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Japan’s war in colour

Japan’s War in Colour brings us through Wold War II in chronological order, from Japan’s war with china to the Emperor’s announcement of surrender and the fate of the prisoners of war. These were told from the perspectives of the Japanese people, through footages taken during the war, letters and diaries.

As suggested from the title of this documentary film, the footages used are all coloured. It was also emphasised repeatedly in the film that the footages were only recovered many years after the war and are being aired for the first time in history. It is obvious that the main marketing point is focused on the colour, which makes me question the motivation behind its production: Was it the potential for viewership and profit, or was it for educational purposes? While this may potentially affect the biasness and reliability of the film, I still believe that the colours have value-added to the content and there are many things that we, as the audience, can learn from it.

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One benefit of having colours in the film is that it makes it much easier for the audience to empathise with those that went through the war. The presence of colours makes the film seems more realistic, which helps to evoke emotions into the viewers. This could be experienced during the scene when the kamikaze crashed into the aircraft carriers, causing great explosion of orange flames that quickly rose into the blue sky. I feel that colours have also helped us better understand the film more accurately, such as differentiating dirt, burns and blood, showing the state which the survivors were in more truthfully.

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Having said that, colours does not value-add much in terms of showing historical facts. The same piece of information could be picked up with or without colours. Using only coloured footages puts a huge strain in production as well. There might have been footages taken in black and white which could value-add to the film but were omitted because they had no colour. One obvious impact of having only coloured footages is that the documentary film does not include any interviews with survivors of the war, unlike most other documentaries. I believe that interviews with survivors are important primary resources because it feels even more surreal having survivors speak for themselves in front of the camera, and the fact that we can observe their facial expressions and tone as they talk about their horrific experiences. It is a pity that we could not see any of those footages here. Because the producer was so caught up with the concept of showing the war through coloured films, he also chose to include, in my opinion, footages that were unnecessary to the main topic of Japan’s War. Such instances could be the scene when Prince Chichibu and his wife were on their European tour, which may have been included more for their vibrant colours.

Overall, the film did a good job in telling the story of Japan’s involvement in the World War II from the perspective of not just the Japanese political leaders, but also the soldiers, families and children. One thing that I felt greatly injustice for was the fact that the Emperor escaped retribution with the continuous loyalty and support from his people even till the very end. While I admire the strong loyalty towards their Emperor, I cannot help but question if this is the result of love for the country, or the endless brainwashing through media and propaganda. As I quote from the film, “For eight years, the Japanese people fought what they believed was a Holy War.”

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