Written by: Jason Wheeler, Film Frenzy Senior Writer & Editor.
In 1946, Akira Kurosawa released No Regrets for Our Youth, based on the Takigawa Incident of 1933 with inspiration from Hotsumi Osaki becoming the only Japanese citizen to be given the death penalty for treason during World War II in his assistance of the Soviet spy Richard Sorge. Starring Stsuko Hara, Susumu Fujita, Denijiro Okochi, Haruko Sugimura, Eiko Miyoshi, Kokuten Kodo, Akitake Kono, Takashi Shimura, Taizo Fukami, Masao shimizu, Haruo Tanaka, Kazu Hikari, Hisako Hara, and Shin Takemura, the film has an unknown gross.
Yukie is the daughter of Mr. Yugihara, a left-wing professor at Kyoto University who is fired from his job due to his views. The firing sparks a strike by university students across Japan, two of which are Noge and Itokawa, suitors for Yukie. While the strike is crushed by the Japanese government, Yugihara responds by leaving activism behind and becomes a middle-class businessman while Noge decides to become an activist and member of the anti-war underground. Yukie marries Noge as well.
A very interesting film, No Regrets for Our Youth presents a notable picture of the lives of some of the Japanese citizenry prior to and immediately following World War II. In it, Kurosawa seems to be presenting a look at the exact opposite position he presented his audiences during the propaganda films he made during the war. Where those played up the gloriousness of Japan and the sense of honor its people should have from their history and for their country while showing how much better they were than the boorish Americans, this film shows the plight that students all over the country went through to try and keep their freedoms in the face of fascism. The steps the plot goes through are very representative of how life progresses, too. The film starts off with Yukie, Noge, and Itokawa as young people, with the two men being college students, regarding the university as the “garden of freedom” and then goes to show that the putting down of their strike by the government didn’t really do anything to crush their spirit and thirst fight what they saw as oppressive. As the film progresses and the characters age, there’s a good contrast between Noge and Itokawa, with the latter deciding to move beyond the supposed idealism of his youth and become a businessman and the former redoubling his efforts and taking the fight underground.
That’s really what makes Noge a good character who, even at the point of his death, finds that he has no regrets for his life. He remains an unchanging character while presenting a façade of someone who has changed his life and it’s actually done well since his spirit retains the fighting idealism he had while fighting for what he believed in during his youth. The man wouldn’t let being stopped by the Japanese military or being thrown in prison hamper him from fighting for his ideals as even though he outwardly renounced his left-leaning views upon his release, he continued to work towards his cause. The only thing that would stop him was his death. Fascinatingly, it’s his continued dedication to what he fights for that made Yukie wind up choosing to marry him.
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Yukie is an interesting character as well. She’s a fantastic piano player and has her own conflict early in the film while Noge and Itokawa are in conflict with the university and the Japanese government. She’s trying to figure out who to choose and the film presents a great representation of her dilemma in her flower arrangement by putting three flower blossoms in a bowl of water. Yet, she’s more than just a pretty face trying to figure out the guy she wants. She has an even greater task following Noge’s death and that’s working for the approval of Noge’s parents by proving her sincerity. She does so by working in their rice fields even though the work is hard and even does so when battling a severe fever. The films shows that she has gotten their approval in the end after the neighbors have destroyed the rice paddy following Yukie and Madam Noge’s finishing of the planting. She goes right back to work and Noge’s father starts cursing the neighbors and does what he can to help them. Further, not only does she gain their approval, but Yukie ends up going to live with them full time as she now feels more at home on a farm than she does playing the piano.
Kurosawa also presented some great juxtaposition throughout the film, really seen prior to the strike and then during the strike. Before it happens, when the three of them are speaking highly of the university being a “garden of freedom” and a “Mecca for students,” there is the sound of gunfire from an army training exercise, a good representation of the conflict that’s about to occur. What’s more is that during the strike, the film shows the students doing what they can to keep it going and when the newspaper says that the government is working on what to do, the film cuts to the officials golfing.
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