Sunday, May 7, 2017

Tsuki ga Noboru made ni

Here's a deceptively simple story about the power of stories, the 1991 OVA Tsuki ga Noboru made ni (By the Time the Moon Rises). A father decides to take his young daughter into the country to see the full moon, which he claims will be unbelievably large there. His daughter, a city girl to her fingertips, is decidedly unimpressed. She knows that the moon is the same size everywhere. When father and daughter reach their destination, they encounter an old man. He offers her some silver-wrapped chocolates (Americans would call them Hershey's kisses). Again, she is unimpressed. While the three of them wait for the moon to rise, the old man tells the girl a story of his childhood. (Warning: spoilers ahead.)

The old man describes his life as a boy in the local village, which is notable only for a nearby iron mine, during the Second World War. The ongoing deprivation and loss of manpower in the countryside has made it difficult to keep the mine running. At first, the military tries to use "volunteer" schoolgirls from Tokyo. However, they are clearly unsuited to the work, so the military brings in captured American pilots as slave labor. Working conditions are brutal, and many of the pilots die within a few months. (This is shown with great restraint in a wordless montage that occasionally cuts to the ever-growing number of crosses in a makeshift cemetery.) Nonetheless, when the boy — that is, the old man telling the story — almost drowns in the local river, one of the pilots rescues him, at great personal risk. Out of gratitude, the boy floats food down to the starving pilots, including watermelons that he steals from his grandfather's field. Then the war is over, and the pilots are repatriated. A few months later, American fighter planes suddenly appear over the village. The locals are terrified that the pilots intend to take revenge for their treatment as slave laborers. Instead, the planes drop silver-wrapped chocolates and cans of fruits that the villagers have never seen. The boy's kindness has been repaid.

The old man's tale is over. The young girl has come to appreciate the significance of something as simple as silver-wrapped chocolates and gratefully accepts them. The moon rises, as big as her father promised, but the night sky, free of the city's light pollution, is even more impressive. End of story (and spoilers).

Tsuki ga Noboru made ni was based on the concert performances of Takeda Tetsuya, a Japanese actor, composer, and singer who was actually born after the war. He also voiced the principal role of the nameless old man. The OVA was directed by Yamamoto Eiichi, Tezuka Osamu's collaborator at Mushi Productions. He directed many notable works, including Jungle Emperor Leo (1966), Cleopatra, Senya Ichi Monogatari, Belladonna, Odin, and Oshin. His veteran touch is clear in the steady pacing and straightforward camera work. The spare and effective background music is by Watanable Toshiyuki, whose long career spans the late 80s (Peter Pan no Bouken) to the present day (Space Brothers #0 movie).

I find it puzzling that such a beautiful story never made it to DVD or Blu-Ray. One factor might be its non-conforming attitude to Japan's role in the Second World War. Japan is matter-of-factly portrayed as the aggressor. One sign says "1937: Japan Invaded China." There's no euphemistic obfuscation like "the China Incident." The brutal Japanese treatment of POWs isn't whitewashed or viewed approvingly. When the boy steals the watermelons for the prisoners, his grandfather remarks that the boy isn't much of a Japanese patriot, but he's a respectable human being.

These kinds of attitudes were not popular in post-war Japan, where the crimes of the Second World War were conveniently forgotten, by the Japanese and their new American allies alike. These include the rape of Nanking (now Nanjing), where Japanese troops slaughtered up to 300,000 Chinese civilians; the abduction of Korean women as sex slaves ("comfort women") for military brothels; the human medical experiments performed by the notorious Unit 731; the Bataan Death March; and many others. The Japanese government has neither acknowledged nor apologized for most of these atrocities. Today's increasingly nationalistic governments are less and less likely to do so, despite the tensions this introduces in Japan's relationships with China and South Korea. Perhaps a show that so explicitly contradicts the official attitudes to the war was doomed to be "left behind" in analog limbo. Or perhaps it's something much simpler, like tangled intellectual property rights, poor sales of the original release, or loss of the original film masters.

Iri translated the show, Yogicat timed it, I edited it, and Calyrica and Nemesis did QC. The raw is a VHS tape rip by NNK. The video is blurry but serviceable. Nemesis denoised the audio track for improved clarity, but there are still occasional pops and clicks. The show was also released on Laserdisc. If we manage to find it, we'll release a v2 with a new encode. Meanwhile, Orphan is proud to bring you Tsuki ga Noboru made ni. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. Get it from IRC bot Orphan|Arutha in #news or #nibl on irc.rizon.net or via this magnet link.


4 comments:

  1. I would hope you would find the kindness in your heart to go thru your show and batch up a few magnet links of your older stuff.
    Some of this is irreplaceable and with Nyaa and Baka biting the dust it's looking tough right now.
    I would be willing to seed for a few months to get it out.

    I see some the newer ones have magnet links in their descriptions. How tough to that for all of them?

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  2. I don't plan on retorrenting until the current instability settles out. You can get magnet links for Orphan's old releases at http://nyaarchive.moe. Just search for Orphan. No guarantee that they're seeded, though.

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  3. Great movie! And great work! Thanks so much!

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  4. Sounds like something I would enjoy! Thanks for subbing this. :>

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