Sunday, January 4, 2009

Takeshi Kitano brings in high ratings as General Hideki Tōjō in TV docudrama

by Chris MaGee

Looks like it wasn't infinite re-runs of Alastair Sim's "A Christmas Carol" and "Frank Capra's "It's a Wonder Life" on Japanese TV this Christmas Eve. Tokyo's TBS network instead aired a 4 1/2 hour made-for-TV docudrama titled "Ano Sensou wa Nan Datta no ka (That War was What?)" that chronicled the three months leading up to the surprise attacks by Imperial Japanese Forces on the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor... and yes, as you noticed that's Takeshi Kitano on the left under the bald-cap and glasses as Imperial Army Minister and then Japanese Prime Minister (1941-1944) Hideki Tōjō. It was certainly a bold move to put such a heavy-hitting subject on the air on a night usually reserved for jidai-geki dramas, but it paid off. "Ano Sensou wa Nan Datta no ka" ended up bringing in 12.1% rating for the night.

It was also a bold move for Kitano, who pops up continually on Japanese television, but not usually as a convicted war criminal. "The script read somewhat differently from the image of Hideki Tojo as we have known him," Kitano clarified to the press. Scenes reinacting meetings between Tōjō and Emperor Hirohito apparently showed both men to be reluctant about the road they were taking their nation down. “This drama is meant to tell how we went into the cruel war,” said Yasuo Yagi, the program's producer. Cruel indeed, but without actually able to have a look at "Ano Sensou wa Nan Datta no ka" it's difficult to say whether the program leaned towards a thoughtful yet realistic portrayal of two of the architects of the war or historical revisionism. Guess it remains to be seen. North American DVD release anyone?

Thanks to Japan Today, for details on this and for the image of Kitano as Hideki Tōjō.

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