Akira Kurosawa and Modern Japan


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About the Book

The samurai films of legendary Japanese director Akira Kurosawa are set in the past, but they tell us much about the present, as do his crime stories, romances, military films, medical dramas and art films. His movies are beloved for their timeless protagonists and haunting vistas of old Japan, but we haven’t yet fully grasped everything they can teach us about modern Japan. Kurosawa’s films evolved as Japan redefined and reinvented itself, from movies made for the wartime regime to those made amid the trials of American occupation. From the lavish epics of the economic miracle years to searching masterpieces made with international assistance in a globalizing world, Kurosawa’s movies responded to changing times. This detailed study of all 30 of Kurosawa’s films analyzes the links between the thrilling narratives onscreen and the equally remarkable events that occurred in Japan over his long, productive career. This book explores how Kurosawa’s classics depict the political, economic, cultural, sexual and environmental upheavals of a nation at the center of a turbulent century, both directly and through period-piece mythmaking.

About the Author(s)

David A. Conrad grew up in Fort Worth, Texas, spent three transformative years in Japan’s Miyagi prefecture, and received a Ph.D. in history from the University of Texas at Austin in 2016. He lives in Leander, Texas.

Bibliographic Details

David A. Conrad

Format: softcover (7 x 10)
Pages: 260
Bibliographic Info: 60 photos, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2022
pISBN: 978-1-4766-8674-5
eISBN: 978-1-4766-4637-4
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments vi
On Names, Transliteration, Titles, and How to Read This Book ix
Introduction: Kurosawa and the Japanese Century 1
Part One. The War Years
Chapter 1. Sanshirō Sugata 9
Chapter 2. The Most Beautiful 18
Chapter 3. Sanshirō Sugata Part II 26
Part Two. The Occupation Years
Chapter 4. The Men Who Tread on the Tiger’s Tail 35
Chapter 5. No Regrets for Our Youth 41
Chapter 6. One Wonderful Sunday 49
Chapter 7. Drunken Angel 56
Chapter 8. The Quiet Duel 62
Chapter 9. Stray Dog 68
Chapter 10. Scandal 74
Chapter 11. Rashōmon 80
Chapter 12. The Idiot 87
Chapter 13. Ikiru 92
Part Three. The Miracle Years
Chapter 14. Seven Samurai 101
Chapter 15. Record of Living Things 109
Chapter 16. Spiderweb Castle 116
Chapter 17. The Lower Depths 123
Chapter 18. The Hidden Fortress 129
Chapter 19. The Bad Sleep Well 137
Chapter 20. Yōjimbō 145
Chapter 21. Tsubaki Sanjūrō 151
Chapter 22. Heaven and Hell 157
Chapter 23. Redbeard 165
Part Four. The Global Years
Chapter 24. Dodesukaden 175
Chapter 25. Dersu Uzala 182
Chapter 26. Kagemusha 189
Chapter 27. Ran 197
Chapter 28. Dreams 205
Chapter 29. Rhapsody in August 213
Chapter 30. Mādadayo 219
Epilogue 227
Chapter Notes 231
Bibliography 239
Index 247

Book Reviews & Awards

“Written in a very clean, very easy-to-read style that allows the argument to flow naturally, almost conversationally, making it a real pleasure to read…excellent…recommend.”—Akira Kurosawa News