Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Kuroi Ame ni Utarete

Kuroi Ame ni Utarete (Lashed by the Black Rain) is a bitterly angry 1984 movie about the aftermath of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. The scriptwriter, Nakazawa Keiji, was himself a bombing survivor and lost most of his family in the disaster or its immediate aftermath. He found an outlet for his feelings first in manga and later in anime, with Kuroi Ame and the more famous Barefoot Gen I and II. 

Kuroi Ame focuses its fury on two targets, the United States for dropping the bomb, but also the Japanese people for their callous discrimination against the hibakusha, as bomb survivors are collectively known. The film’s anti-Americanism is pervasive and corrosive. The American characters are immature cartoon bullies or uncaring disaster-porn tourists. There are no shades of gray, and certainly no room for any consideration of the military situation at the time of the bombing. However, the film’s condemnation of the Japanese people for their treatment of the hibakusha is equally strong. The ordinary populace is portrayed as both indifferent and ignorant, treating the hibakusha with scared contempt, as though exposure to radiation was some sort of contagious disease.

The story focuses on a handful of hibakusha trying to live their lives in the rebuilt city of Hiroshima. Takeshi, owner of a bar called Akauma, lost his entire family in the bombing. Despite his apparent strength, he is deeply scarred and angry, feelings which he can only express by barring Americans from his establishment. Eiko is the daughter of a bomb victim. She moved away to Tokyo, met a young man, and conceived a baby with him. She has now returned and must decide whether to carry the baby to term or abort it from fear about birth defects. Tomoko is a young woman who was horribly burned in the bombing and now works as a prostitute. She is in love with Takeshi.  Her younger brother, Junji, works the margins of society for money. He is in love with Eiko. Kondou Yuri is another  bomb victim working as a prostitute. She is dying of syphilis and is using her last days to pass the disease on to as many people as possible, particularly Americans. Her son, Shin’ichi, is blind, and she hopes that donating her eyes after her death will allow him to see. The lives intertwine around seemingly ordinary events, but the trajectory is inexorably downward towards ultimate tragedy.

The film is filled with medical ignorance, some of it quite willful. A family elder advises Eiko to abort her child because of the risks of hereditary birth defects, even though (quoting Wikipedia) “no statistically demonstrable increase of birth defects/congenital malformations was found among the later conceived children born to survivors of the nuclear weapons used at Hiroshima and Nagasaki.” Yuri treats her disease as a death sentence for her and her unsuspecting customers, as though antibiotics hadn’t been invented. But that’s really beside the point. All the hibakusha feel trapped by their past and deprived of their futures, leaving them in a perpetual state of spiritual despair about their lives and purpose.

As with Chuumon no Ooi Ryuritan, Kuroi Ame is the result of a new translator joining Orphan. Iri brought the translated script with him, as well as access to a DVD ISO. Iri and Eternal_Blizzard timed, I edited and typeset, Calyrica, Eternal_Blizzard, and konnakude did QC, and bananadoyouwanna encoded the source. Because the movie is entirely hand-animated, and the DVD is rather jittery, many of the signs are irregular and difficult to do, like Takeshi’s nametag in the opening scene. As a result, some signs are done “Yawara style”: simple notes at the top of the screen. The Russian dialog at 1:12:00 is transcribed but not translated, because there were no subtitles to guide the original Japanese audience. The translation is roughly, “All right, comrades, it's decided. We will also respond to them with a nuclear blow.” 

Kuroi Ame is a difficult film to watch, both for its unremitting anger and for its multiple tragedies. As with The Diary of Anne Frank, I had to work on it in segments, to avoid being overwhelmed by the despair that pervades it. Nonetheless, despite its emotional manipulation and biases, it’s an important reminder about a major historical tragedy, and it deserves to be seen by a wider audience. As President Obama prepares to visit Hiroshima – a first for an American President – we all need to think about the legacy of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

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