao Sato concurs: “With defeat in World War II, many Japanese … were dumbfounded to find that the government had lied to them and was neither just nor dependable. During this uncertain time Akira Kurosawa, in a series of first-rate films, sustained the people by his consistent assertion that the meaning of life is not dictated by the nation but something each individual should discover for himself through suffering.” The filmmaker himself remarked that, during this period, “I felt that without the establishment of the self as a positive value there could be no freedom and no democracy.”
I wondered why so many Americans liked the Seven Samurai movie. As well as why some Japanese like Wild West Westerners from the US.
The idea of the individual hero fighting for or against society, however, does explain many things. After all, it’s something I myself came to a similar conclusion on after a voyage on learning about evil.
Japan is still a nation moved by group politics and social consensus or social Will, but it still has a great amount of individual will in certain sub cultures and entertainment venues. Far more than is the case in America herself these days. It’s somewhat reversed. In America, our Hollywood entertainment, education, police, and political circles are all corrupted for one reason or another, leaving only certain types of groups (gun owners) to have the requisite experience and virtue to act as individuals. Everyone else is too afraid of their Boos or Social Authority to disobey. In Japan, individual private ownership and will can be seen in the otaku culture as well as Japan’s educational corporations and schools, but submit to the security of the group via the Japanese Defense forces and the local police units. In America, we rely on personal arms and other warrior esque training to protect ourselves, our families, or our communities. The police doesn’t really do much except clean up the bodies. Even the deadly Marathon bombings a few years ago were stopped by a citizen that escaped his captivity at the hands of Islamic terrorists inside the US and reported the location and vehicle type of his captors, resulting in their death/capture. Meanwhile the police were shutting down entire city sectors and finding nobody useful.
So I don’t think Kurosawa failed. To him, living in a Japan ruled mostly by social rules or authority laws, it might seem that nothing much changed. To an American that can tell the difference between individual strength/freedom and social obedience, Japan didn’t turn out too bad. Certainly when compared to China or modern US culture. With patriots like Kurosawa working to improve their culture and people, there’s always life and thus hope for improvement.
The problem is always when evil manifests and works against life. Then evil must be killed. Who is going to do it when American generations can’t even defend their own pathetic lives against murderers and serial killers?
You can read more about this on those links. After the Rain brought to me a lot of the individual heroic qualities I saw in Seven Samurai. So I’m just going to view all of them, if I can.