1970s The Battle of Okinawa (1971)

Published on July 6th, 2010 | by Chris


The Battle of Okinawa (1971)

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On July 6, 2010
Last modified:October 5, 2012


Also of note is the translation of the Japanese title: 激怒の昭和史:沖縄決戦, which amounts to "indignation of the history of the Showa era: the decisive battle of Okinawa".... And I think that probably is a fitting title.

The Battle of Okinawa (1971)Toho Studio's 1971 epic The Battle of Okinawa is definitely an, um, interesting piece of film.  A telling of the last major "battle" (if you want to call it that) of the Pacific War, the invasion of Okinawa in 1945, from the Japanese perspective.

Now, I'm going to go out on a limb and try to detach myself from 65 years of my own US-centric perspective and try and see this from the Japanese POV.  In that respect, I think that the end result is a fine, fine picture.  A tribute to all those who were called on to defend Japan at her "last stand" or dare I even go there, her "Alamo."  The intent seems pretty clear that's the portrait we are meant to see here.

In that respect also, it paints a different picture than what we on this side of the Pacific might be used to seeing.  That the defeat at Okinawa wasn't so much dealt by a crushing invasion force, by land and by sea, but rather a failure by high command to allocate the proper resources and make the right decisions.  Since I have no earthly idea whether or not this could actually be the case, I'll give them the benefit of the doubt.  In fact, the first part of the film starts almost a year before the invasion, exploring the preparation of the island, the airfields, etc.  and how those command decisions may have been the deciding factor.  Like I said, I don't have a clue, but its interesting.

Then as the real invasion starts, the civilian population's dire straits are portrayed quite well, to a point (more on this later)  and again, it seems to be a failure by command to provide adequate means for evacuation, to the point they're forced to recruit local students and women into the fight.  OK, I might give you that one as well.

But throughout there is definitely a feel that this is, as I said, a tribute of sorts to those who fought and died, both military and civilian on that bloody island.  That might offend some of you, but I'd wager that its their right to do so, just as we would, and have done.

And they had me on board with most of it.  Right up until the last, oh, twenty minutes or so.  Then things take a decidedly sour turn in the viewpoint toward the encroaching US forces.  The portrayal turns to a (IMO, quite nasty) characterization of us intentionally and mercilessly murdering the civilian population, shooting soldiers plainly attempting to surrender, even to the point of using chemical weapons on nurses and wounded in the caves.  True or not? I can't say.  I don't know.  There are few who probably do know the truth.  I'd like to think not, but it sure is a "whoa, hey, wtf!" kind of moment.  On the other hand, there are a few scenes where the US troops quite peacefully accept surrenders....

So while I don't think there's a total indictment going on here, one of the final scenes with the old woman and the tank implies a great deal.  I think its part of a larger picture of how the war is (was?) viewed in Japan, as a dark point in history, where the country did what it did at the time, to the point of crushing defeat, yet really doesn't offer any apology for it.

Overall I think the tone and pacing of the Battle of Okinawa somewhat feels a lot like the previous year's "Tora! Tora! Tora!"  With the jumping around to various desks and commanders making all these key and fateful decisions.  The combat scenes are done well for the time, if maybe a bit cliched and riddled with stock sound effects, but they're better than some of the same period.  The pacing involved during the combat works quite well, so you're not just left with a boring drone of shelf-reel richocets, but rather cutting between the various plots going on.

On a somewhat humorous note, was the DVD subtitle that appeared at the intermission point of the movie.  "Take a break, stretch your legs and make yourself a nice drink.  Or just skip to the next chapter."  Ha!

If you're easily offended by a countering viewpoint on the war, and some pointed accusations therein, I would suggest you just steer clear of The Battle of Okinawa.  You'll just end up pissed off in the end.  However, if you can take a step back and see things from the Japanese point of view here, I think you'll be pleased with the overall results of the film.  That is, a fitting tribute to their own soldiers and civilians who did what they had to do, and paid the price for it.

Also of note is the translation of the Japanese title: 激怒の昭和史:沖縄決戦, which amounts to "indignation of the history of the Showa era: the decisive battle of Okinawa"....  And I think that probably is a fitting title.

IMDB: Gekido no showashi: Okinawa kessen
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With the country on the brink of disaster and defeat imminent, Japan fortifies its last defensive stronghold, the island of Okinawa. This final stand against the Allied attack soon becomes the bloodiest battle of the Pacific Theater and takes the horrors of war to a level never before seen, as the desperate Japanese forces try to demonstrate to the Americans what they should expect when they assault the Japanese mainland.

DVD Information

Binding: DVD
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
Audience Rating: Unrated (Not Rated)
Brand: Koch International
Manufacturer: Animeigo
Original Release Date:
  • Keiju Kobayashi
  • Yûzô Kayama
  • Tetsurô Tanba
  • Tatsuya Nakadai
  • Mayumi Ohzora


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Customer Reviews
Average Customer Review

9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The real Okinawa., March 27, 2009
Walter J. Hofman (Tennessee, USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Battle of Okinawa (DVD)
This is one of the most realistic movies on war I have seen, and I have seen many and served in war myself! Having served on Okinawa and lived with Okinawans for four years I wish I had seen this movie a long time ago. The people of Okinawa did their duty to the Emporer and never received credit for their valor. They were and still are treated as second class citizens by the Japanese. They are a brave and likeable people and this movie is a must for anybody that ever served there. This movie is one of the best directed and filmed that I have in my collection. A true masterpiece!
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29 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Saw this great Epic as a Kid at Toyo Cinema!, April 6, 2008
asugar2 (Seattle USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Battle of Okinawa (DVD)
Saw this as a kid at the Japanese Toyo Cinema here in South Seattle back in the mid 70's.
Pretty intense movie showing the Okinawan civilians being killed or committing suicide because they refused to surrender due to fear of the US Marines which had the reputation of being Inhuman and committing Atrocities plus American mutilation of Japanese war dead. News that President Roosevelt had been given a bone letter opener by a congressman were widely reported in Japan. The Americans were portrayed as "deranged, primitive, racist and inhuman". This reporting was compounded by the previous May 22, 1944 Life Magazine picture of the week publication of a young woman with a skull trophy. Edwin P. Hoyt in "Japan's war: the great Pacific conflict" argues that two U.S. media reports of Japanese skulls and bones being sent home were exploited by Japanese propaganda very effectively, and this coupled to the Shinto religion which places much higher emotional value on the treatment of human... Read more
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars not perfect disc or movie but I laud the effort, July 10, 2008
Michael A. Martinez (Fairbanks, AK USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Battle of Okinawa (DVD)
Since the 1950's, the Japanese have steadily cranked out numerous large-scale big-budget war films, of which almost none have been released in America! Such fine works as RENGO KANTAI, STORM OVER THE PACIFIC, THE SIEGE OF FORT BISMARK, etc have barely even touched the western hemisphere. Finally one comes to DVD in the form of this highly depressing mood piece, though with a typically Japanese comprehensiveness to its detail and coverage of all the major highlights.

The acting is excellent by all and the directing taught and superb. There's plenty of action scenes and largely correct use of period tanks, guns, uniforms, planes, etc. Toho effects wiz (and Eiji Tsuburaya's next-in-line) Teruyoshi Nakanao supplies a generous dose of pyrotechnic effects, though unfortunately they're not given center stage or slow motion treatment like his brilliant work in THE SUBMERSION OF JAPAN around the same time.

No, this one focuses more on drama and really shines in the... Read more
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The Battle of Okinawa (1971) Chris



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About the Author

I've been watching war movies for probably 25 years now. Since December 2006 I've been sharing my habit and passion for these movies here on this site.

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