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At the end of World War II, Sergeant Katsuo Togashi (Tetsuro Tanba) is
executed, supposedly for desertion in the face of the enemy, but there is
no official record aboutthe real reasons - and for the 16 years since
then, his widow Sakie (Sachiko Hidari) has been trying to find out what
has happened, and whants justice done to the memory of her husband. It's
only now that the proper authorities have come up with 5 men who might be
able to help her, who had some dealings with her husband back in the war.
first is Terajima (Noboru Mitani), who's living on a scrap heap in a
half-crazed state of mind, and who insists Togashi has saved his life
during the war by ignoring a direct order from a superior and later died
bravely in battle - though he himself did not see him.
The next two
witnesses though paint a less flattering picture, portraying him as either
a potato thief or a man who sold human flesh as animal meat to starving
Then though, Sakie meets Ohashi, who tells her yet another
story, that Togashi and his squadron were mistreated by borderline mad
major Goto, a man who wouldn't even mind torturing his soldiers to death
for his own purposes. Eventually, it seems, Togashi got so desperate he
slit Boto's throat, also to save his men. Only five of Togashi's squadron
survived, but a certain Major Senda (Kan'emon Nakamura) had them executed
right on the spot without court martial to hush up Goto has gone mad.
on Sakie's list is Major Senda, but the man is evasive when it comes to
the story of her husband, contradicts himself constantly while trying to
feed her with empty, patriotic phrases. But ultimately, he admits to
having the soldiers executed after the end of the war, and maybe
even without court martial, but in any case to restore order ... but he
hasn't executed all of them, one is still alive - Terajima.
returns to the scrapyard to talk to Terajima once again, and he now tells
her the truth: Yes, Goto was a sadistic asshole, and yes, Togashi has
killed him, but only to save his, Terajima's life. Terajima was at the
time half-starved and struck down by malaria, and in no state to walk -
but Goto waqnted him to fight. A few days after Goto's death, the war was
over, and the survivors of Togashi's squad dragged themselves to the next
camp, but were much too weak themselves to drag Terajima with them. Left
behind and desperate, Terajima fed himself on Major Goto's flesh, then
followed the others to the camp. The others were already being questioned
by Senda, and desperate to survive, Terajima blew the whistle on them but
figured if he told Senda that Goto was mad (which was the truth anyways),
Togashi and the others would come off lightly - and yet they were all
shot,, cursing the emperor with their dying breath.
war story that's surprisingly low on battle scenes, instead focuses on the
inhumanity of war as such (including a condemnation of the Japanese
involvement in the war), and has its story revolving around its characters
- which change repeatedly depending on who is telling the story. The
outcome is a compelling antiwar drama, told in an interesting way via
flashbacks that resembles more the structure of a murder mystery than a
war movie, and brought to screen very stylishly by director Kinji
Fukasaku, who, originally coming from B-action flicks, has by the time
this was made found his own cinematic language.